Editor’s note: video included below is courtesy Gooner Dee and is intended to augment Chary’s fine illustration of the atmosphere at the Emirates last night. No real or imagined children were harmed in the making of this video, except the Scouser kid at the end giving the vick sign. He’s clearly been harmed by a lifetime of living in Liverpool.
In all my years of going to Arsenal matches a recurring theme is the phalanx of “Anti-homer” referees that I have seen and who would be the worst example of that in living memory? Step forward Lee S. (shit?) Mason.
I’ve never lead with referee incompetence/bias in any of my match reports before, but last night’s display had everyone, bar the blue corner of Ashburton Grove, incensed with the not only the repeated incompetence, but inconsistent incompetence.
From the 5th minute where Jack Wilshere’s first infringement (a reaction after he was clattered for the third time early in the game) was given a yellow to numerous niggling fouls and off the ball sly digs on Robin by Heitinga being left unpunished, the pattern of the refereeing of the game was established.
As this was an evening match I found the level of crowd singing and banter more vociferous than I’d found for an afternoon game, even in the Clock end (where I was located) it was noticeably noisier even though it is generally quieter than the North Bank due to the family enclosure and the away support diluting the effect of the more vocal elements of the Arsenal support, especially if there is little banter between the home and away fans. There is no equivalent of the Red action section for the Clock End also so the hard core support seems less apparent than at the opposite end of the stadium.
The nearby Everton fans were not the noisiest I’d heard and they seemed to fill out their allocation to around 80% and temperature wise the London area had seen the mercury stay well above freezing even during the previous night so good conditions for playing and watching.
The game started with Everton, as expected, fighting very hard – and a touch cynically – in midfield without much craft, the loss of their spear head Cahill made them lack a certain danger as they would approach our goal.
The first major foul up (he had made numerous bad calls on playing the advantage up till then already) by L S Mason was allowing the off side goal; what had happened was the Arsenal defenders protested at the lack of an offside call as the ball was crossed to Saha, who was a good 2 yards offside, but the replay of the goal on the stadium big screens included that part of the build-up where the 2 yard gap between Saha and the line of defenders was clearly evident, the crowd were rightly aggrieved and L S Mason decided to consult his lino, who I subsequently found out used the rationale that because the ball got an intervention from Kozzer it couldn’t be offside.
WRONG – Under Law 11, a player is offside if he “gains an advantage” from being in an offside position. “Gaining an advantage” is explained in the FIFA handbook as including “playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position”.
So, faced with a referee and lino that either didn’t know the correct rule or choose to enforce inconsistently is it any wonder that the Arsenal fans and players were angered by L S Mason?
“1 nil to the referee” sang the crowd, and justifiably so.
Perhaps this may have been one of the many reasons that caused Cesc to have a word with L S Mason; I’m not even going to dignify Whingeing-bad-loser Moyes mudslinging with a rebuke, except to say had Wenger said that about an Everton player there would be no end of “Whinging Wenger slurs Everton player” headlines screaming out from the back pages of the xenophobic UK gutter press.
I’ve got no time for yet another one of the Lord Fergie (“The best thing since sliced bread”, copyright Ken Bates circa August 2000) fan club, consisting of the likes of him, Fat Sam Allardyce, Ginger McLeish, Steve Bruce, and pretty much all the referees in the Premier League, marshalled by the Old toilet 12th man Howard “The Coward” Webb; Moyes’ allegations can be put in the same garbage bin as Phil “Orange Man’s” load of bollocks allegations about Cesc nearly two years ago.
L S Mason finished the first half as he started and continued it by booking Rosicky’s first infringement for what I thought was a perfectly legitimate tackle just 5 yards in front of me, while a few minutes earlier Heitinga who had been chasing a ball going towards the Everton goal diverted his run to shoulder barge Robin off the ball, a penalty if it had been at the other end no doubt.
Both players were running towards the goal I was behind and I had a perfect view of the shoulder barge – L S Mason was letting this go as he was the rotational fouling on Cesc and Tim Howards’ Baywatch style slow motion approach to taking goal kicks. How L S Mason let a cynical trip go on Cesc as he was ran off to launch a counter attack after a failed Everton corner I don’t know.
It was worthy of a yellow but not even a foul was called.
At half time I saw a stat on the big screen showing Everton 6 fouls one yellow, Arsenal 4 fouls, 2 yellows – a factor of 300% difference on fouls per yellow card, merely confirming what was obvious to anyone watching the game, consistency in what is allowable as a tackle was not being applied even before you factor in many fouls against Arsenal that were not called.
On the half time highlights the stadium video replay team must have been told not to show the build- up to the offside goal for fear of inciting the crowd as all they then showed was the strike itself and not a second before it.
Worryingly Song was subbed at the start of the second half and the sight of Diaby playing in his position didn’t inspire me with confidence, but to be fair I only noticed a handful of misplaced passes and thankfully the crowd didn’t get on his back.
Arsenal were still pressing and pushing forward with Everton’s players starting to tire, Saha couldn’t be bothered to run onto and dribble one of the many hoofed clearances due to the tiredness caused by how energetically Everton pressed in the first half. He just took and touch and scuffed a weak shot that didn’t even get to the goal. From that moment on the energy seemed to drain from Everton and their lack of skill in the attacking third caused many a forward move to break down.
Arshavin, Bendtner and Chamakh started to warm up and the first two replaced Rosicky and Jack Wilshere, a wise move as both were on yellows and the Everton tactic of trying to provoke a reaction by leaving their foot in may have led to a red, in fact Robin’s running battle with Heitinga was also a worry as memories of previous Robin red cards borne out of frustration came to the fore.
As is customary Arsenal attacked the north bank goal in the second half so all I saw of the equalizer was Cesc’s dinked, lifting chip and someone volley it in; the “He’s five foot four” song that started up left me in no doubt who had scored.
Cue “Who are you?” chants directed to the Everton support to my right.
The already raucous atmosphere was lifted further by the equaliser, perhaps a touch more so by the fact Arshavin scored it; where are the so called “Supporters” who were chanting at him in the Leeds game to “F**k off and join Chelsea” now?
The confidence returned to Andrey and he carried on driving forward and giving the Everton right back a torrid time.
Soon after Robin hit a dangerous free kick that was going in had the greasy bald-headed Howard not palmed it away for a corner. Robin’s free kick potency is returning game by game.
From the resulting corner an unlikely match winner emerged in Kozzer who headed in unopposed (even I could see it was a free header from the opposite end of the ground) and the volume and energy levels went up to fiendish levels as did my volley of adrenaline induced swearing at the Everton support.
(Warning: salty language, do me a favor love and plug in the headphones if you’re going to watch this at work? – Tim)
After that we laughed at how quickly Howard sprinted to take subsequent goal kicks (he got a yellow card for time wasting before our second goal – zilch chance of that happening again), before he looked like an old aged pensioner, now he was running like Usain Bolt, I can’t imagine why.
At the final whistle Clichy took a running jump and hugged Kozzer as recognition for our match winner, proof positive of the spirit in the team.
This is contrary to what the Arsenal-hating media would have you believe about Cesc’s captaincy being questioned, factions in the dressing room and various other bullshit rumours being peddled by tabloid hacks.
While ManUre and Chelshit both won we are still in the hunt and showing great character to come back against a strong side and a biased (allegedly), incompetent and inconsistent referee.