Did you think Arsenal showed poor sportsmanship against Watford?

When I judge controversial decisions, I always take the point of view of ‘would I be disappointed if that moment went against my team?’

You might remember a year ago when some gooners had convinced themselves that officials had a conspiracy against us.

While absurd and self-involved to think that Arsenal are so much more special than anyone else that the FA and referees sit together in a dark room to plot our downfall, I equally can recall occasions when moments have gone in our favour.

That to me is sport, you sometimes require luck to win, and other times it’s simply not your day.

That’s why I was never a fan of VAR. By minimising human error, it makes the sport less of a narrative.

So, do I think there was anything wrong with Smith Rowe’s goal against Watford, a move that started after Danny Rose had kicked the ball out of play so his teammate could receive treatment?

Claudio Ranieri was expecting the ball to be returned to Ben Foster but instead the Gunners used that possession to take the three points.

Using my principle, I have to say no, because I honestly wouldn’t want my manager or player using that excuse if that’s how we had conceded.

Only you know your moral compass. If deep down, you would be angry at the Hornets for poor sportsmanship then your stance has to be the same.

In my opinion players get micromanaged and too often don’t have to take accountability.

Should Lacazette in theory have led an attack.


We don’t know if he was aware that’s why Rose away a throw in.

Equally he might not care, he might simply have felt the opposition were play acting.

It can’t be a coincidence that this action came from one of the few leaders in the squad.

But let’s say the striker got it wrong.

Count how many seconds between the set piece and the ball hitting the back of the net.

In that time three men in yellow touched the ball, Ben White had to go on a run to evade a couple of tackles, then of course Smith Rowe had to finish from distance.

The point being that Watford had ample opportunities to defend and prevent the worst from happening.

Which is why, as Ben Foster pointed out ,barely any of the visitors protested.

I’m not quite sure how a ref not thinking there was a foul in the build-up is our fault so I won’t get into that.

Some pundits dare compare this to the famous FA Cup tie with Sheffield United.

Anyone who remembers that day at Highbury or watched it back will struggle to see the similarities.

The Blades keeper had kicked out the ball so his peer could get treatment.

The minute they looked up, Kanu was charging down the right, squaring to Overmars for a tap in.

Kanu had only been in England a week and maintains he never heard of this protocol while Arsene Wenger and David Dein were quick to offer a replay.

Sheffield United couldn’t avoid that goal, Watford could.

Kanu and Overmars were unchallenged, Ben White and Smith Rowe were not.


Did you think Arsenal showed poor sportsmanship at the weekend?

Would you be unhappy if we had lost for the same action?

Be Kind in The Comments.

Dan Smith

Tags rose Smith-Rowe Watford


  1. Yeah, I think it depends on the circumstances of the goal. Watford had enough time to settle down and organize themselves to prevent the goal. Blaming on “poor sportsmanship” is just trying to evade responsibility. To me, what was sort of contentious was if Maitland-Niles had fouled that Watford player in the build-up to the goal. Apart from that, it was fine

    1. Interestingly, Watford won the ball back from us after the throw in and to be fair, in passing the ball back to his team mate Ismailia Sarr got smashed over I think by Maitland-Niles. I actually thought that was what VAR would have got involved over, it was a foul. I think we should be able to beat teams like Watford without having to be so “cute” when it comes to fair play etc. And to think their striker could have rounded ramsdale and scored should be a reminder how close this game was despite our playing a bit close to the lines of fair play…! Need to be better.

      1. Well said Dean.
        I’d award them a free kick based on the AMN incident, as against letting the goal stand if I were the ref.

        I’d be so gutted if we couldn’t take max points from that game. This was a game to easily better our goal difference, but maybe Aubameyang didn’t see it that way, as Mikel who on introducing Martinelli asked us to merely rundown the time with bs stuff when a 10-man poor Watford team were there for the taking!
        Glad we saw it off anyways.

      1. You just took the words out of my mouth. Nobody said a word when they were busy kicking our players, with Danny Rose being the main culprit. Smh!!!

