Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sack the manager, oh no, not quite just yet....

If any game of football lived up to the old cliche 'it's a game of two halves' then this was it.  We were poor in the first half and so much better in the second.  I have to also add that finally we had something go our way for once, although we haven't been great of late, we also haven't had any luck both in terms of refereeing decisions and in term of the rub of the green in other departments.

We were a bit too pedestrian in the first half, we had a fair bit of ball but didn't do enough with it, it was all a tad slow and lacking urgency.  We were still rather unlucky to go in 2-0 down at the break.  Villa's first was a neat set piece, a short corner that saw Koscielny outnumbered and out jumped by Dunne, their second hit us hard just before half time, Bent finishing second time lucky after Fabianski's save went straight back to the Villa striker.  We had a fair bit of pressure though and could easily have gone it level on another day.

The players came out for the second half with a new purpose, a new drive and a real desire to move the ball around faster, press Villa into mistakes more eagerly and to get back into the game of football.  It was a better overall team performance, Ramsey and Rosicky particularly impressed with their drive and energy from midfield.

The first came from the penalty spot, Dunne chopped down Ramsey for what should have clearly been at least his second yellow, Jones choked it but did at least give us a penalty, RVP converted neatly.  The second relied on a fair bit of luck, Walcott got round his man on the right flank, cut in, and poked the ball at goal from an acute angle, it hit Given, was cleared into Walcott and it rebounded straight into the net, 2-2.  The next was another clear penalty, a brilliant burst from Koscielny resulted in a desperate Bent lunge, no contact on the ball and another spot kick slickly converted by RVP.  3-2 and the game turned in an amazing 7 minute spell.

Villa huffed and puffed but couldn't get back into the game, and honestly they didn't deserve to.  McLeish has created quite an unlikeable team, rather defensive, poor to watch, and extremely dirty and cynical in their foul play.  Importantly the team showed a lot of courage to come back from two down today, and it must be remembered that we do still have a lot of players out injured.  Those who started throwing around vitriolic abuse at our players and manager today have been made to look like the class numpties they are, how very priceless.

It is definitely a day for focusing on the positive, how could one not after such a second half resurrection?  We all know that our squad is not right in several ways, realistically this can only be addressed in the summer though.  Most importantly we have some key players returning to full fitness, Sagna and Arteta being two examples coming back today, and that is great to see.  A bit more of this luck, a few more deserved penalties, some more fit first team players and you never know what might happen come May.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Ox goes off, Arshavin comes on and the rest is history

This game was so utterly predictable.  The unpredictable part of it was that young Oxlade-Chamberlain started and was arguably our best player, also that Nico Yennaris came on at half time for the hapless Djourou, this also swung the game in our direction.  These two good managerial decisions were then more than negated when the Ox was take off and replaced by our lazy fat Russian.

Manu deserved the win.  They exploited our weakness at right back as the 1st half wore on, this told just before the end of the half through Valencia's goal.  We came out aggressively in the 2nd half, the Ox was the spark, the momentum shifted, and eventually a goal, a precious equaliser came, the Ox feeding RVP who finished supremely.

The momentum was with us, 1-1 with twenty to go.  Theo had been poor, again, ineffective and unproductive as he has been so regularly of late, one really has to wonder why he deserves any kind of new contract given his recent attitude and output.  Bizarrely and stupidly Arsene then took our best player off, in fact a double substitution was about to happen just before the equaliser.  It was terrible enough to take the Ox off, but to see the lazy fat Russian Arshavin come on in his place was just gruesome, a truly awful decision from Arsene.  Tellingly RVP did not look happy with it.

The crowd were fuming and quite rightly, why was Walcott not taken off instead? and why take our biggest threat off the field?  Our forward momentum was then sapped, then to emphasise the woeful nature of the decision Manu scored a second and Arshavin's slack defending was again at the heart of it.  This was no great Manu side either, it was as poor a defensive back five as I have seen representing their club against us.

Our squad is too weak, we need defensive reinforcements so so badly, not only this but Arsene is making some terrible tactical decisions which are killing our season, quite literally.  Arsene's decision to withdraw our pace at Fulham was also a poor one, Gervinho and Walcott went off in the 2nd half, our attacking pace was gone, we sunk deeper and the pressure ended up telling.

Arshavin is one of many players who are not good enough for our football club, I want to see his sort cleared out, I have had enough of lazy players like him who clearly do not care anymore.  Make no mistake, things are pretty bad, we have lost 8 league games already this season, over a third of our fixtures.  Those in power at Arsenal Football Club need to take responsibility for this mess and they need to go about sorting out our squad. 

The worst thing in all this is that it has been obvious to any honest Arsenal fan that we have drifted off the pace set by the likes of Manu in the last few years, we are no longer at the races, we have been outplayed too often and this never used to happen when we genuinely competed for the title.  I am in pain, there is no longer any room for excuses.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Dean reduces chances even further and other news

I was not optimistic going into Sunday's game, we have massive injury problems, our squad is down to the barest of bones, our form is poor and consequently confidence is low, and then I heard that the hapless and compliant Mike Dean is to referee the game, I no longer have much room for optimism.  This ACLF article talking about shoddy Mirror journalism and low quality refereeing is well worth a read.

