There was lots of talk following Arsenal’s win at home yesterday, where, after a scare, we emerged 3.1 winners over a Norwich City team which has only won twice away from Carrow Road this season.
Most of that talk surrounded the linesman’s crucial decision to award a penalty from the opposite side of the pitch – a penalty that the referee, who was perfectly placed, decided not to award.
As for the foul itself, we’ve all seen them given, and we’ve certainly all seem them waved away. The fact of the matter was that Kei Kamara got hold of Giroud, as the ball came across, and literally pulled him down to the ground – the kind of foul which should really be punished more consistently.
It’s already been shown that the linesman, Richard West, had a clear view across the pitch to see the incident, but amazingly, debate then raged, not about whether it was penalty or not, but whether he should have given it from where he was! What was he supposed to do? Ignore it?
That was until Alan Hansen, on the increasingly dire Match of the Day, piped up and said that it wasn’t a penalty in the first place! The MoTD panel consisted of Alan Hansen, whose punditry is quite frankly awful, David Moyes, whose Everton team play Arsenal on Tuesday night and are just four points behind us, and Martin Keown, a former Arsenal player. A degree in rocket science is not required to guess what each of them thought, although Gary Lineker also dragged the discussion in to the realm of the bizarre, when he seemed to suggest that Norwich City’s fight to avoid relegation made Arsenal’s fight for CL qualification pale into insignificance.
Most teams are fighting for something, and playing the ‘small club, what a shame, they’ve only got 35 points’ card seem wholly irrelevant to me, and somewhat disingenuous.
Incidentally, MoTD failed to even comment on Kamara tripping himself up for the free-kick that led to Norwich’s goal – no surprise there.
However, just to highlight some what we have to deal with in terms of football journalism, I thought I would quickly show you one report on yesterday’s game. The report is from the Daily Express website and, before we take a look, I’ll just add that I know nothing of its author, Colin Mafham, and nor am I singling him or his newspaper out. The Express was the first website I visited this morning, having clicked on a link from the BBC to read about some far-fetched Arsenal transfer rumour – so this is the report that comes to mind.
Here’s the text, with a few comments of my own:
Arsenal 3 – Norwich 1: Gift aid for Arsenal
IF ARSENAL hold on to a top four spot – and a coveted Champions League place next season – they might want to invite Richard West to the celebration party. (That pretty much sets it up, I’m sure you’ll agree. We already know where this is going!)
By: Colin Mafham
Published: Sun, April 14, 2013
The assistant referee’s controversial decisions yesterday played a major part in rescuing the Gunners when Norwich looked like making their lives a misery. (Controversial in that he correctly awarded a penalty? Nothing to do with our will to win, patience, good substitutions etc?)
Arsenal’s equaliser came after he gave a corner that wasn’t. Then he failed to spot Theo Walcott offside before the England man set up Lucas Podolski for the third goal. (Ah, so he’s not even mentioning the penalty at this point! As for the corner, it may well not have been, I agree, and Walcott probably was marginally offside, but play went on and there was still work to be done for that to result in a goal.)
Crucial decisions that helped fire a far from top form Arsenal into third place in the table, leaving Arsene Wenger sighing with relief.
“We left it a bit late,” he admitted. “It was a question of nerves in the end and we didn’t do anything stupid when we were a goal down.
‘‘Credit to Norwich, they gave us some problems, and now we have to keep our run going in another big game against Everton on Tuesday”.
Considering they were playing a team that has now managed only two points from their last eight away games Arsenal were just like the weather – slow to warm up.
It was close on half an hour before Oliver Giroud and Gervinho ruffled any Canary feathers. Hardly the sort of stuff you would have expected from a team with eyes on European glory. (I’m not entirely sure qualifying for the CL constitutes ‘glory’, even in AW’s books)
Norwich were not complaining. Given their still perilous league position they might reasonably expect a roughly ride than they were given. (Good proof-reading there!)
As a result, the longer the first half went on so the Canaries’ confidence grew. No wonder Wenger looked worried at half time.
It certainly wasn’t in the script that Michael Turner started to write for Norwich little more than ten minutes into the second half, when he scored his second crucial goal in two games. (I’d argue that his goal was anything but ‘crucial’ – it would have been should they have won or secured a draw, but the one goal in a 3.1 defeat? No, that’s more like a consolation!)
The big defender, who scored Norwich’s second against Swansea last week, crept up unnoticed to head a Robert Snodgrass free kick past the startled Fabianski. Arsenal could have no excuses. It had been coming from the restart and once again Arsenal’s marking was nowhere a top four standard. (Okay, no mention at all of the aforementioned Kemara tripping himself up incident. That controversial decision obviously doesn’t matter. Secondly, while I’m not going to argue with the standard of our defending for goal, Norwich City have the third best record on scoring from set-pieces this season, so we’re hardly alone in conceding that kind of goal against them)
Desperate times call for desperate actions, especially when Wenger took off young Jack Wilshere – back from another injury lay-off but looking a shadow of his old self. (Fair comment, but it’s the manner in which it’s put. He hadn’t played for six weeks – what did he expect?)
To be fair, Podolski deserved an equaliser but the crossbar denied him. Then the arrival of Woolcott for Wilshere made the difference. (Podolski’s effort was saved by Bunn and ‘Woolcott’ and Podolski actually came on at the same time, for Jack and Gervinho!)
Lady luck – and Mr West, of course – helped massively, gifting Arsenal an 85th-minute equaliser, plus two more goals in seven frantic minutes in total. (Here we go…………)
Kei Kemara will probably swear blind that he didn’t intend to tug Giroud in the box, but the linesman thought differently and a grateful Mikel Arteta levelled matters from the spot – even though replays showed that Arsenal should not have been given the corner that led to it. (Does it matter what Kemara thinks? I mean, Shawcross probably still swears blind that he didn’t mean to injure Aaron Ramsey, and when you’ve got a handful of an opponent’s shirt and pull him to the ground, it’s tough to argue that it was an accident, surely? “Sorry ref, I know I grabbed him, but I didn’t actually mean to pull him over……”)
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started the move that saw the outstanding Giroud score after a goalline scramble with Sebastien Bassong. (Faint praise for The Ox, who started the move, and pretty much nailed it with that ball in to the box after a lovely one-two with Podolski. As for Giroud being ‘outstanding’ yesterday, I’m now beginning to wonder if Colin Mafham was even AT the game!)
Woolcott looked offside before he set up Podolski for Arsenal’s third – and a scoreline Norwich rightly feel didn’t really do them justice. (Ah – Colin thinks his name actually is Woolcott! No mention of Podolski’s fine finish for the third. As I said earlier, there was still work to be done after Walcott got the ball)
Norwich boss Chris Hughton said: “My first thought is that it was not a corner for the penalty. Their third goal was offside.
“I have had a private chat with the referee, but I am still not convinced.
“We have five ganes left, three at home, so we now need to get enough points to keep us where we want to be.” (Another typo / error there – ‘ganes’)
So there you have it? I think any football fan would read that and probably agree that it’s a complete sham, an almost total waste of webspace. It’s lazy, inaccurate and seemingly written by someone who doesn’t really know his stuff, or doesn’t apparently care.
Fortunately there are many excellent football journalists, and even one or two good pundits in this country. When you read reports like that above though, is it really any surprise that some of the debate that rages leaves us shaking our heads?
In other news, tomorrow night I’ll be recording the latest episode of the Gooner Girls Company podcast. Last week’s episode, with special guest Geoff Arsenal, can be found here, and that’s where the next one will be too.
Thanks for reading