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Monday, 22 February 2016

Time to stop being nice

More of this is needed

When Per Mertesacker got sent-off (wrongly) against Chelsea the other week Arsene was asked why the BFG simply trotted off without so much as a word of complaint. Wenger replied that there had been a decision taken to accept the decisions of the officials without arguing. This is a very noble way to behave, especially in the face of such poor decisions as we face on a regular basis, and is certainly a fine example to set to the youngsters watching on. However, I would contend that is not doing Arsenal any good. The fact that Diego Costa got that decision, despite his long list of dives, says a lot about the way in which John Terry and Cesc Fabregas (among others at Chelsea) are constantly in the ear of the referee. They are putting pressure on him at every turn, with one of their players seemingly in conversation with the ref at just about every point in the match.
Chelsea are not the only ones who are using this tactic. It was noticeable on Saturday how the Hull City skipper, David Meyler, was basically following Mike Dean around the pitch and speaking to him constantly. Is it a coincidence that we didn't get given any of the three penalties we should have been awarded during the game? We'll never know the answer to that, but it certainly didn't do Hull any harm, did it?
When Arsenal were winning Premier League's under Arsene Wenger a regular gripe of the press was that we had a terrible disciplinary record. They were constantly quoting the number of red cards Arsenal had received under Wenger and using it to beat the team - the fact that at least 75% of those should never have been sent-off was irrelevant. Brian Clough was quoted as saying he admired Arsenal's football at the time but he deplored the lack of discipline. Did any Arsenal fan give a toss? Of course we didn't. We were winning. We were also a bit nasty when it was required. Maybe that was the difference between success and also-rans. Manchester United were similarly horrible, in fact much worse than the Arsenal players ever were (but largely unpunished) and they were also winning left, right and centre. We had the likes of the old back-four (including Keown), Vieira, Wright, Petit, Parlour, Lauren, Cole, Ljungberg and Bergkamp. Dennis wasn't interested in starting a row, but he would damn well finish it. The referee David Elleray once told me he hated refereeing Bergkamp as he "wouldn't listen" to him. That said more about Elleray than Bergkamp, but it showed that Dennis had some devil in him, and he knew the referee wouldn't protect him so he protected himself instead. Freddie Ljungberg was small, but he took no rubbish - when unfairly sent-off at Spurs he kicked the living s**t out of their dressing room door - somehow I don't see Theo Walcott doing that.
I wouldn't normally advocate Arsenal players arguing with the officials and putting pressure on the referees and linesmen. It is an unedifying sight and should be stamped out. However, the officials are doing nothing about it, and have done nothing about the likes of Rooney, Terry and Gerrard for years. Vincent Kompany is virtually refereeing games when he is fit enough to play for City, such is the influence he exerts over the weak officials. We are in a position where massive decisions seem to be going against us and our skipper stays away from the referee. I'm fed up of this callow approach. Per Mertesacker needs to get in the face of the referee. There was an incident in the Leicester game where Theo did actually go out of his way to have a pop at Martin Atkinson. Mertesacker's response was to tell Walcott to calm down. Why? Theo was doing the right thing - the ref wasn't doing his job so he needed to be told. The fact is that Mertesacker is the one who should have been doing that, but we have this policy of non-confrontation. It happened again on Saturday where Kieran Gibbs clearly had words with Mr Dean and Per was called over, along with Gibbs, for a talking to. Mertesacker should have laid it on thick that we'd just been cheated out of a penalty, and put pressure on Dean to ensure the next close decision went our way. Instead he subserviently allowed Gibbs to get a dressing-down. 
There are too many nice-guys in the Arsenal team. We are devoid of horrible b******s in this squad. I fear this is a weakness and it is going cost us more in the run-in. There is a balance to be struck, of course - you don't want to get sent-off for arguing with officials, but the role of the skipper in this is important. Mertesacker, Arteta, Koscielny, Cazorla, whoever it may be that is wearing the armband, should be all over the referee at every opportunity. We are in to fine margins as we approach the final stretch and Arsenal's players must take advantage of every little trick they can in order to get an edge over our rivals. 

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