Our defense has been absolutely decimated by an unfortunate series of injuries; Sagna, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Santos, Coquelin and Gibbs are all still out for Sunday, meaning that we don't have many options, it is likely that Djourou and Miguel will continue in the full back slots.  These novice full backs need help from the midfield and forwards, the likes of Arshavin and Walcott need to pull their overpaid fingers out, work harder and do their fair share of the defensive work, and not just leave our full backs to fend for themselves.

The other big blow is that Arteta remains out, he has been a lynchpin in our midfield so far this season, he has played with real discipline and tenacity, so when he is not there we have missed him.  We also lack any quality combative backup in the squad with Frimpong out on loan and Coquelin injured.  I am not sure how wise it was to send Emmanuel Frimpong on loan, we could have done with him against Fulham, Swansea and Manu.  LeGrove have a point about players like Lansbury, a midfield fighter who would add so much more than a Benayoun or Rosicky.

Manu are still a strong side but very suspect defensively, I just doubt our ability to take them apart as we could have done if we had a fit first eleven.  With Vidic out and no decent goalkeeper, as well as their lack of a proper quality right back, they are vulnerable at the back.  Again I doubt it will happen, but I would prefer to see the Ox start, Arshavin has been woeful all season and his work rate has been poor.  It's a big game for Walcott to prove his doubters wrong, his recent form has been poor and he needs to do something on Sunday.

On the topic of the transfer window, I do not think that is easy to go out and restructure our squad in January, however to claim that our squad is good enough and has the right balance is simply daft as well, I don't think either extreme of argument makes sense.  As I talked about earlier in the week, we have too many underperforming players in the squad, this needs to be dealt with but it will be hard to do much in January.  The likes of Fabianski, Squillaci, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh, Denilson, Bendtner et al need to be cleared out as soon as we can.

Mike Dean is useless and he is refereeing tomorrow, it is virtually guaranteed that we will not get a penalty, we will get booked for minor fouls and he will do his best to wreck the game with his unique brand of refereeing incompetence.  Dean has already missed clear penalties for us against Fulham, a game in which he failed to send off Senderos for a blatant second yellow card when he took out Gervinho when clean through on goal, Dean also missed Van der Vaart's blatant handball which helped him scored Tottenham's opening goal. 

Something I have frequently talked about is the PGMO, the body that runs refereeing, and the completely hidden process by which refs are selected for PL games, it is blatantly open to corruption.  This excellent piece from UntoldArsenal makes a point that I have frequently made, some very strange decisions seem to be being made by the PGMO and there appears to be a clear bias in the way in which officials are selected.  The mainstream media have completely failed to get to grips with this issue, there are too many lazy journalists who are happy to reproduce the same old tired cliches without bothering to do any proper thinking or investigative work.  Anyway come on you Gunners!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Two step forwards, one step back

We started the season appallingly, no doubt a big reason for this was the late transfer deals which meant that it took us a fair few weeks to get into gear, and those in the know seem to agree that the board were far more to blame for this than our manager.  We recovered well with an excellent run of results in the league, but the last few weeks have seen this form slip, evidenced by the recent collapses against Swansea and Fulham.

There are many reasons for this recent collapse and many different people have many different opinions.  Certainly it would be foolish to deny that injuries, poor refereeing and bad luck have had a part.  In my opinion though, our squad has been on the decline for several years now and this has culminated in our poor start and recent run, the last minute activity in the transfer window was a sticky plaster, admittedly it was a start, but major surgery is still needed on our squad, and it will take time and patience for this to be carried out and an effective solution reached.

We have amassed a lot of mediocre dross in our squad.  It is easy to list a lot of highly paid players who have never delivered for the club for a variety of reasons, some of the players have just been unlucky with injuries, others have just been bad buys because they are not of Arsenal class, but overall I feel that several years of shoddy cheap signings have had a massive negative effect on our squad and consequently results, it will take months and years to put this right, it cannot be done overnight, no matter who is in charge of the club.

Almunia is not good enough, Fabianski is not Arsenal class, Gibbs cannot stay fit for more than 2 weeks, Squillaci is a poor player, Djourou is no more than a squad player at best, Diaby is persistently injured, Denilson is not Arsenal class, Rosicky has never delivered, Arshavin has been average for many months, Chamakh has no confidence and is not up to it, Vela is not the right sort, Bendtner is not good enough, why has Park not played? Probably because he's not up to it as well.  Think how much money is going on these under performing players' wages.

We have way over ten players who are not delivering anything like what is needed, no wonder our squad has been found wanting when a few injuries bite and the fixtures come thick and fast.  The signings of Per, Mikel, Santos and Bennayoun were needed, but the amount of work needed to be done on our failing squad is huge.  We are desperately short in certain areas, we lack fight and bite in midfield especially, we lack forwards and full backs, there is little time left to remedy these issues with the transfer window shortly, it is also very hard to get the top quality players in mid season.

