Tag Archives: Chelsea v. Arsenal


Marriner’s mistaken identity covers up bigger problems with Premier League referees

Referee Andre Marriner was involved in a shocking identity mixup in Arsenal’s big loss to Chelsea on Saturday, erroneously sending off Kieran Gibbs for a handball committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Marriner has subsequently been accused of racism as the two players bear some resemblance to each other and Arsenal fans have been demanding that Marriner be dropped for at least a week if not for the remainder of the season. But those accusations I feel are wide of the mark and actually help to hide what appears to be a much clearer problem. If you watch the replays you can clearly see that Marriner didn’t see the handball himself and only after hearing something in his earpiece then brandished a red card to Kieran Gibbs, despite the rather vehement protests of Oxlade-Chamberlain telling the referee that he was the one who had handled the ball. This raises a huge question for me, did referee Andre Marriner receive advice in his earpiece telling him to send “the Arsenal left back” off for handball?

The facts in this case are very clear. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard took a shot that was going well wide of the goal. In a moment of panic, Oxlade-Chamberlain dove, like a keeper, and punched the ball slightly. Neither Andre Marriner nor the sideline official waved for the foul because on first glance it looked like Ox had headed the ball wide instead of handling. But then Marriner is seen tapping his earpiece, a two-way communication device which allows all four officials to communicate, and at that point, Marriner blows up for the foul and produces a red card to Gibbs. The Arsenal players surround the ref and tell him that it wasn’t Gibbs but rather Ox who handled the ball and you can see Marriner actually have a conversation with Ox asking him “oh, it’s you who handled the ball? It’s you?”  (~1min) and then shaking his head and pointing Gibbs to go to the showers.

After the match, Marriner apologized to Arsenal for the identity mixup. Arsenal appealed the red card, Gibbs was cleared, and Oxlade-Chamberlain was also cleared of the red card because his handball was not a red card offence since he didn’t deny an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Marriner has been subsequently backed by the PGMOL (the group that governs officials in the UK) and will referee next weekend.

The facts in this case lead to only one conclusion. Someone, somewhere, someone that Andre Marriner trusts completely, whispered in Marriner’s ear to “send off the Arsenal left back for handball”. This idea that he was only following orders explains why Marriner has been absolved of any wrongdoing and the idea that someone else got the call and the identity of the player wrong explains why Ox and Gibbs have also been absolved of any wrongdoing. The Football Association and the PGMOL have, implicitly, taken the blame for blowing this call.

They have taken the blame but they haven’t explained themselves. Who made that call? Was it the fourth official, Anthony Taylor? Anthony Taylor is the referee who gifted Chelsea a goal in their 4-1 win over Cardiff when he allowed Eto’o to kick the ball out of the hands of the Cardiff keeper. He also controversially sent Jose Mourinho to the stands for his constant protestations in that match. Prompting former referee Graham Poll to call for Taylor to be rested. He wasn’t.

Taylor also sent off two players in Everton’s 2-1 win over West Ham last season and both players’ red cards were rescinded. Taylor is scheduled to referee three matches this week, two as fourth official, more than any other official, unless he is dropped. After all, both matches he’s officiated this week were fraught with controversy — Taylor was the official for Tottenham’s come from behind 3-2 win over Southampton and was heavily criticized by Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino.

And if it wasn’t Taylor, whose every call seems to be a circus, then who was it and how did they make it? In order for Marriner to ignore the pleadings of Oxlade-Chamberlain and stand his ground in sending off Gibbs he had to have a level of certainty which is a bit unnerving, considering the fact that he hadn’t even seen the infringement. Did someone in a booth somewhere, watching the replay on television, make the call?

The implications for that last sentence should send shivers down the spine of every football fan in England because it means that the FA have been surreptitiously using video replay to help make calls and that they are such bungling buffoons that they can’t even use video replay to get the identity of a player correct, much less get the call right.

The controversy from this game has been over whether Andre Marriner is incapable of telling the difference between two similarly complected black players. But that controversy only serves to hide the true problems from this match: that someone else made that call, that they might have been using video replay, that they got the call completely wrong down to the identity of the player who supposedly made the infringement, and that the FA and PGMOL are hiding the facts in this case and trying to sweep this under the rug.

This isn’t about Arsenal. All football fans should be very concerned by the events in this match because they point to a system so irrevocably broken that a referee can look a player in the face, who is telling him that he committed a foul, and send off the wrong guy. And that referee didn’t even see the foul.


