Yes, it’s me! Back after several months during which two great things happened for fans of the blog – (a) outstanding performances and results from Chelsea and (b) Matt Clark’s blogs. Hope my re-introduction doesn’t impact either.
Ending the year as league leaders is nice. And that’s pretty much the value with that – a nice feeling. When the game at St. Mary’s ended in a draw and when I saw City were leading 2-0 at Etihad after 35 mins, I had this sinking feeling that you normally get when you see your team’s lead slipping. There should be a new term for that. You’re supposed to be confident but actually are very concerned. That’s how I felt. The first half was an even game while the the second half was one way street. Chelsea more than deserved to win this game, especially after a certain penalty was denied by poor refereeing.
Let’s talk about poor refereeing. That’s a bigger on-pitch issue in premier league football than anything else that’s discussed in the studios and newspapers. Yes they’re human and yes it’s a tough job but so are we and our jobs. This over-protection of referees has naturally resulted in under-performance of the referees. The referees know they cannot be challenged or questioned or asked to explain. It’s a dead end. There’s nowhere to go to. The best a manager can do is to rant and get fined. My concern is not about Anthony Taylor but overall state of the quality of refereeing in the premier league.
I’m glad Jose a made a point about the media campaign against Chelsea. When such things happen it’s quite evident how the football world has no interest in data and analytics and is more keen on going on about unfounded opinions and disproved conventional wisdom. There’s no denying that there were a couple of instances of diving by Chelsea players but there’s a big difference between saying ‘Chelsea players did dive’ and ‘Chelsea players do dive’. Because you keep hearing the latter, Jose is justified in using the term ‘campaign’. The whole media jumped at Chelsea players and their diving as if that’s a recurrent theme with Chelsea. These are players that have played several seasons in the premier league and none of them have a reputation of diving, like say, Ashley Young or Luis Suarez.
Graham Poll (the ref who gave three yellow cards to one player in a world cup game) is a regular columnist in Daily Mail and writes on football from the referees’ perspective. The quality of refereeing this season has been very poor and that’s the real issue. Instead of talking about that problem and suggesting solutions as an ex-professional, he’s gone on about how the diving by Chelsea players in earlier games resulted in Cesc not getting the penalty against Southampton. Can we take a moment to reflect what a ridiculous statement that is.
As a referee, you judge an incident as an independent event. You don’t look at the players, the club, the occasion, the timing of the match or even the zone of the pitch, if it’s a foul it’s a foul. You just referee the incident, you don’t judge the players. To say Cesc didn’t get the penalty because of the dives by Chelsea players in a previous game is like saying, Costa was called offside (even though he was not) because he’s normally always offside. The real question, was he offside in this instance or not, and not whether this is a player that is normally offside. If a referee at close quarters and a linesman cannot see that penalty, the real problem is about the competence of the officials. The fact that ‘refereeing is a thankless job’ cannot be an excuse for consistent and terrible refereeing in the league. Being a manager or the players under such poor refereeing is also equally a thankless job.
The football media, if more responsible than being sensational, should be looking at the total number of decisions referees had to make and how many of them have gone wrong. In-depth analytics can be observed through the error rates – by teams, by refs, by stadiums and so on. And what a great input this would be for the FA to prevent any match fixings or wrong doings as they happened in the Calciopoli. Instead, the focus was all on whether should players stay on their feet and what punishment should be handed out for diving etc.
The fact is, players always look to gain an undue advantage in football. Every single corner taken in football is a proof that players even fight among themselves to take that undue and unfair advantage over the opponents. The way football deals with that is through referees and linesmen regulating those events and incidents. The same is what’s expected in diving and simulation too. Only when it comes to diving, football people get all too preachy as if that’s the only dark side of football. In fact, that’s the least practised infringement in football and with the least impact on the games overall. But still this manages to get maximum coverage than for instance, the rugby tackles that happen in the set piece defending game after game in premier league.
Probably that’s why when Chelsea players were wrestled down in the Man Utd box, it didn’t make a lot of headlines about how Man Utd players practice wrestling moves on a football pitch. I hope someone’s keeping count of all the wrong decisions that didn’t go in Chelsea’s favour – Silva didn’t get a red card, Roho didn’t get a red, Welbeck didn’t get sent off, Costa and Cesc incorrectly warned for diving, Hazard being the most fouled player despite not getting the right protection and this is not far from being the exhaustive list.
When we were leading by 6 points, Jose Mourinho, being as clever as always, said that we now have enough cushion to deal with any mistakes by our players or by the referees. He was so damn right. Hope we increase the gap further as I don’t think we’ve seen the last of poor refereeing this season.
P.S: I’m all for Burnley to stay up.