If anyone is to blame for this then it is the board from what I've heard.  Arsene has not been backed as he should have been and there has not been the driving force pushing things through from boardroom level, as was the case when Dein was at the club.  I still think Arsene is the man to restructure the squad, the problem is that I have significant doubts as to whether he will get the support from the board that he so badly needs to do this tough job.  The mediocrity needs to be ditched, we need to show ambition, and if we can reinvest these wasted wages in some top quality talent, we may just be able to become a major force again, then we can convince the likes of RVP and Song to stay.  If things don't change then I honestly could not blame RVP for wanting out and it pains me to admit that, it really does.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Flaws exposed by plucky Swansea

Firstly I have no time for anyone who is so fickle as to suddenly turn on our manager after a short series of poor results, get a grip on reality and try to be objective, I know it's hard sometimes but engage your brain before letting loose with any bitter resentful bile.  Secondly well played Swansea, they played some excellent football and their style deserves praise.  Anyway onto the match.

A lot of nonsense will be spouted about how terrible we were today and how Swansea deserved the win, this is just easy and lazy in my opinion.  It was a great game of football that hinged on a few key moments, some of the problems were of our own making, some not.  I am sure Per was far from fully fit today, but our defensive line up has been decimated by a rather unfortunate run of injuries, and this cannot be ignored when looking at today's result, again we played without proper full backs.

We started well and got the early goal, RVP with a great finish when slotted clean through, the angle wasn't easy too.  A key moment soon after when Dyer conned the ref in the box, he stamped on Ramsey, dived down and cheated.  The useless Oliver had a great view and got it completely wrong, given the great penalty shouts we have been denied in recent weeks it is particularly galling to see such a pathetic decision go against us, at such a key time too, it really changed the game, Swansea were up against it til then, the momentum was given to them by this refereeing error.  We need video technology badly.

Swansea had a lot of the ball but didn't create much clear cut for the rest of the half, in fact the better chances fell our way, RVP had a great opportunity with another one on one, Ramsey had a shot cleared off the line.  The warning signs were there though in the midfield, there wasn't enough defending going on, Benayoun and Ramsey didn't provide much beef, the full backs looked very exposed at times and this was to tell in the end.

There were too many poor performances today, the midfielders were gradually overwhelmed as the game wore on, the wisdom of sending Frimpong on load has to be questioned.  The fact Henry adds a lot from the bench says a lot for the sorry state of our forward department in terms of depth and quality.  Arshavin was poor today, Theo was poor as well, we really lack quality in the squad, Oxlade-Chamberlain must start to get some games ahead of the anonymous Russian.  Having a midfield three with Benayoun and Ramsey within, combined with a front three who don't do much defending is ridiculous in my opinion, the defense didn't get enough help from elsewhere and the pressure told in the end.

Dyer had far too much space before he blasted home Swansea's second.  It was gutting that we managed a good equaliser when Theo finished neatly having been played clean through, only then to see Graham given acres of room as he beat Szczesny from a tricky angle, the young Pole will not be happy with letting that one in.  Graham then had another great chance to make the game safe for Swansea.

Still we continued to create some cracking chances and really should have taken at least a draw out of the game.  Mertesacker blasted wide from six yards with the goal at his mercy, Rosicky blasted over on the volley, Koscielny blasted a good volley straight at the keeper after a good initial same, there were some other decent half chances.  Very very frustrating, it was just a great shame that Henry didn't get an opportunity to show his class.

There are too many issues to go into now without writing a long book, but in summary we are short in several areas of our squad now, especially in forward and defensive areas.  I am no fan of the way we play the 4-3-3 formation, we frequently lack defensive grit and the more offensive players regularly fail to do enough in helping us defend as a team, some of our forward players' form has simply not been good enough of late.  I would like to see a return to a more robust 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 formation now.

The referee was useless, the penalty was an error and he made numerous other more obvious ones, some of his free kicks were just plain ludicrous, one decision at the death not to give a free kick on the edge of the Swansea box for a head high boot was simply inexplicable.

It was a funny old mixture today, we created several of our own problems, we didn't defend well enough and we missed too many good chances at the other end, Swansea played some great football and took their chances, we lost.  It was not quite as terrible as some would have you believe though, we created more chances, had more shots on and off target than Swansea, despite out defensive failings with some better finishing we could easily have taken something from this game.

Finally to all the idiots who are now slagging off the manager, players and club left, right and centre, get a grip you absolute braindead morons.  Criticism on certain issues is fine but the stupid knee jerk abuse that some indulge in is just beneath contempt, it really is.  Hopefully today can be used to fire us into some action in the market, we need depth and quality in certain areas, we are but a couple of injuries away from a massive crisis.

My line up versus Swansea

I have to assume that Per passes his late fitness test as I cannot consider the alternative, to be honest even if Per is still unwell, he is still probably a far better option for us than a fully fit Squillaci.  There are rumours that Arteta is not fit, I hope these are not true.

