Like many of you I had some rather mixed thoughts after the late equaliser which salvaged a draw against Leeds yesterday. Generally we didn't play badly, but it was a bit mixed, although we dominated for long periods and created way more chances than our opponents, Leeds deserve a lot of credit for creating a few decent chances of their own and defending with their backs to the wall for long periods. There were some good performances and some less good. Szczesny was again excellent, producing a top save on both halves, his save from Becchio's header with the score at 1-0 was truly outstanding. Djourou produced another commanding show, aggressive and dominant throughout. Walcott came on to massive effect, while Gibbs played well and is not injured.
I have to say that some of our problems stem from the fact that some of our backup players are not good enough, a few of them are just temporarily off form and some are more permanently low in the form department. Denilson's mobility and consequently his defensive game are just not up to standard, Arshavin is off the boil, while playing strikers out wide doesn't work with Bendtner/Chamakh. The fact that Song had to play showed that our squad is just not good enough in terms of solid midfielders. Still credit must go to Leeds who fought hard, remained organised as a defensive unit and threatened our goal when they had the opportunity, Simon Grayson has done a great job there.
Dowd wasn't perfect in all he did. He got the Leeds penalty spot on, Denilson showed his defensive incompetence once again. He then missed a clear penalty on Bendtner when the Dane had his legs taken before the ball was influenced. He also wrongly decided that Bendtner's offside position should influence his decision to award a penalty for a 'possible foul' on Theo Walcott, fortunately for him Theo came out to admit there was not enough contact for a penalty, credit to the lad of his remarkable honesty. At least he got the call right for the penalty that Cesc struck home near the end. It will not be easy going to Elland Road on a cold January night for the replay, an attractive home tie against Huddersfield awaits us if we can up our game sufficiently.
Howard Webb has reiterated just how poor an official he is with another typically warped performance officiating a Manchester United game, this time against Liverpool. Firstly he awarded a penalty to Manu for a clear Berbatov dive in the first minute when he was poorly placed about twenty five metres from the incident, he didn't even bother to ask the linesman for his opinion even though he was in a far more advantageous position. Then he sent Gerrard off for what I felt was a definite yellow card offence, but a very harsh red. Of course it is easy to say that Gerrard was reckless and it was a clear red, but in the context of other tackles around and the recklessness we see routinely it simply wasn't bad enough to merit a red. Minutes earlier Rafael had stamped through a tackle dangerously on Meireles, so much so that the Portugese jumped out the way of Rafael's studs, this tackle was arguably more dangerous than Gerrard's but didn't even merit a free kick in Webb's book.
Jeff Winter chooses to defend Howard Webb for another appalling performance, not a surprise given what a poor referee Winter was in his own time. The point about refereeing performances is that one must judge them in context and one has to say that in context Howard Webb's recent performances in the last year or so have been shocking. He regularly loses control of games, he cannot enforce a level of discipline, he allows massive amounts of dissent and intimidation, his decision making is inconsistent and unjustifiable, in simple terms he is just plain crap. Contrast Webb to Michael Jones who refereed our game against City recently, he was outstanding, he controlled the game by showing yellows appropriately, he didn't award soft penalties for nothing and he let things flow appropriately.
In my humble opinion there is something very wrong with the way the Premiership is refereed. Part of the problem is the fact that referees have no backup from technology, but a big part of the problem stems from the system which oversees the selection of officials for certain games. Howard Webb has officiated quite a few Manu games of late and he has given four penalties to Manu in his last six games, most of us will remember the appalling decision to give that penalty against us for Clichy's completely accidental handball. He seems to be the new Mike Riley, the cynic would argue that gifting Manu a few wins is a very good career move for a referee.
The way that the referees are selected for certain games is dodgy, it is the opposite of transparent and political pressures seem to have a big effect on which games are officiated by which official, this cannot be right. Mike Riley is in charge and that cannot be a good thing. It is also clear that the vast majority of referees must be football supporters, and we have no idea which clubs the top referees support. Given that so many of the Premiership's referees are from the North (11 out of 16 Elite refs are from the North), it would not surprise me if a few of them were Manchester United fans, I would also put a few quid on Howard Webb being a Manchester United fan. In my opinion we should all know which clubs the referees support and they should never officiate a game in which their team is playing, the current system leaves things far more open to bias then they need be and that stinks.