Arsenal’s only defeat in September and October came against Watford, and I am absolutely certain that was totally down to the referee for giving our North London neighbours a very dodgy penalty, and this is why….
Some pundits who should know better seem to think that any contact between a defender and a striker should result in the award of a penalty. This is not the case. A penalty should only be given if 1) the contact was illegal 2) it was clearly initiated by the defender and 3) it significantly impeded the striker.
The penalty awarded to Watford against us recently is a case in point. It should not have been given since the incident failed to meet any of these three criteria. In the first place the contact was not illegal. Bellerin did not cut across Richarlison or tackle him from behind. He was almost level with striker when their legs accidentally collided. Secondly it was not clear who initiated the contact. Both players were running in a straight line in pursuit of the ball when the collision occurred. Lastly there is some doubt as to whether Richarlison had to go down. Bellerin managed to stay on his feet even though he was running just as fast. The acid test is this: would the referee have awarded a free kick if the same incident had occurred elsewhere on the pitch? I doubt it.
So should Richarlison have been retrospectively banned for diving? That is more difficult. Strikers are often tempted to collapse in a heap if they feel they have been unfairly impeded in the penalty area. But some take it a bit further and fall to the ground after minimal, even accidental contact. That, I think, is what happened in Richarlison’s case. He felt the contact and decided to go down. But to ban him the panel would have needed to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that he could have stayed on his feet, which is difficult to prove. So the panel were probably right not to take retrospective action in his case. However players who fall to the ground when there has been no contact at all, or who deliberately hook their leg around an opponent before falling, are clearly guilty of simulation and should be banned.
So should we have really had our one defeat?