Djourou; Per, Kos; Miguel
Song, Arteta, Ramsey
Walcott, RVP, Ox

Obviously if Per fails his test, it may be wise to play Djourou centrally with Yennaris at right back.  While if Arteta is not fit then it is another game in which we all think, why did we let Frimpong go on loan?  Still Frimpers isn't an option, so we may well see Yossi Bennayoun starting.  I'd keep Thierry on the bench as a useful option to bring on if needs be.

If Arteta isn't fit then it will be absolutely key that Song plays deeper with discipline and doesn't charge forwards with reckless abandon.  Against Fulham we didn't defend well enough as a team, we also lost attacking outlets as the game wore on, it is key to remember that we need to keep pace on up front otherwise we will sink deeper and deeper, thus bringing more pressure on ourselves.  I expect Arshavin will start ahead of the Ox and hopefully he will do ok, I just think the Ox is much more of a pacey threat than the Russian.

It looks like being a good game of football today and in my opinion the key will be that we defend  well as a unit, obviously injuries have decimated our defensive line up, but it will be key that the midfield and wide forwards do their defensive share.  It will be important that we keep a close eye on Scott Sinclair who is a quick incisive forward and a key reason for Swansea's success so far this season.  Come on you Gunners!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Injuries and Premier League conflicts

So there is at last some good news on the injury front, Carl Jenkinson has had positive scan results and is back in training, TV5 is not far off and may be back for Manu.  Per looks unlikely to beat his flu in time for Swansea, while Johan Djourou is back from suspension.  It still means that our back four this sunday will be rather ropey and may contain Squillaci, not good.  Swansea away is going to be tough.

Arsene has had some interesting words to say on the Premier League fixtures and the way in which he feels certain clubs can influence them, it wouldn't be the first time this has been said.  It is easy for certain lazy journalists to just ignore the point made and write his comments off as mad 'conspiracy' theories.  One should always remember that pointing out that a system may not be fair is not the same as madness.

A conspiracy doesn't have to be several bearded men meeting at the cover of dark in a small smokey room, if a system is open to being influenced by certain vested interests then this may be a conspiracy of sorts, and it is just weak to write off a fair complaint as a mad 'conspiracy theory'.  I don't know what truth there are to Arsene's allegations, but what I do know is that a lot of people will write them off without even bothering to research them.

Generally whether it relates to the FA, the PGMO, the PL, I am continually amazed at the rank laziness and the complete lack of any proper journalistic investigation in the sports press of this country. A lot of  journalists are either too slack or too scared to bite the hands that feed them, consequently we see the media accept glossy PL booklets as gospel and just write off claims without even bothering to research them.  Whatever you do, don't believe everything you read in the media.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Get Robbie Savage off the BBC

 I will keep this short and I will keep it sweet.  I was wasting a few minuted on Twitter this afternoon when it was pointed out that Robbie Savage is a complete waste of space as a football pundit, I couldn't disagree, I find his unique brand of stupidity and speaking without thinking particularly offensive, in fact I often turn the radio off when he is involved in one of the phone ins.

It got me thinking, why not put some of my rage into a campaign that could actually have a chance of affecting some change to Robbie Savage polluting our airwaves and TV screens?  Why not indeed.

I have created an online petition here at and I would urge all of you to sign on, forward it to anyone that you may know, stick it up on Twitter and Facebook.  Let's get as many signatures on this as possible, I shall then send the results to the BBC and pressurise them into getting rid of Robbie Savage.  Enough is enough:

"I have had enough of his presence on our airwaves and screens, and have been forced into action as a result. I would prefer the BBC to spend our money hiring an inanimate object or small furry mammal that would provide an equivalent footballing insight without being so very offensive, this would also save the tax payer a significant amount of cash."


Mike Riley - the 'right refs for the right games' - part 2

This is the second part of my analysis of BBC Radio 5 Live's coverage of the interview with PGMO chief Mike Riley.  The BBC's Mark Chapman also talked to Tony Hibbert who is a match delegate and an ex-Wolves player, the delegates are affiliated to the LMA and PFA.  Tony Hibbert felt we have the 'best officials in the world' and that all our referees were 'there on merit'.  When asked about how the delegates scored referees Tony Hibbert said that they look at 'their management of the game', 'none of the technical side of it', 'how he approaches and manages players' and 'positional play'.  This all tallies with the PGMO line of the independent assessor and delegate looking at the 'referee’s control of the match, the way that he deals with key incidents as well as the way he communicates his decisions'.

Therefore it seems that the independent assessors and delegates do very little in terms of systematically scoring the specific decisions of referees, so the score that Mike Riley has for each referee from each game from these delegates and assessors appears to be a rather soft entity.  The main concern of managers and fans is whether referees get their big and little decisions right, so if delegates are not scoring this then how can Riley claim that standards are improving and there is no bias in any refereeing decisions?

