Howard Webb, bad referee or worst referee ever?

Optajoe tweeted an amazing stat before Monday’s match between Arsenal and Man U:

246 – Rio Ferdinand last conceded a foul in the Premier League on April 11 2010 v Blackburn, 246 days ago . Smooth.

First off, 246 days is a bit of a wind up because in the last 246 days Ferdinand has only played 13 Premier League games. And secondly, Optajoe is sneaky in using “Premier League” because while Rio’s been an “angel” in England in the last 246 days he has conceded fouls in the Champions League and international play.

All that said, it’s still a bit odd for a center half to go 13 games without committing a single foul and if you dig deeper it gets, well, odder. Last season he was called for 9 total fouls, 7 of which came in Champions League or international play. That means in his last 26 domestic competitions, Rio Ferdinand has been called for just 2 fouls. I don’t know if I’d use the word “smooth” to describe that fact. The word I’m thinking of is, “suspicious.”

Especially in light of the kung-fu kick he got away with on Bacary Sagna on Monday night. At first glance, I thought Rio had gone in with his knee but on instant replay you see that it wasn’t a knee at all, but rather a studs up, Nigel de Jong, kung-fu kick to the chest. A kick which ripped open Sagna’s shirt and a kick for which Rio Ferdinand has apologized. This isn’t just a foul, this is a red card offense, which Howard Webb missed.

Partially, I think that’s just Howard Webb, who I pointed out before the match is about as biased in favor of Manchester United and against Arsenal as a referee can be. Webb has prior with Arsenal and I would even say had a special dislike of certain Arsenal players. For example, Emmanuel Adebayor has been sent off exactly twice in his Premier League career, both times by Howard Webb.

The first sending off came in the infamous Carling Cup final, where Webb (under instructions from the linesman) wrongly sent off Adebayor for an Eboue transgression. Adebayor’s reaction after didn’t cover him or the club in glory but anyone would be upset if a referee just wrongly gave them a red card (Eboue received a retroactive red card, but Adebayor’s wasn’t rescinded probably because of the fact he refused to leave the pitch).

The second red card came from the 1-1 draw with Liverpool. Adebayor was booked early in the match for shielding the ball — Webb indicated that Adebayor had a “raised boot” when stepping over the ball to shield it. And then in the 62 minute, he received a second yellow for the same offense. “Raised boot” was the claim against Arsenal’s striker but the replays showed that Adebayor merely stepped over the ball and shielded a rather dramatic Arbeloa (who fell to the ground clutching his face) from regaining possession.

That Carling Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal was, in a sense, a precursor of how Webb would referee the Champions League final and World Cup finals in later days. Diaby nearly kicked John Terry’s head clean off and probably could have seen a red card for that. Meanwhile, Chelsea’s rotational fouling system went unpunished and ensured that tempers would flare and a dramatic spectacle would eventually unfold.

This same pattern happened in the World Cup final where a clearly outclassed Holland side reached back in time and pulled out a game plan that would have made Don Revie proud. Rather than try to play even a semblance of football the Dutch reverted to kicking, tripping, slapping, and even, yes, a kung-fu kick to the chest inflicted by Nigel de Jong on Xabi Alonso.

After the match was over and Spain rightly won Webb admitted regret at not sending de Jong off:

One of the things I would change is the color of the card for De Jong’s tackle. Having seen it again from my armchair several times in slow motion and from different angles I can see that it was a red-card offense.

The problem is that Webb gets this kind of stuff wrong all the time and not just for dangerous play. On Monday, he gave Samir Nasri a yellow card in the 73rd minute for arguing. What makes this card particularly egregious is that earlier in the game Darren Fletcher had not gotten a call he felt he deserved, pirouetted in anger, punched at the air, and then chased Webb down screaming at him, and finally shoved the official. For which he got a ticking off but did not get a card.

None of this is to say that Arsenal should have won the game against United, I’ve gone on record that lazy play from the Gunners was their downfall not Webb, rather the point here is to lay down a marker. Howard Webb is seemingly the only official in the Premier League who is beyond reproach despite what is clearly a string of terrible performances. Earlier this year, Stuart Attwell was unceremoniously dropped for a highly criticized 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Sunderland and yet here we have another example of Webb’s incompetence and not a peep about his performance.