Mr. Arsenal

Arsenal’s lack of effort and personality make it easy for Atkinson to gift Chelsea a win

If Arsenal were playing in “rarefied air” by beating Swansea in the FA Cup with a full-blooded effort on Wednesday, they fell back down to earth with a wet thwap by putting in a limp performance in the 2-1 loss to Chelsea at the Bridge on Sunday.

The score line flattered the visitors as Chelsea never really seemed bothered by the Arsenal, despite conceding a goal to a very lively Theo Walcott in the 58th minute. Chelsea always seemed to have something in reserve and any time the North Londoners started to smolder, the Blues put their embers out.

Case in point about having something in reserve, Chelsea brought on Demba Ba in the 81st minute and he almost immediately scored a goal. A ball over the top from the Chelsea midfield played Ba in past Arsenal’s limp attempt at an offside trap. Inexplicably, Szczesny came rushing out to meet Ba and left the goal gaping when Ba easily beat him. Only the hustle of Thomas Vermaelen to get back into goal and clear Ba’s shot off the line saved Arsenal from blushes.

Meanwhile Arsenal, a goal down and in need of the same type of spark Ba provided Chelsea, brought on Andrei Arshavin. His first appearance in nearly a month and a half. Arshavin’s immediate impact was to lose control of the ball for a goal kick.

Prior to Arshavin’s cameo, Arsenal’s only goal came from a nearly solitary moment of brilliance on the part of the Gunners. Walcott had been giving Ashley Cole fits for most of the second half, drawing the former Arsenal man to serially foul him in and around the Chelsea penalty box. So when Vermaelen tackled the ball away from Fernando Torres, Walcott started to make a run, and it was obvious that Cazorla would play the ball through to him. Blazing past Cole and with Ivanovich bearing down on him, Theo wrong-footed the keeper and scored on Cech’s near post.

It was a case of leaving it all too late to recover because it was the first half where Chelsea won the game. Arsenal conceded 60% of possession in that first half and yet only attempted 12 tackles (making 7). Chelsea, meanwhile, whenever they lost the ball fought to win it back, attempting 18 tackles in the first half (making 12). In the second half, Chelsea conceded 60% of possession to Arsenal and attempted 20 tackles (making 14) and Arsenal tried 12 tackles (making 11). Despite the disparity in possession, Arsenal never really got stuck in to win the ball back in the first half, leading to Jack Wilshere raising his arms as if to say “what the fuck guys?”

Mr. Arsenal

Playing poorly and having referee decisions go against you are not mutually exclusive conditions, though for some reason people look to only one or the other to blame for Chelsea’s win. Referee Martin Atkinson got a number of calls dead wrong. The first was for a foul on Coquelin which lead to Juan Mata’s opener. The Arsenal midfielder drove straight at Ramirez and made a nice little pass over to Cazorla on his left. The Chelsea man came in hard and late, stomping on Coquelin’s foot with his studs. The replay showed Atkinson looking right at the infraction, yet no foul was called.

And for the second goal, well, Atkinson could possibly be forgiven as the angle was poor but replays showed that Ramirez (again) slipped as he was trying to round Szczesny and kicked out to try to make contact well after he had already started going down. A slip if you’re generous, a dive if you’re not.

But just because the referee is calling the game against you doesn’t excuse a team for playing listlessly. As outlined above, Arsenal didn’t seem interested in putting in the effort to close down on Chelsea when they had the ball. Worse still, Arsenal’s lack of movement isolated players and made it easy for Chelsea to tackle the ball away. Which they did serially on the ball-dawdling Diaby who was dispossessed by Ramirez for Chelsea’s second.

If you needed any further proof that ignoring the referee and simply putting in the effort is the real key, look at the second half. Arsenal were still being treated harshly by Atkinson, as evidenced by the fact that Atkinson let Ramirez (again???) slap Jack Wilshere in the face, as blatant a smack in the face as you will ever see. Yet despite the poor refereeing, it was a second half in which Arsenal put in some effort to win the ball back and looked most likely to score and, in fact, did score.

It’s been true all season that Arsenal have had a difficult time imposing their personality on matches. From 1999-2009 Arsenal enjoyed a decade of dominance in English football, where the name “Arsenal” was synonymous with “beautiful football”. Arsenal and Barcelona were often mentioned as sister teams, both known for their slick passing game and their wonderfully forward-minded football.