Referees should be assessed by the systematic review of their performance on video after the game in which all free kicks, card and penalty decisions are objectively scored, this currently does not seem to happen.  This already happens in countries such as Belgium, if the PGMO are not already doing this then it is an absolute disgrace and the fact that the PGMO do not reveal any detail of how they assess the performance of referees is pretty bad in itself.

So why is all this data kept so secret?  Mike Riley thinks it would create 'more anxiety' amongst supporters, they then somehow meandered off into saying that error was unavoidable, slightly missing the point that the way that fans are kept completely in the dark by the PGMO is not healthy.  Then onto technology, Mike Riley made it clear that FIFA prevents the use of video technology which is obviously true.  There was some talk about the use of extra officials, goal line technology and the increased involvement of the 4th official.

Mike Riley was then asked about getting ex-players into refereeing.  He did slightly dodge this question by saying that he wanted to get people from all backgrounds into refereeing, and did comment that some referees have played the game at a decent level ( Halsey).  The lack of ex-players going into refereeing is a massive problem, this natural understanding of the game is impossible to fake.  Jimmy Hill was a big backer of this idea, it's just a shame that the governing bodies have not pushed it through with enough force.

Overall Mark Chapman did a very decent job with his interview, Mike Riley was very political in his responses and did avoid answering the trickier questions, time was also very limited.  Firstly it is obvious that technology would help referees and this area is not Mike Riley's problem, it is FIFA's, secondly the appeal process is nothing to do with Mike Riley, it is the FA's responsibility, as is the issue of introducing more retrospective punishment for violence and diving for example.

There are several issues concerning refereeing in the Premier League that I am extremely concerned with.  Firstly the PGMO's referee selection process is the opposite of transparent and arguably there are many avenues through which unconscious bias can rear its ugly head, the skew in the regional distribution of referees is also a massive area of concern as regards potential bias.  Secondly there simply is not the information in the public domain to reassure football supporters that an Italian style match fixing scandal would not be very possible in England.  Thirdly the assessment of referee performance does not appear to be as robust as the PGMO would have us believe, and again the PGMO has revealed very little as to the specifics of how referees are actually scored for their performance.

In conclusion I still have significant concerns about the way in which refereeing is run by the PGMO and unfortunately Mike Riley has done very little to allay my fears.  It is sad for football in general that refereeing is run in such a closed and shady manner, it does not encourage trust in the refereeing process and its integrity.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Mike Riley - the 'right refs for the right games' - part 1

Apparently refereeing is getting better year on year, according to Mike Riley that is, and that's how he started off his interview with the BBC's Mark Chapman last night on Radio 5 Live.  It's just a shame that no one outside the PGMO gets to see any data that would back these confident claims up.

According to Prozone assistant referees allegedly got 99% of their decisions correct last season,  apparently of the 20 or so offside decisions they make each game, they usually get all of them right.  Does anyone else smell a kipper?  Untold Arsenal have already commented on this data and quite rightly ridiculed it, it is nowhere near the figures they have calculated from objective analysis.  It is strange that people trust the PGMO on data that is never even released beyond their own closed doors.  Untold Arsenal's data tells a very different story.  Only 91% of offside decisions are correct, nowhere near the 99% claimed by Riley.  Only just over 20% of red card decisions are correct and just over 50% of yellow card decisions.  Of all the important refereeing decisions referees only get around 65% of these correct, this is not good.

There are only 18 officials refereeing the Premier League (PL) games, not only that but the refs for each game are hand picked in a highly subjective and closed manner, and their is a huge bias in terms of where these referees come from geographically in the UK; all these factors mean that there is an incredible risk of referee selection bias altering the outcome of games in a systematic manner, ie accidental match fixing.  I am amazed that the media have made so little of the so called 'Yorkshire cluster'.  Mike Riley and the PGMO would do well to well to read up on 'unconscious bias theory':

"According to social psychology research, the natural human process of categorising like objects together and related cognitive biases can result in and perpetuate individuals’ implicit reliance on stereotypes.  These stereotypes may then operate largely independent of the intent of an individual..........Based on empirical data measuring individuals’ implicit associations, psychologists have found that unconscious bias is quite prevalent, often in sharp contrast to individuals’ self-professed identity."

Unconscious bias theory applies as much to hiring someone for a job as it does to referees making decisions in football games, this fascinating piece of scientific research on the Italian match fixing scandal shows how unconscious and conscious effects can be spotted and analysed.  The case of systematic home bias is already well proven.  I would argue that there are also many other factors that will serve to bias the decision making of referees including nationality, regionality and dialect.  The geographic skew in PL referees must have some effect in terms of unconscious bias at the very minimum.

Mike Riley said that 'all the evidence' doesn't support there being any bias present in refereeing decision making, strangely he can quote no evidence from the UK, only evidence from the European Championship.  Mike Riley also appears unaware of the above evidence I have quoted in part 1 from the Italian scandal and concerning the undoubted home bias.  I will move onto the rest of the interview and will sum up my conclusions in part 2.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Mike Riley, the PGMO and referee selection

Graham Poll Poll criticised referees chief Mike Riley recently for being "anonymous" and leaving referees to "hang out to dry".  Obviously Graham Poll has his own vested interests, but he does have a point.  Very few people spare this topic much thought but it is a biggie, just who is running the refereeing the the Premier League and how transparent is this process?  There is so much money involved in football these days surely the whole system would be designed to minimise bias and to reassure the public that no Italian style match fixing would be possible in England?  At least one would hope so.

