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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

UEFA - will common sense ever prevail?

Arsene with his old pal Michel

If anyone needed confirmation that Uefa are unable to see the wood for the trees, so to speak, then here it is: Following Arsenal's Champions League 2nd leg against AC Milan, Arsene Wenger criticised the Slovenian referee Damir Skomina, claiming he awarded Milan too many free kicks. He took this matter onto the pitch at full time, as well as in his post match conference - a heinous crime in the eyes of Uefa. What followed was perhaps inevitable, knowing Uefa: a three match ban and a ridiculous £33,000 fine. And we've been here before; in 2011, after our Champions League exit to Barcelona, Wenger confronted referee Massimo Busacca over some of his decisions. A one-match ban ensued, for 'inappropriate language'. What followed was nothing short of farcical, and was branded "a joke" by Wenger himself. Whilst sitting in the stands during our Champions League qualifier against Udinese, serving his ban, he was adjudged to have communicated illegally with the bench. Guess what happened next? A further two-match ban. Arsene had this to say:
"The first time was not justified. The second time was a joke because they told me what to do and afterwards they told me 'no, sorry, that was wrong'."

Any criticism these Uefa appointed referees receive is treated like a personal insult to the body's integrity. Arsene Wenger sums this up himself:

"I believe that they have transformed Uefa competition referees to be untouchable icons, where you cannot even have a word."

There is a big difference between a personal insult and a perfectly valid criticism. The latter is what Arsene is being punished for. If you ask me, this is hypocrisy to the highest level; Uefa can say what they please, yet Arsene Wenger - not your average man on the street - is punished for expressing his views. Now surely, if anybody, one of the world's most respected managers should be allowed to voice his opinions without being at risk of reprisal. It reminds me of when I was 11 years old playing for a local Sunday League team, and my father was in charge of the match reports for the club website. Our keeper - who would make Gomes look like Casillas - had a shocker, and my dad told the truth in the report, that all twelve four of the oppositions' goals were goalkeeping errors. Uproar ensued among some of the other parents, and, to cut a long story short, I left the club. They were shit anyway.

But in all seriousness, this anecdote is reminiscent of what Uefa are doing today. They seem to take everything as some kind of personal insult. What ever happened to freedom of speech? Let alone the benefit of the doubt.

It is no secret that Platini, once friends with Wenger, now has a barely disguised dislike of him. Platini, the head of Uefa, publicly stated his contempt for Arsene in an interview with a French newspaper a few years ago:
"I do not like the system of Arsene Wenger", "I like to talk about football, him (Wenger) about business". 
This frankly bizarre outburst got even more sarcastic and personal when Platini went on to say:
 "It would make me happy that Arsene Wenger never sees it (goal line technology)". 
Arsene is a known advocate for the introduction of technology in football, and Platini, to put it eloquently, takes the fucking piss.

And that's not all. Amidst all this, there have been various other incidents which were actually heinous, with consequences far softer than those meted out to Arsene Wenger. Firstly, Porto were recently fined a meagre £16,000 after their fans racially abused Man City's Mario Balloteli. £16,000? For racial abuse? Really? I'd love to hear Uefa's justification for this.

Oh, but don't worry, there's more. Russian club Zenit St Petersburg were fined a total of just €50,000 for two separate incidents of crowd trouble, in last year's Champions League group stage. They brandished illicit banners, set off fireworks, and carried out a pitch invasion. A PITCH INVASION! And they were fined just €10,000 more than Wenger was for criticising a referee!

Celtic were fined just €15,000 after their Europa League match last year against Rennes, after illicit chanting from their fans. Shortly after, in their match away to Udinese, fans brandished a banner saying: 'Fuck Uefa'. Good on 'em, I say. However, as one would expect, this clearly offensive and personal message directed towards the body itself would result in a hefty fine for the Scottish club. Oh, according to, Celtic were fined just £21,000 for this? £12,000 less than what Wenger was fined? This must be some kind of mistake. Right?

I wish it was.

The above highlights the inexplicable inconsistency shown by Uefa in their disciplinary actions. Admittedly, nothing is ever 100%, or black and white, even the foolish and blinkered approach of Uefa. Moreover, I'm not saying they aren't allowed to punish Arsene for any offensive comments he may make, but when we see racial misconduct sanctioned to a lesser extent than that of perceived "inappropriate remarks", one must question the competence of those supposedly running the game.

At least now Wenger knows he can criticise the referee's performance, and racially abuse him whilst he's at it, and get fined half the usual amount. Sound system they have going on there, eh?

Thanks for reading and remember to follow me on Twitter @rlewisafc.

'Til next time, RL.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

QPR 2-1 Arsenal; Neither a rant or rave

Right. Since I last wrote on here, a string of victories propelled us into the coveted 3rd spot, overtaking Spurs. Everything seemed to be coming together; the players were fighting for the team, the manager, and the fans. We were spoiled with last minute winners, and even provided with a clean sheet at Goodison Park! A win against QPR would have made it eight league wins on the bounce; a feat last achieved by our Invincibles. Instead, however, it was a story of 'same old Arsenal'. I'm not going to give a match report, or a rant for that matter, but just share my positives and negatives about the game and its potential consequences.

Many people have voiced their, ahem, discontent, shall we say, towards Wenger's decision to start Ramsey on the left. Not what I would have done, but hey, what do I know? I will not bemoan this decision, as on another day Ramsey could have had an absolute stormer, like against Chelsea in the 5-3 victory. My main criticism is how long it took for him to be subbed. It was clear he was not having the desired effect or influence on proceedings, and was brushed off the ball by his more physical opponents on numerous occasions. Why wait till the 70th minute to make the change? An early introduction of Oxlade-Chamberlain could have supplied some much needed impetus. Anyway, Gervinho replaced Ramsey, and hardly put in a MOTM performance himself.

In fact, The Ox's introduction was stalled until the 80th minute. I for one wasn't expecting a man of his age to come on and produce with such little time remaining, against a resilient QPR side.

I felt this result was bound to happen. I thought to myself the night before, 'It would be so typical for us to lose this game'. And it was. The club website was sharing how wonderful things were and the platitudes of how everyone wanted to keep this run of form going. This only meant one thing. A disappointing performance and a consequent defeat!

Indeed, the performance today was nothing other than poor. We lacked any real penetration, and even with our first choice back four, were defensively abject at times. The fact we gave possession away 166 times tells a story on its own. However, all is not lost, and there is no need to act as if the world is about to implode. Third place is still in our hands, and a win next weekend against Manchester City would be a cracking way to respond, and hopefully, RvP can seek to end his, ahem, goal drought. If not, I think it'll be time to unleash the beast that is Park Chu-Young. Defences would quake at the very prospect.

Anyway, it was not to be, and was what one would describe as 'a bad day at the office'. Perhaps this was just a way to raise the hopes of that lot down the road, only to crush them mercilessly later on. Well, that's what I'm hoping.