April 11, 2012
So the FA have decided to take no further action over Mario Balotelli’s horrific challenge on Alex Song during Sunday’s game.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and wonder what football ever did to deserve such inept officialdom. The greatest, most popular game in the world, consistently blighted by decisions of such idiocy that they manage the seemingly impossible task of uniting pundits, commentators, journalists and supporters of all different clubs. Finally the world of football has come together – to agree that the FA are a complete bunch of morons.
With crushing predictability the FA’s reasoning behind their failure to punish Balotelli is that age old standard that they’re powerless to act on an incident that the match officials have already seen. This is barmy for two reasons:
Firstly it’s not true. They’re not powerless to act. They did it in 2006, banning Ben Thatcher for eight games for smacking Pedro Mendes about the chops. And what happened there? Did the football world implode because the FA acted retrospectively? Did FIFA come knocking on the doors of the FA’s Soho Square HQ and threaten to throw England out of international competition between now and the end of time? Was the referee involved so ashamed to be undermined by the game’s ruling body that he had to change his name to Sheila and enter the witness protection programme? No. Thatcher took his punishment and a warning was sent out to the world of football from the highest level of the Premier League to the lowest level of the Sunday leagues that if you smash someone in the face with your forearm so hard that you knock them out cold, you’re not welcome in our game.
Secondly, if they’re arguing that the incident was seen at the time by the referee or one of his linesmen then the referee or one of his linesmen needs to be suspended himself for his complete inability to appraise what goes on on a football pitch. Take a look at that challenge again. Balotelli is nowhere near the ball. He’s not even looking at the ball. He’s got his eye on one thing and it’s Alex Song’s leg. He does a little skip before he reaches him and then he stamps on him just below the knee. If Song’s foot is planted in the turf that’s a leg breaker. No question. No debate.
And the officials saw it apparently. But here’s the thing. They didn’t even warrant it a foul. They let play continue. They SAW a man stamp on another man’s leg in an attempt to snap it in two and not only did they not think it warranted a card, they didn’t think it warranted a free kick. They think it was a good challenge. A fair challenge. They believe that’s the way the game should be played.
By announcing that the match officials saw that incident and accepting the way that they dealt with it the FA is making a mockery of their own rulebook. They’re willing to follow a minor law to the letter in order to protect the supposed integrity of their referees but in so doing they’re ignoring their own rules of fair play on the pitch. They’re more worried about Martin Atkinson’s reputation than the safety of a professional footballer going about his business. And speaking as a supporter of a club that has suffered more than its fair share at the hands of monstrous leg breaking challenges in recent years that’s just not acceptable.
I understand the need to not have every decision taken on a football pitch reviewed and raked over for weeks after the event and I understand the need to offer sufficient powers to a referee that their decisions are not undermined and that they can maintain their professional standing but with decisions like this they have failed on both counts. If they’d dealt with the incident in the appropriate way by handing Balotelli a ban of three or more games that would have been the end of it. Nobody would have argued it. Instead the incident will be looked at and talked about over and over in newspapers and blogs and pubs and stadiums for weeks and weeks. And they haven’t protected the reputation of the officials in question.
They’ve made them look as incompetent and out of touch as the organisation they represent.
Anway, all this ranting almost made me forget that we have an actual football match to think about tonight. We’re facing a Wolves side that’s in the midst of a serious slump. They’ve managed just one point from their last eight games and are looking like a side resigned to their fate. On 22 points with six games to play they’d have to win them all just to reach the magic 40 mark. No team has ever escaped relegation from this position and Wolves don’t look like they have the spark to challenge history.
Still, this is Arsenal we’re talking about and stranger things have happened so we just have to maintain the focus we showed against City. Obviously the most important thing is the three points but if we can manage that, the second objective needs to be an improvement to our goal difference. Man United, West Brom and Fulham have all put five past Wolves in recent weeks and they haven’t kept a clean sheet in 29 games. Our goal difference of 22 is three better than Spurs and four better than Chelsea but of course if they win those games needed to bring them level on points with us that difference will be erased. In a season as tight as this one goal difference will be crucial so even if we go a couple of goals up tonight I’d really like to see us pushing for more.
We’ll be forced to make a couple of changes at the back. Kieran Gibbs has ‘fatigue of the groin‘ which Arsene Wenger doesn’t think is particularly serious, just a result of his recent and unusual run of games. Andre Santos will come in for him. Meanwhile Laurent Koscielny starts his two game suspension having picked up his tenth booking of the season for a nothing challenge on Sunday. Martin Atkinson covering himself in glory once more.
I think we’ll line up like this:
Bac – Dj – Verm – Santos
Art – Song – Rambo
Theo – RVP – Yossi
Benayoun did really well at the weekend and Le Boss has been talking about how well we play when he starts and the balance he gives to the side. Certainly you can’t fault his work rate and he’s earned another chance.
In the midfield I just think there’s a chance that Rosicky might be due a rest. He’s played a lot of football in recent weeks and two games in four days might be a bit much for him. Wenger’s been keen to keep Ramsey involved but I’d be much more comfortable if he did so in his favoured midfield position.
As usual I’ll be hoping to get a glimpse of the Ox at some stage but hopefully that’s when we’re three goals up and cruising and not when we’re desperately praying for a last minute equaliser.
Come on Arsenal. I really don’t need the stress today.
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- Arsenal 1 – 1 Wolves: Will lessons ever be learned?