"At the professional level there are 22 Select Group referees and 49 National List referees operating on behalf of the PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials).  Select Group referees officiate primarily in the Premier League whilst the National List primarily cover the Football League.

The PGMO is a tripartite body comprising The FA, Premier League and Football League who administer, appoint, train and manage referees operating at our senior level.

The Select Group officiates in the Premier League and is the responsibility of Mike Riley, General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL). Premier League refereeing enquiries should be addressed to Mike Riley, The Premier League, 30 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8PL or via"

 The PL refereeing is run, regulated and controlled by the Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) which is run by Mike Riley, it is a Limited company and not obliged to reveal anything to fans.  The PGMO website has been down for some time.  Having repeatedly contacted the above email address I have only extracted the most basic of information about the referee selection process:

"PGMO look at the fixtures 6 weeks ahead, pick the right refs for the right games, then review this on a weekly basis. They take all factors into account, other games they have reffed, who they support, distance to travel, and in some cases international refs may have reffed in Europe during the week, and this all impacts on availability. Referees can’t always have a Premier League match every game."

This is it, despite numerous specific questions on the referee selection process, this is all the PGMO will reveal, basically that they select the 'right' refs for the 'right'games.  Essentially we are just meant to trust the PGMO to do the job, despite the fact the the process of referee selection for the richest football league in the world appears rather hidden and the very opposite of transparent.  The PGMO are happy with things:

"We are entirely satisfied with the way Referees are selected by PGMO and the way in which they are assessed and trained."

So the PGMO are happy and we are expected to take their word for it, but should we?  Very little is available in the public domain about the PGMO, interestingly today on Twitter the Premier League PR manager Philip Dorward said that the referee selection process was 'fair, robust and transparent'.  The PGMO's past directors include the PL CEO Richard Scudamore and the FA's Brian Barwick, not surprising given the PGMO is basically an extension of the FA/PL and Football League.

Maybe I'm just a paranoid fanatic, this could be true, but I just find it a little tricky to trust the PGMO so absolutely, especially given when happened in Italy recently, how do we know the same couldn't happen in the PL or hasn't happened in the past?  For me the PGMO is a closed shop and referees are effectively regulating themselves behind closed doors, the PGMO thinks refereeing is getting better and better, but they never release any data to back these claims up.

Most importantly the PGMO have not released any information that shows that referee selection in the PL is protected from outside influence that may systematically alter the outcome of PL games.  The PGMO is clearly not transparent in its workings, therefore we do not have any idea of how fair or robust the selection process may or may not be.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Suarez and Liverpool FC shamed by robust FA report

I spent a significant amount of time reading through the FA's very detailed report on their decision to ban Luis Suarez for eight games.  I would wholeheartedly advise anyone else interesting in this case to do the same, and certainly I would advise anyone to read it before commenting on the case in any forum.

Firstly a lot of myths and falsehoods have been perpetuated by certain people with vested interests in this case, some of these people being at Liverpool Football Club.  I have no significant vested interests in this case, I would say I am more of a Liverpool fan than a Manchester United fan, I am also no Patrice Evra fan.

The full report makes it extremely clear that this not most definitely not just one man's word against another.  This is a robust decision that has been made by a panel chaired by an extremely knowledgeable and experienced QC, it is a decision made based on many pieces of evidence that include the opinion of language experts, interviews with several other players and club officials, and the video evidence.  A particular key is the inconsistency and lack of reliability in Luis Suarez' accounts of events:

"Mr Suarez's evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the contemporaneous evidence, especially the video footage. For example, Mr Suarez said that he pinched Mr Evra's skin in an attempt to defuse the situation. He also said that his use of the word "negro" to address Mr Evra was conciliatory and friendly. We rejected that evidence. To describe his own behaviour in that way was unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument. That this was put forward by Mr Suarez was surprising and seriously undermined the reliability of his evidence on other matters. There were also inconsistencies between his accounts given at different times as to what happened"

In my humble opinion it appears that Suarez should have immediately owned up to what he said, apologised and take his punishment like a man.  Unfortunately for Suarez and Liverpool, what has gone on since has shamed both the player and the club, the recent t-shirt stunt was particularly foolish.  When one reads the true extend of what Suarez is highly likely to have said to Evra, it is far worse than has been reported in a lot of the mainstream media and far more than just calling him 'black' once in a derogatory manner.

Not only is Suarez' version of events inconsistent, unreliable and basically dishonest in the context of the other evidence, his line of defence that he was trying to 'defuse' the situation and that his racist language was 'conciliatory' is weak to say the least.  The FA have hit the nail on the head with their robust report and 8 match ban, it is just a great shame that some people have decided to ignore the facts as part of their deluded mission that aims to make something appear a conspiracy, when it clearly is not.  Even Liverpool FC have now decided not to appeal the ban, it is clear that they know they have no case.

