Arsène Says, Roberto Says, Per Says – The Tattle That Underpins Football
The usual European exit fallout has begun; manager charged, top star coveted and all in all, it’s much ado about nothing. That Arsène is facing the Uefa beaks once more is of little surprise; he simply has not learned to curb his enthusiasm about the referee’s performance.
Football is a curious industry. Everyone can comment on a manager, player or team performance. They can even say it to the players and managers faces. A referee? No, they are infallible. Sepp has continually decreed this which is why video technology in a limited and pretty much useless form, is being dragged kicking and screaming into the game.
And goal-line technology is a sop. Had Frank Lampard’s “goal” not been in a World Cup match, there is no way Fifa would have agreed to the trial. How often in a season is there a contentious goal-line decision? Rarely. It won’t address anything important like an incorrect offside decision where it is too close to call without relying on probabilities. The problem is that the technology is going to be watched, waiting for failure rather than success. When it goes wrong – and it will – the possibility of introducing other technology to help officials will recede from the remote position it is in now.
Arsène knows the rules. We know the rules. There is little point in talking to the referee post-match in England; Europe is ten times worse. Officials are prissy and arrogant. The decision making by the Slovenian referee was awful at times, to the extent that in giving the penalty he went against the grain. I have read comments that blame it on his nationality, that he would not have been used to the intense atmosphere generated by the occasion.
Poppycock; the problem is that Uefa want consistency and the only way you get that is a literal interpretation of the rules which is quite often entirely different to those applied in the national game. This is not a new problem; complaints were regularly made when I was young about officiating behind the Iron Curtain. Which is before you consider the open corrupting of officials by the Italian clubs. Some stigma’s never disappear.
I understand Arsène’s frustrations. His team had come close to overturning a four goal deficit and creating Champions League history. It looked for all intents and purposes as though it was going to happen early in the second half. Ultimately though, the players looked shattered at the end, in need of someone to inspire them and they could not find it. The referee contributed to that in part with his decisions but he is not the sole cause. Wenger needed someone to vent at, the referee was his target. The experience of Udinese shows the pointless nature of a touchline ban.
As if that was not enough, the media this morning talk of Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City monitoring Robin van Persie’s situation. To me, it is a non-event with headlines fuelling anger rather than Mancini himself. Or that is how it ought to be. Let’s remember that Arsène is not averse to talking about other players and that Mancini actually said that he believes van Persie will sign a new contract in any case.
Is there any difference between Mancini talking to the media about van Persie and Mertesacker about Podolski? No matter what justification you might want to find – and internet / tabloid rumours are not a confirmed transfer – there is none.
We have become very sensitive to rumour-mongering at Arsenal. From 2000 onwards, there were regular stories linking Henry and Vieira amongst others, away from the club. They did not come true until Arsenal were ready to release them. Simply because Nasri and Fabregas left last Summer does not mean that van Persie will follow. And more to the point, his advisors will have been in contact already and know what City / Barcelona / Madrid / Anyone FC are ready to offer; it’s the way of football.
Amid all of this is the praise for the Dutchman that came from the City manager, recognition of his standing in the world game. Comparing him with Ronaldo and Messi is not amiss. In my opinion he is a more effective team player than the former whilst the latter, well, anyone who argues that he is not one the greatest players ever to appear on a football pitch is being churlish or a fool. Or both.
As it is, van Persie could arguably be voted as World Player of the Year this year if he stays injury-free. His form has been [insert your own adjective here] and arguably has had a more beneficial impact on the team than Messi has on Barcelona, lifting the team to higher levels. It seems likely that Barcelona would have won most, if not all, trophies had Messi not been playing every game. Personally I think van Persie will be a more likely winner of the European Player of the Year. As for the domestic honours, if he doesn’t win the Players and Football Writers awards it will be more of a travesty than Henry not being honoured internationally when he was in his prime.