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be upset if a referee just wrongly gave them a red card (Eboue received a retroactive red card, but Adebayor’s wasn’t rescinded probably because of the fact he refused to leave the pitch).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.