Unfortunately Liverpool have now released this pathetic statement which they are behaving like a stubborn spoilt child who, even when it is clear that they are firmly in the wrong, they still have to keep saying they are right, while pushing their fingers firmly down their ears.  The pitiful Suarez has done the same, he is terribly upset apparently.  No amount of moaning or angry statements that attempt to spin the reality of the situation will change the facts of the case, the facts which mean that Liverpool FC know they have no chance of winning an appeal.  It would still be better for Liverpool FC and Suarez to apologise, unfortunately they have shown a complete lack of class again.

Probert and the clear media bias


Firstly this is no attempt to blame the referee for our defeat to Fulham yesterday.  We were largely the architects of our own demise, Fulham were by far the better team in the second half and deserved the win in the end.  This article is designed to look at the way in which the media have covered the performance of Lee Probert and analyse their coverage of Arsene Wenger's post match reaction.

In recent weeks we have seen numerous managers criticise referees and not be called 'whingers' or 'moaners', for example when Ferguson bizarrely tried to blame Mike Dean after their recent home defeat to Blackburn.  We have also seen teams excused for their defeats because of refereeing error, for example Tottenham away at Stoke.  Yet when some controversial refereeing disadvantages Arsenal we see our manager given no right to an opinion, accused of 'sour grapes' and the errors are brushed under the carpet.  It is these double standards and complete lack of consistency in the media that need to be exposed, so here we go:

Journalist(Paper)- Penalty claims mentioned (opinion)- 2nd yellow mentioned (opinion)- AWcomment

John Cross (Mirror) - 1 mentioned (deserved pen) - yes ( deserved 'pulled back') - 'sour grapes' 'moaning'

Sam Walllace (Independent) - 1 mentioned (no opinion) - yes (no) - quoted fairly

Henry Winter (Telegraph) - 1 mentioned (deserved pen) - yes (deserved 'pulled back') - quoted fairly

Matt Law (Express) - 1 mentioned (deserved pen) - yes (deserved 'pulled back') - quoted fairly

Charlie Wyett (Sun) - 1 mentioned (no opinion) - yes (deserved 'tugged back' ) - 'raging'

David Hytner (Guardian) - 1 mentioned (no opinion) - yes(deserved 'leant on')-'dark conspiracy theories'

Marc Higginson (BBC) - 1 mentioned (deserved) - yes (foul - deserved) - quoted fairly

Firstly the clear signs of bias are shown by John Cross (Mirror) and David Hytner (Guardian), they both grossly sensationalise Arsene's post match reaction in a very negative fashion with the phrases 'sour grapes', 'moaning' and 'dark conspiracy theories', this is completely needless.

Secondly only one journalist of the eight has correctly described the second Djourou yellow card as 'leant on', and this is me being generous in allowing leant on.  It is clear from replays that Djourou did no 'pulling' or 'tugging', the journalists who describe like this are simply twisting reality to fit their needs.

Untold Arsenal have nicely summarised Probert's officiating, I agree that if one sees the Djourou challenge as a foul then it can be seen as a yellow card, in my opinion though Djourou does very little wrong, he predicts Zamora's run, gets alongside him and is shoulder to shoulder with him, there is no pulling or tugging, Zamora just buys the free kick by deliberately going to ground, one can bet if an Arsenal played went to ground so easily it would be called a dive.

It is also astonishing that three of the eight journalists give no opinion on the Gervinho penalty incident which was generally agreed to be a stonewall penalty, and even more amazing that not one single journalist spotted the penalty incident in the second half as RVP looked to be hacked down in the box.

Compare and contrast the media's reaction to Alex Ferguson's negative comments about Mike Dean from this weekend and Arsene Wenger's on Lee Probert.  Ferguson claimed Dean was at fault in awarding Blackburn a penalty and that this summed up Dean's performance.  The media have hardly commented on Ferguson's negative comments, it is utterly astonishing when one compares to to Wenger's so called 'rage', 'anger', 'sour grapes', 'moaning' and 'dark conspiracy theories'.

It is clear for scanning around these match reports in the main national papers that there is a fair amount of bias when it comes to reporting on Arsenal and dodgy refereeing decisions that cost us games. The avoidance of giving an opinion on a decision that costs Arsenal, the regular spinning of reality and the complete failure to comment on certain key incidents all go to prove this, as well as those journalists such as John Cross who clearly has on intention of provided any fair coverage to Arsenal or Arsene Wenger in particular.

In conclusion there appears to be very little objectivity in the way in which the media covers incidents involving different football clubs and different managers, even when the incidents covered are practically identical.  This doesn't surprise me but it is still rather depressing that so much bias exists.

Monday, 2 January 2012

A deeply depressing Probert catalysed capitulation

I'll keep this brief because I'm so gutted that we have thrown three points away against a Fulham side that we really should have beaten.  There were certainly many reasons for our defeat today, some we couldn't do anything about such as Lee Probert's pathetic refereeing performance, but the sad thing was that there were many things we could have done something about, and that is the frustration.