  2. Watford were set up to continually foul. That being the case anything that can be done to get the bast***s relegated the better

  3. I didn’t pay attention to the incident. It might be poor from sportsmanship standpoint, but our rough football was triggered by the way Watford harassed and bullied our players

    Look at Kucka’s and Rose’s behaviours in the game. Rose should’ve got his second yellow card for his brutality

    1. gai If the boot was on the other foot and Watford did that to us you would have been up in arms over it. Unsporting that what is was simple as that

  4. Poor Sportsmanship lol

    I think Watford should have a good look at themselves.
    Was that sportsmanship playing the way they did.

  5. If it had happened to us and Laca was acting like he was just shot(like normal) and our opposition scored just after, most of us would be moaning….let’s be honest

  6. I really do ot care how others feel as no one cared for us how we felt playing the good boys under Wenger and blowing it away season after season since 2010! We now are a force to reckopn with, we play ugly when we want, we play to score when we want and we will find a way to win how we want. The ugly Arsenal is getting back and am proud of Mikel and his lads. The reason of playing sports is to win.Period!

    1. Don’t be surprised if other teams start do it to us in the future then..

      I don’t recall the ugly arsenal of any ugly team not following this sporting “rule” in the past.

      Agree with the article in general that Watford were set up to defend and I think we even had to recycle the ball once before starting the attack we scored from, so it wasn’t the worst.

  7. While I do understand and support players in being fair and help to prevent injuries to the opposition too, I believe that we had lost enough points by being naive or simply not aware that it is not a rule to kick out the ball or to give it back to the opposition. If you kick out the ball you should do it without expecting to be given the ball back. Period. Didn’t we concede against spurs from an almost identical situation? Personally, I am more than happy that we are more aware now and not giving an inch to the opposition unless the ref gives a signal for it. Btw Rose should have seen at least 2 yellows, if I were Watford I’d say thank you and go back home and train some more

    1. Why are we so naive? Have all those whinging about lack of sportsmanship scored using the.same argument we had would they asked the goal to be cancelled? For once we were decisive and determined instead being mugged. I was happy with that finishing.

  8. I am in favour of the sporting rule that we normally play to but Watford were the team showing rank bad sportsmanship by serial fouling and also faking injury. The Watford player who was put on the deck before the ball was put out was up and running around very quickly as soon as he realised we wouldn’t accept his fake injury. Watford got everything they deserved.

  9. It wasn’t bad sportsmanship on our part. If it had been one of our players that was injured and Rose kicked the ball out then yes we would have an obligation to give them the ball back. Their player wasn’t injured he just stayed down to waste time and Rose kicked the ball out to waste time so we had no obligation to give them the ball back. A lot of times when you see a team kick the ball out the player supposedly injured gets up and carries on playing without any need of the trainer. It’s just used as a delaying tactic and we should let the referee stop the game if he thinks a player is genuinely injured.

  10. of course they did
    clearly i would not expect any gooner to admit it but Arteta should have allowed a walk in and not defended a piece of poor sportmanship that is as bad as it gets. There is no factual doubt about whether the player was hurt nor if the ball was put out for that reason. Clearly winning i more important than principle to Arteta

    1. I’m a decade-long Arsenal fan, but there is nothing to deny in that. A team under Arsene would have given the ball back, or if wouldn’t, Wenger would have offered an in-game goal conceded or re-match along with his sincere apologies.

      I don’t think it was purposeful though. There was some misunderstanding or misjudgement, which is not an excuse from being poor sportsmanship, but Arteta’s lack of acknowledgement is more concerning.

      1. Disagree with you – watch the game again and see how many times Watford okayers rolled about as if shot – then, after wasting time, got up as if nothing had happened.
        Crying wolf too many times and the inevitable happens.
        Well done MA for not being a wimp and wringing your hands in abject apology… perhaps Watford need to grow some cojones?!?!?!?

  11. Rugby is just so far ahead of football in refereeing, laws and sportsmanship.

    I thin a easy way to rule out all of this faking is very simple: If the ball is put out of play for a player then they have to take a mandatory 2 mins off the field to ensure they are ok considering they physically could not stand a minute ago.

    You’ll see guys getting up a lot faster!