I’m not suggesting that he’s a dirty ref, or that he’s on the take, but after the World Cup final and Monday’s game there’s only one thing we know for sure: karate kicks are a legal tackle in Howard Webb’s rule book.

47 thoughts on “Howard Webb, bad referee or worst referee ever?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1tjfer1

      @7amkickoff one who referee’d my local league…we had a 10 minute break in play because he was agonising over the wall’s position/movement

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bala

    I thought of Karate kicking him through my computer when watching the game.Arsenal were already playing badly and Webb made it look more bad

  2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Scotts84

    I made up “get webb out of football” a fee year back on facebook. I cannot stand the man. He’s been hyped up by skysports ad that’s why his abysmal decisions go unpunished. I was at the fame on Monday and is it a coincidence that 4000+ away fans all sing “fergie’s rentboy”?

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  4. Vote -1 Vote +1Tom, Romford

    Gael Clichy commits a deliberate handball offence and is booked. Rooney commits a deliberate handball offence and is not booked. Where is the consistency? Assault with a chainsaw would be needed to get a penalty at Old Trafford as the Referees continue their traditional cringe at the feet of St Fergie!

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1ADB


  6. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Uncle Mike

    Webb is atrocious, but he’s not the worst. Mike Dean is.

    Interestingly, in our last 2 games at Old Trashdump, the referees have been Dean and Webb. If you watch “NCIS,” you know Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ Rule Number 39: “There is no such thing as coincidence.” And his Rule Number 40: “If it seems like someone is out to get you… they are.”

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1DOSA

    It was appauling. How can you doubt that he is “Fergies rentboy”. I agree that bad performance by referees should earn them demotion. webb should be in league 3.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ArseChicago

    Yes, the refereeing was again unkind to us, but after Wenger went ahead and complained about the OT pitch, I guess I’m hesitant to now go after Webb. He’s a c*nt no doubt, but let’s move forward. How do we win the league this year? Here are my suggestions:

    1) Ask the questions, what do we owe Arshavin, what do we owe Van Persie? With Andrei, the answer is not a thing. With Robin, not to be irreverent given his past contributions, but in light of him being out for so much of the last few years and given that he’s moving around like a 35-year old, we can’t afford to continue putting him out there.
    2) Given #1, start Theo Walcott on a regular basis.
    3) In January, buy want-away Pienaar from Everton. Pienaar hasn’t been having the best season by most accounts, but he works his tail off, has attitude and fire, and has helped fire his Everton side to victories over the big squads. No, he’s not Arshavin offensively, but defensively and from an intangibles standpoint, he has to be an upgrade.
    4) I want to see a 4-1-3-2 or 4-1-3-1-1 (however you wish to call it). Put Chamakh and Walcott at forward, have Cesc, Pienaar, and Nasri in the middle, tell Song to watch tapes of himself from last year, and get Vermaelen’s achilles extra horse placenta.

    This shite can still be salvaged, but Wenger needs to send a miniature tornado through this locker room.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

      @ArseChicago, your good points for consideration on ACLF resemble these, but unfortunately received no discussion. Alas. I think your points about players who have improved vs. those who have regressed is quite valid. At any club, this sort of assessment must take place all the time and at this point the progress or regress is starting to look marked enough that it should be reflected in starting opportunities. Except, I would say, in the case of RvP. He should get starts in his forward position (not asking him to play the Cesc role, besides Cesc is back) against Stoke and possibly, if he does well, against Chelsea. Lets give him a chance to show he can play at the level he did last year before the injury or even at the WC where he was energetic and inventive but starved of service. Arshavin, I agree, needs to sit until he shows more value playing for the team as a substitute. Rosicky is looking like a good player to come off the bench or to play in the cups. The long term future doesn’t need to be decided now but after the season for anyone, so let’s just deal with the strategy to get us to victory in the league this year.

      Interesting idea about formation to fit another new central midfielder (Pienaar). I’d say having cover/competition for Song is key.

  9. -7 Vote -1 Vote +1richy

    I liken your theory to other great myths such as the world is flat and that Columbus proved that it was round. At some point you and other Gooner fans will awake to the fact that while Arsenal is an outstanding team it is no longer in the same class as United and Chelsea . Remember now, the first step to recovery is to first admit that you have a problem!!!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      @richy, nice dodge of the facts presented on hand. Which I find typical of United fans who I liken to the people who still believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD.

