Tony Pulis continued his assault on common sense and decency with a meandering criticism of referee Chris Foy for his part in Arsenal’s winning goal when Stoke visited the Emirates on Saturday. It’s widely being reported that Pulis criticized the Arsenal players for surrounding the referee but he actually took exception to Chris Foy overturning his linesman’s decision and intimated that Foy may have had ulterior motives in awarding Arsenal the winning goal. It looks, however, to be part of a broader campaign by the Stoke manager to earn his club favorable treatment by match officials. And it looks like it’s working.
The main controversy yesterday occurred in the 78th minute. Arsenal’s Theo Walcott earned a free kick for a foul just outside the box and German international Lukas Podolski lined up for a powerful left-footed blast. The shot was deflected off a Stoke player in the wall and easily beat keeper Asmir Begovic.
Linesman Dave Bryan raised his flag for an offside and several Arsenal players reacted by pleading their case with the official. The lead official, Chris Foy, who had already signaled a good goal, went over to confirm that no Arsenal players were in an active offside position and after a very brief conversation again signaled that Arsenal had scored a very good goal.
Television replays confirmed that Theo Walcott was in an offside position but was not active in the play as the ball took a deflection away from Walcott. Interestingly, linesman Dave Bryan is no stranger to offside controversy. Bryan was punished back in April 2012 for failure to flag two very clear offside goals that helped Chelsea to a win over Wigan.
Bryan had a poor game from an Arsenal perspective. Bryan missed Wilkinson slapping Theo Walcott in the face and several tackles from behind which prompted the Arsenal man to remonstrate with him well before the controversial offside call. Bryan was also seen shucking and jiving with Stoke’s Wilkinson during throw-ins, the two of them looking like fast friends.
As is often the case when Stoke and Arsenal play, the game saw its fair share of controversy from start to finish. Foy didn’t endear himself to the home crowd when he blew Arteta for a foul and the Arsenal man clearly hadn’t come anywhere near the Stoke player. “Intent” to foul we were told was the reason for the call. But where Foy called Arsenal for “intent” he failed repeatedly to call Stoke for “actual” fouls.
Foy also got Ryan Shawcross’ red card tackle on Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny wrong. The Stoke player had no hope of ever winning the ball and as he saw that the Arsenal man was going to clear easily, instead of pulling out he when in, studs up, wildly lunging, and stamped the Arsenal man’s groin. Foy awarded a yellow when red was the correct call.
And then after that poor call, Foy somehow managed to miss Stoke’s Michael Owen throw a sneaky elbow to the head of Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta which nearly sparked a brawl. The FA may still take action against Owen for that, depending on the referee’s report, which could also explain the Stoke manager’s comments post match.
After the game, Pulis seemingly looked to deflect from his team’s dreadful performance and place the blame on referee Chris Foy.
“I haven’t got a clue what offside is,” admitted Pulis speaking to the BBC after the game. “What’s disappointing is when the official, the linesman, gives it (the offside) the Arsenal players surround the linesman and then the referee reacts after that. I thought that if you surrounded referees more than three was it? Five people? Umm… err… You’re not supposed to do that. Their players were over there and the referee’s reacted off of that.”
“Now whether they are going to say it’s (the ball) has come off one of our players and it’s a good goal, well that’s fine.” Pulis continued, “but the reaction of their players, surrounding the referee or the linesman, effects Chris Foy.”
“If he (the linesman) has a clear view, then what’s Chris (Foy), why’s Chris questioning it?”
It’s a stunning accusation and it remains to be seen if the FA will investigate the comments. Pulis has previous questioning Chris Foy’s decisions and in fact this season has spent nearly every post-match interview moaning like a drain about the referees.
In August 2010, Pulis had a crack at Foy on the BBC and again it was in regards to Foy and the linesman. This time, Foy failed to give a goal that looked like it went over the line and Chris went to the linesman to see if he had a better view. With no conclusive evidence, Foy had no choice but to not award the goal.
It’s also interesting to note that Stoke’s players surrounded Foy in that game when they felt like they weren’t getting the call they deserved:
Pulis has spent a lot of post-match time talking to and about the referees this season. So much so that Pulis had a meeting with Mike Riley, the head of match officials in December over perceived bias against his team.
That meeting was prompted by a dire draw against Aston Villa which saw Ryan Shotton get a red card and where Pulis felt that Glenn Whelan was unfairly targeted.
Look at the incidents where our players are being booked or sent off, then compare them with similar incidents involving others that are going unpunished. There was the Clark one on Glenn at Villa. All we have ever asked is to be treated the same as everyone else, but there are preconceptions about us that are unfair.
Interestingly, Glenn Whelan was at the center of controversy just last week when his ugly two-footed lunge on Man City’s Javi Garcia went unpunished both during the match and after. During the match, Howard Webb failed to even call a foul, prompting the head of the Professional Footballer’s Association to say that he was certain Whelan would be pulled up on charges.
However, the FA did not charge Whelan because their own rules do not allow them to charge a player when the official saw the challenge. That means Howard Webb saw the two-footed lunge and chose not to call a foul. This is the same Howard Webb who gave Nigel de Jong a yellow card for a king-fu kick in the World Cup final and who allowed Fabricio Coloccini to kick Demba Ba in the face (breaking his nose) yesterday.
Given that Whelan, Owen, and Shawcross have not been punished for their transgressions it does look like Pulis’ concerted campaign to discredit the officials is working in his favor. In one week, three of his players have escaped deserved red cards.