  12. I don’t think there was ever some secret cabal comprised of refs and other FA officials trying to plot our downfall. In fact, I think they were overtly open about it. The amount of poor refereeing decisions that went against us were phenomenal. Especially under the watch of John Moss, Mike Riley etc. In a lot of games there were clear and obvious fouls being made against us, other times, there were sneaky and snidey attempts to impede us that were clear to see but we were Arsenal and there for the taking by any means necessary.

    After we’d lost our pomp and had to endure more fruitless times, football had changed and the technical game was replaced by a more industrial style of football enjoyed by the likes of Sam Allardyce, Mark Hughes at Stoke and others. Included in that was a win at all costs mentality which included playing on when there was an obvious foul and reason to stop the game but, this was excused because ‘The ref didn’t blow his whistle’ or ‘ yeah it was reckless, but he didn’t mean it’. As a result, it became the De Facto standard of negotiating your way through a game.

    Even thought we had some battlers at Arsenal, we were still seen a bit more gentlemanly which others saw as ‘being soft’ which was to the delight of many outside of Arsenal be it from other clubs, the media and punditry world, the referees. The officials had their hands in it too as they clearly witnessed all
    manner of attempts to disrupt our game with overly physical, dirty football and other methods and just let it ride. I mean, it wasn’t their fault Arsenal couldn’t fight back and it was all part of the game ! They all enjoyed our fall from the football heights we once enjoyed.

    When we’d get kicked, elbowed out muscled(illegally), it wasn’t because teams were dirty but, because we were a soft target. Naturally this thinking gathered momentum and went on right up to the present day. Troy Deaney’s comments about us having ‘No Cajohones’ a while back still carried sway right up until now.

    I mean, look at the way Saka was hacked down by McArthur the other week. A clear and blatant infringement of which the officials, even those in charge of VAR done nothing. When challenged about it afterwards, the Refs Association gave some lame excuse as to their being tiers of yellow card offences. Which is why they didn’t take action !

    Unfortunately or fortunately, depending how you want to look at it. The Neanderthal brand of footballing mentality has caught up with those wishing to enjoy and promote it !

    Many respondents to the article have clearly highlighted that Watford had ample opportunity to get on with the game and the player fouled was up on his feet quite quickly.

    In light of those events, were we unsporting. I personally don’t thinks so ! There’s a thing that’s often overlooked in so many facets of life and that thing is natural justice. Not some codified interpretation of ‘how things should or ought to be’ but, how things are when people act with a moral conscience. We were not required by any codified law to give up possession and therefore it was purely discretionary if we decided to return the ball to Watford.

    It shouldn’t be implied or interpreted that we were unsporting because we are employing the same logic and methods that are so widely enjoyed when we’re on the receiving end of such decisions

  13. Hell, yes, no doubt about it.

    All the arguments about Watford deserved it because faulting Arsenal players and committing hard tackles were equally unsportsmanlike are bullshit, and so is the excuse that finally we are not a soft team any more.

    While the goal and the not-returned throw-in are only indirectly connected, it’s quite sad that this was the only was to defeat their defense. Although I’m not saying we wouldn’t have won against Watford playing fair, since in any other day we would have been victorious as it took quite some efforts from Aubameyang to keep the score at bay.

    1. But the point is their guy wasn’t injured so there was no reason for Rose to kick the ball out. He just did it to deliberately waste time so I have got no sympathy for them.

      1. That’s not entirely accurate.
        When Rose kicked the ball out, his teammate were lying on the pitch seemingly suffering. He wasn’t in (much) pain though, he only wanted to persuade the referee into awarding a fault or a yellow card – it is unfortunately quite common in professional football. Not even Arsenal is free from that, there was an incident a few games ago when Martinelli performed some theatrics on a minimal contact to raise some pulses.

        Nevertheless Rose purposefully kicked the ball out to provide time for assistance. It’s meaningless to doubt that. This time was not necessary though, as his teammate didn’t need medical attention after all, but that doesn’t change the gentleman’s agreement that in cases when a player/team intentionally lose possession the opponent should give the ball back.

