First day of the EPL: It’s a ref’s game

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
August 16th, 2003 • 10:47 pm

If this first day of the English Premier League 2003-2004 is any indication, this season is not going to be much fun.

There were just too many signs that Manchester United players are blatantly favoured by EPL referees and that Arsenal players are being unfairly targeted by them.

One of the goals scored by Man U in their 4-0 victory against Bolton was so blatantly from an offside position that it’s not funny. And then there were a couple of fouls by Man U players that were worthy of at least a yellow card, and were not even punished.

Why do Man U players get away with late tackles when Arsenal players get immediately and severely punished for them? I will not deny that Sol Campbell committed a foul — but a straight red card? He wasn’t the last defender — and there was absolutely no intention to hurt the opposition. If that foul was a straight red, then a lot of other fouls during the season are going to have to be straight reds as well — or else there will, once again, be blatant inconsistency, and it will benefit Man U, as usual. And I have little doubt that this is exactly what it’s going to happen. (The FA is showing no signs that it’s willing to review the fouls committed by Phil Neville and Djemba Djemba during the Community Shield game last week. Why?)

In that same Arsenal vs. Everton game, there were several fouls by Everton players that were just as deliberate and probably far nastier than Sol Campbell’s. Yet Li Tie had to commit about a half dozen of them in the space of barely 10 minutes to finally convince the referee that he deserved to be sent off as well.

It’s no wonder that players like Thierry Henry looked obviously pissed off by the refereeing. I know that at this level players are expected to keep their cool, but there’s a LIMIT to how much blatant prejudice you can take.

The only “good” news is that Arsenal got the three points just the same — and that Van Nistelrooy failed to score on a penalty for the second time in a row.
Do you think anyone in the press is going to appreciate the performance of a 10-men Arsenal team against an opposition (Everton) far more challenging than the weak Bolton side that Man U beat 4-0? Of course not. They’re going to focus on the red card, once again — as if it were deserved.

I was particularly impressed by the performance of Arsenal’s defense, especially in light of the fact that Sol Campbell was sent off so early in the game and Wenger had to reorganize everything and bring on barely-fit Keown in place of Wiltord. (Sorry about that, Sylvain.) The only negative point was Everton’s goal, on which Radzinski was unfortunately left unmarked.

And I certainly didn’t think that Man U’s performance was particularly impressive, contrary to what the score line indicates. Young new signing Ronaldo looks lively and technically apt, but Bolton’s defensive record is not exactly a model of the genre. Here’s hoping that Man U will soon face more convincing challenges.

I don’t have much hope for the refereeing, however. I have little doubt that Keane, Butt, Scholes, Neville and the rest of them will be allowed to continue to foul their way through each and every game with impunity. And it’s pretty sad.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.