In that decade, Arsenal dominated matches by forcing their style on the opponent. It was exceptionally rare for an opposing side to control possession against Arsenal for any amount of time, much less an entire half. But Arsenal now look more like a simulacrum of that greatest of Arsenal sides. Something that if viewed from just the right angle reminds the viewer of that old team but that for large stretches of any game looks like a pile of laces and mud.

And that’s the reality of yesterday’s loss to Chelsea. Sure, we can point to Atkinson’s dreadful officiating and we would be right. But just as much, we need to point to Arsenal’s lack of direction, Arsenal’s lack of effort, and worst of all Arsenal’s lack of any personality yesterday as the more likely culprit in sealing all three points for Chelsea.

But have no fear, Arsechums, the Gunners will bounce right back and probably put on a totally different display against West Ham on Wednesday. Perhaps, the type of match that will wash away the mud for a moment and reveal the Arsenal of old. Perhaps, they will be a long-ball team, why not? Or perhaps Arsenal will come out and tackle the grass right off the pitch. No one knows, because if there’s anything that anyone can say for certain about this Arsenal team, it’s that it seems to suffer from multiple-personality disorder.


Rectum? He nearly Killed em!

Chelsea v. Arsenal: polar opposites

Arsenal and Chelsea couldn’t be more polar opposites: Arsenal is a North London team, Chelsea South; Arsenal were formed in 1886, Chelsea were formed in 2003; Arsenal put blood, sweat and tears into a brand new stadium, Chelsea have a dump because their owner doesn’t care about the infrastructure; Arsenal have had the same manager (Arsene Wenger) for 16 years, Chelsea have had 16 managers since 2003; Arsenal have made hundreds of millions in the transfer market, Chelsea have spent hundreds of millions in the transfer market; Arsenal have interns, Chelsea shoot their interns with a pellet gun; Arsenal’s captain is a family man, Chelsea’s captain likes to date other men’s families; and Arsenal are excited that they just signed a young English prospect to a new contract, Chelsea are excited that they just extended an old Arsenal player’s contract.

But Arsenal and Chelsea are also similar: both clubs want to be Arsenal; they both play an attacking brand of football popularized by Arsenal; both clubs use Arsenal’s scouts to find talent; both Arsenal and Chelsea have 7 letters in their name; and both Arsenal and Chelsea charge away fans over £60 for a ticket.

But if you’ve been in anything other than a persistent vegetative state for the last 10 years, you already know all this.

Rectum? He nearly Killed em!

In fact, I’ve written about this Arsenal-Chelsea match so many times, and said the same things so many times, that… well, what’s left to say? How much has the story changed over the last 4 years? The answer is very little. They generally have a better team, as you would expect when they buy the best players, and they have generally challenged for the Premier League title, which Arsenal haven’t done. The story has been the same so often that last season was the first time that Arsenal finished above Chelsea since 2006.

But still, it’s an important game for both teams, for different reasons. Arsenal are in a rebuilding phase and Chelsea are about to undergo one, I suspect.

Just coming off a decent win over Swansea in the FA Cup, the young Gunners need to start building some momentum if they are going to finish in the Champions League places this year. With the Premier League awash with money, there’s a lot of competition for the top four spots. An Arsenal win tomorrow will fire the Gunners all the way into fifth place, just three points off Tottenham and with a game in hand.

We also know that Chelsea’s home form is poor owing at least partially to the fact that the Chelsea supporters hate the new manager Rafa Benitez. Despite having an owner who buys them any player they could ever want and who has amassed more trophies in the last 10 years than they had in all their history before that, the home crowd has taken to booing Benitez. Just because. They don’t like him.

Benitez in return will be desperate for a good home win but will his team feel the same way? This is a Chelsea team with a history of throwing the manager under the bus. A big loss tomorrow would surely see Abramovich wield his managerial axe.

The referee is Martin Atkinson and he has the distinction of having refereed the last match between these two teams — Arsenal’s 2-1 loss back in September. It’s very rare to see a referee get the same match twice in the same season so I’m sure this will be mentioned. What won’t be mentioned is that Atkinson is quick with the red card and awarding penalties. Arsenal need to be fully alert for the 90 minutes to avoid pulling a Koscielny.

Regardless of the outcome, I just ask one thing from the Arsenal; that they give everything like they did against Swansea in the FA Cup. If Chelsea are better, so be it, but at least get in their faces and give Chelsea a game.

Kickoff is 5:30am. By the Numbers will be posted on Arseblog before 10am local time.

Up the Gunners.