        1. So what your saying is, when we play liverpool next, we should play act being injured, then just kick the ball out as many times as necessary to ensure we don’t get beaten…. and that’s showing sportsmanship?
          Do me a favour!!!!

          1. I’m not in the business of selecting the tactics.
            But I do expect, sir, that if we kick the ball out for the sake of medical attendance it should be returned.
            It has nothing to do with Arsenal, Watford or Liverpool. It’s basic sportsmanship

            1. As I said then, all we have to do is pretend one of our players is injured… kick it out… waste time… do this on a regular basis, say four or five times in each half and then moan if our opponents play to the referees whistle… who, incidentally, had stopped the game every time we had pretended to be injured only to see that we “recovered” every time.
              Perhaps he felt enough was enough and let the game continue?

              Would you say sir, that this attitude is being sportsman like? …. OH and by the way, none of the players who needed that “medical attendance” you deemed so necessary, were not so badly injured that they had to be withdrawn.
              Funny that, wouldn’t you say?

  14. I don’t think it was poor sportmanship, in fact I am happy that maybe Arsenal will stop being so naive. I’ve been seeing other teams doing this kind of crap against us for years and nothing is said, but as soon as it’s Arsenal, then everyone cries.
    I support our team, not the negative narratives put out from people that don’t.
    If people dislike me or Arsenal because of that, fine. I want to win, not get the participation-trophy.

  15. IN THIS EXTREMELY WELL WRITTEN AND ASTUTE ARTICLE, I AGREE 100% WITH DANS VIEW, for the very same reasons as he outlines so very well.

    1. Was it sportsmanship,or lack of not realy as Spon as the ball was kicked put the so called injured player got to his feet, so did the ball need to be kicked out? No, so while 2 wrongs don’t make a right, what goes round comes round, if you feel the need to kick the ball out then it must be for a reason, and not an attempt to gain advantage, so if Arsenal where at fault do was the dishonesty in the player laying on the ground unessecary, was there in the game missed fouls by VAR and the ref yes, it is what it is, in books Arsenal have had a fair number of penalties not given but so has nearly every team,

  16. I’m a WFC fan, I agree that Rose kicking the ball out where he did seemed a bit unnecessary and would say it’s 50/50 whether the other team should give the ball back! I expect if Arsenal were comfortably winning they would have done just that!

    However why VAR didn’t suggest the the ref that Sarr was fouled in the build up to the goal is a mystery, he was body checked end of!

  17. Rose was spotted on MOTD 2 telling the ‘injured’ player to stay down as he got to his feet. Wanting to waste more time. Cheats like Watford should never prosper.

      1. Unless, Reggie, they were sick and tired of the play acting and time wasting that their team were employing throughout the match… then they would question what, exactly, was the point of crying wolf, rather than playing to the referees whistle and having had three opportunities to retrieve the ball anyway, following the impression of Swan Lake.

        1. Ken, that is another debate, i said that people are telling fibs if they would be happy if it had happened vise versa to us. It doesn’t excuse us for doing what we did but it got us the win, so its ok!!!!!!

          1. Actually Reggie, if The Arsenal played in the same way that Watford did, I would honestly say that they got their due rewards AND then question the thinking of the manager and players.
            I think that is EXACTLY what you would do, expecially if it occurred under our present manager!!!

            1. Ken, my point is and you have answered it, because you didn’t like the lack of sportsmanship from Watford. Your answer would obviously be, you wouldn’t be happy if it had happened the other way round. Everything else is another debate which i didn’t start and you tried to change to justify it. Thats all i asked!!!!

  18. What a stupid pile of tosh posited as a theory of why a goal taken in deceit is legitimate. Rose was not under direct threat when he kicked the ball out, he could have hoofed the ball up field but seeing a team mate on the ground he put the ball out, the right thing to do after that is to pass the ball back to Watford and from there the game recommences. Arsenal would and have taken umbrage at an opposition taking advantage in the same situation, and it clearly follows that Arsenal in that situation have lost the ability to comprehend or care for English sportsmanship.

  19. Was that unsportsmanship? yeah, the pattern of play Watford utilized that day is a true definition of poor sportsmanship.

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