We dominated the first half and should have been more than a goal ahead at the break, some poor finishing was largely to blame, as well as a highly debatable decision not to award us a penalty when Gervinho appeared to be taken down in the box.  Still, Fulham looked dangerous and the warning signs were there in the first half, the inexperienced novice full backs were not getting enough protection from the players in front of them.

Fulham cranked the pressure up in the second half and a mixture of poor defending, a lack of adequate fresh players with the right attributes on the bench and some more poor refereeing contributed to this leading to a Fulham victory.  It looked like we might hold out, but then a ridiculously poor decision from Probert saw Djourou sent off for a second yellow when he barely touched Zamora, the Fulham player looked to have gone to ground rather easily to say the least.  Szczesny's flapping led to the first which got bundled in and Zamora struck home the second a minute from time after a headed knock down.  So so painful.

I feel for Arsene this time, our squad has been decimated by a massive number of injuries to our defensive players, we are down to the bare bones at the moment and this undoubtedly played its part today.  To their credit the players who have been playing out of position at full back have been doing a damn good job considering.  The way our squad has been stretched was obvious today, the full backs are not proper full backs, while our midfielders looked fatigued as the game wore on.

There are problems with the depth in our squad too.  In terms for forwards, do the likes of Rosicky and Benayoun really give us a dangerous pace that can scare teams on the break when they are asked to play in wide forward positions?  I think not.  We need some more quality back up to the likes of Gervinho and RVP.  Could we have done with Francis Coquelin in the midfield today, I would argue yes.  There is clearly not enough depth in terms of pacey forward players.

The 4-3-3 system can fail dismally at times if the wide players fail to assist the full backs defensively, but this is also partly down to the personnel we have, do we really have enough midfielders who can contribute with that tough defensive grit?  How much does a player like Rosicky do when they don't have the ball, this really is something that needs to be debated.  We lost the midfield battle in the second half, the fatigue and lack of midfield bite on the bench seemed to have its effect.

Anyone who says that Lee Probert's incompetence didn't have a significant effect on the outcome of today's game needs their hollow head examined.  We had clear penalties denied in both halves, a ridiculous sending off and there was a strangely consistent tendency to award free kicks to Fulham for offences that did not appear to merit free kicks if committed on us.  Lee Probert catalysed own dismal demise, that is for sure.

So most importantly where to go from here?  Knee jerk reactions are not clever, we must see this result in the context of our excellent recent form and the massive improvement we have made in the last three months.  However we must also see the problems that we have, we need to sign some extra defensive cover in January, the injuries to our full backs have cost us numerous points already, we need more balance in our squad overall in terms of midfield battle.  There are also several players who need replacing in our squad, they have simply not delivered and need to go.  Come on you Gunners.

Let's all laugh at Joey Barton

Joey Barton was sent off today for an alleged head butt against Norwich and it appears it may have been a rather harsh decision.  Obviously it didn't take long for the learned Barton to vent his spleen on Twitter:

"Hopefully referee sees it retrospectively and sees he's been conned. Its no consolation for us right now but at least its something......"

Effectively Barton is accusing someone else of cheating in public and this isn't the first time he's done this.  I shall take you back to our away game at Newcastle earlier this season when Barton cheated to get Gervinho sent off for the mildest of offences, here are Barton's words afterwards:

 "I did go down easily, I’ve been hit harder by people at school, but that’s not to make what he did right. He raised his hands; we all know the rules about that. I have made a meal of it.”

Which way do you want it Joey?  You can't have it both ways.  On one hand he feels he is entitled to feign injury to get opposition players unfairly sent off, but on the other hand he cannot take it when someone does exactly the same to him. 

For a player who sees himself as such an intellectual powerhouse, it is rather amusing that Joey cannot understand the most basic of logical rules.  The footballing neutral will not be shedding many a tear this weekend for Mr Joey Barton, he has done nothing over the years to deserve any of our sympathy.  Let's all have a chuckle, happy new year!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Piers Morgan - a special Gooner award

I am reposting this classic Piers Morgan carol after it has been revealed that the lovely man has been given a lifetime achievement award by She Wore, it is obviously to the tune of the 'twelve days of christmas', obviously repeat the lines as in the original version:

On the first day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, a call for Arsene's sacking,

On the second day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, two Beeb self humiliations, 

On the third day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, three Clarkson punches,

On the fourth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, four brain cells in tandem, 

On the fifth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, five evil decades,

On the sixth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, six Leveson turkeys with perjury stuffing,

On the seventh day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, seven stories from his ringpiece,

On the eighth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, eight denials of phone hacking,

On the ninth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, nine bloody awful books,

On the tenth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, ten 'rioting' Gooners,

On the eleventh day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, eleven Rupert Murdoch rimmings,

On the twelfth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, twelve phone calls to Ian Hislop's vicar.

Happy New Year to all Gooners, other than Piers Morgan of course!