    2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ArseChicago

      If we’re not in your class, then why are you here? Or do you go around to Nottingham Forest’s or Stoke’s blogsites as well and taunt them?

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jim

    I have a strange view of this.

    Webb is a pretty good ref as long as Arsenal aren’t involved in the game.

    He was rated as an up and coming super ref way back by the FA and the media and in his first prestige match he ballsed up on the advice of his linesman. He sent Adebayor off incorrectly.

    Afterwards to cover up this mistake the FA made up a dodgy tale about Adebayor getting sent off for feigning to throw a punch.

    Wenger then mentioned this several times and went as far as he could without directly accusing Webb of being involved in a cover up.

    Since that incident Webb has taken every opportunity to hurt the Arsenal in the big games.

  11. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1The BearMan

    As I have already said, “man woo” had a 12th man on the pitch and that was the Ref. Not just Rio, but Fletcher’s conduct and attituded were over-looked by the man in black. Soon it will be repeated, that Arsenal is a dirty team, but when Refs appears to be in Managers pockets all we can do is grin and bear it.

    No Refs in the Premier League is tall enough to stand up to Fergie.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1meghan murphy

    If we’re not in the “same class” why did it take Man U beating us to get to the top of the table? And where is Chelsea on that table? haha Go have a look for yourself. I was shocked that of all the officials, Webb took that crap off Fletcher. If an Arsenal player so much as shook their head in disagreement with the man, Webb would have had his hand in his pocket for that yellow before getting shoved… which Fletcher clearly did. No fouls at all for United at home on the ice skating rink of a pitch they had is amazing. And pretty good evidence who is giving Webb a nice jerk off before the games.

  13. Vote -1 Vote +1meghan murphy

    Remember who got the first yellow of the World Cup? Van Persie. Shocking! Except that Webb was the official and RvP plays for Arsenal. Strange…

  14. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Nick

    Rio was a replay of de Jong, and Webb did the same thing: nothing.

    As for the coverage, it is to be expected — almost no balanced discussion of the actual play, simply the usual “United wanted it more” crap. After last year, when United won thanks to an Arsenal OG and a Rooney dive, what else would one expect?

    Which is not to say that United are due some credit for their intense and close defending in midfield, but the chances they missed are typical, not just for them, but for soccer — scoring a goal is very very hard, even if you are very very good at it. English fans ignore that fact.

    In retrospect, the problem with the bench was that it was made up of players who are not yet fully match fit — RVP, Cesc, Theo, Bendtner. For once, the subs were very ineffective.

  15. Vote -1 Vote +1ArseChicago

    Tim, for whatever reason it seems that when I type your url into my browser it goes to yesterday’s post and it doesn’t show today’s post. The only way I found it today was through News Now.

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1king gooner

    i said some time ago b4 it was decided who the ref for this game was going to be that the fa (our old friends & def manures)would ensure that one of either howard”i hate arsenal”webb or mike”i luv manure”riley would get the job &lo& behold it,s webbo-i also said they would def get the “dodgy penalty call” & lo & behold!we have history with this wanker & yet wenger says nothing about his appt-old red nose would be going beserk if the shoe was on the other foot-time & again we’re up against it with the fa/media darlings-sick of wenger doing fa to rectify our obvious problems

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    He is pretty shite no doubt but is he the worst? Hard to say. There is Mike Dean, Phil Dowd, Mark Crappenburg… the talent pool is quite deep.

  18. Vote -1 Vote +1London Calling & Overseas

    Hi there! There is a free video of on the Dot. Com of the first team players doing training. Its seems Diaby is running well.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

      @London Calling & Overseas, I can’t get excited about his return to the team. I would acknowledge that we have missed his physical presence in the game v. ManU but he doesn’t always offer this and is in and out of the squad perpetually with smaller niggling injuries that keep him from getting a run of form. We can celebrate his return when he actually plays 5 games in a row and with consistency.

  19. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

    You know this problem of not seeing the new post was also happening at ACLF. Perhaps there was a bizarre attack on Arsenal supporter blogs? We like to paranoid about conspiracy theories, so here is fodder for another!

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