Morning Gooners, hope you are all well, trying hard to get back into the swing of things now that we’re a working week into the new year and the FA Cup Third Round weekend is upon us? I tried watching all of the Liverpool v Everton game last night but having seen Adam Lallana take his lead from Eden Hazard in yet another pathetic penalty given I didn’t get past the first half if I’m honest. And despite the fact that Everton did manage to peg Liverpool back before van Dijk scored, I’m glad I didn’t sit through another 45 minutes of it if I’m honest.
And having heard multiple people say it wasn’t a penalty, having seen it from multiple angles, and now having witnessed yet another shoddy refereeing display because he probably should have sent Colgate off for dangerous play by pushing Firmino into the crowd, you do have to wonder if Arsene’s points over the last week and a bit have been brought further into light about the standard of referees in this country. Quite simple: they aren’t good enough. But that’s what happens when you don’t have fresh ideas or any real drive from their own governing body the PGMOL. Referees in England are clearly a close-knit community. I can see why; they are abused by most fans on most weeks, they are never really liked by anyone, it’s a thankless job and at times it can’t be much fun. So for those that work in the profession they will inevitably feel a desire to protect their own. Which is why you get stupid comments from former refs like Dermott Gallagher on Sky Sportd telling us that he didn’t think Hazard “had the time to think” about going down in such an extravagant way. Eh? He literally threw his body up in the air to make the most of contact. Not having time to think would be to either fall over because you’ve genuinely been tripped, or to try to win the ball back because if you’re a player that is looking to keep the ball and not instigate a clear cheating advantage for your team, you just try to stay on your feet.
We have refs like Graham Poll on BT Sports, we have Dermott Gallagher on Sky and in charge of the whole body in itself we have the absolute joke that is Mike Riley, the man who put on one of the single worst and most one-sided favouritism matches when Arsenal lost at Old Trafford in late 2004, that you’ll ever see.
Arsene has picked up a three game touchline ban for his comments to Mike Dean in the dressing room and he probably said some things he didn’t mean in terms of the guy being a cheat, but he’s absolutely bang on the nose when he speaks of just how poor they all are now. The current top are simply not fit for purpose.
So what’s the solution? Ref in the stands? Mike them up so that the ref can take a few seconds to ask a man who’s seen a replay if it’s an offside, penalty, or something more sinister. Get another view in I say. At least it would iron out clear injustices like the West Brom penalty. I still don’t think it would iron out everything because the man in the stands would probably still be a ref or former ref and 90% of the time they’d want to side with a colleague (and I think the Hazard one would still be given with VAR because they’d say ‘there is contact’ so it gives the ref an out – even though it’s not a penalty), but on one or two occasions when everyone would admit it is clearly a poor call then we’d all get the justice we want.
Anyway, he’s got his ban now, he’ll just have to live with it and yesterday he faced the press to talk ahead of the Forest game. He’s rather unconvincingly said he wants Walcott to stay, which sounds to me like a guy who’s putting a public face on the fact he knows Walcott is out of the door, whilst also dismissing the Aubameyang to Arsenal rumours. I must say I think that’s being spun a little unfairly. Somebody came to me at work and said that Arsene had told the press that he isn’t signing Aubameyang because he wants to keep Walcott. That wasn’t exactly his precise words, but it’s easy to see how it can be spun with the anti-Wenger angle. I’m certainly no fan of the manager but I can see how the two situations aren’t linked even if it does make my heart sink that he’s not interested in a clearly elite player who would greatly improve our team. Imagine if we had both Auba and Laca as a front line? Imagine shifting to two up front with Ozil behind. Then imagine the German signing a new deal. Things would finally start to look up having spent the best part of six months lamenting the inevitable departures of Alexis and Ozil.
But Arsene poured cold water on that so it’s yet another player we aren’t in for who we should probably at least be having a nibble at.
Anyway, we move on and focus our efforts of Nottingham Forest and Chelski in the cup in midweek and I must say I find this a fascinating prospect for Arsene over the next week. All season he’s been allowed to split his squad in two and give the weekend players a one week rest and the midweek players the same. There’s been a clear hierarchy of first team and squad and yet here we have two games that you’d probably say you’d class as matches he’d normally rotate a lot of the squad players in. But will he bring the squad players in tomorrow and midweek? Or will he mix and match it up? It’s a fascinating prospect I must say. But one I think i’ll ponder on a little more. I suspect we’ll get a pick and mix squad tomorrow and a slightly stronger one in midweek, but who knows what he’s got in mind?
Righto, that’s enough jabbering from me. I’m off to play FIFA, watch movies and generally slob around all day today.