There appears to be something of a debate about what portents the Newcastle game holds for the season ahead.
Those choosing to see the positives were encouraged by a defence so impregnable that not even John Terry’s mighty and unruly member could hope to penetrate it.
Others, seeing the negatives, despaired of an attack so bereft of creativity that if it were a painting it wouldn’t even get a place on the wall in Tony Hart’s Vision On, as the camera pans quickly past the offerings in this week’s “crap our viewers sent us” section.
What I saw was something to depress both those who wear rose-tinted spectacles and those who prefer the shite-tinted variety.
It was yet another example of Arsenal losing points because of the subconscious refereeing conspiracy against us.
The Barton-Gervinho spat has been discussed ad nauseam.
Yes, Gerv had to go for raising his hand, but Barton should have been red carded for throttling our new signing – and Arsenal should have had a penalty for Barton’s assault.
Apparently Barton reads a lot of philosophy. Well, he’s clearly a complete Kant. And a total Hippocrates, who’s dragging our game into the Goethe.
But what the furore has obscured is the fact that Gervinho was quite obviously tripped in the box in the first place for what should have been a bang-on penalty before the heir to Plato even had a chance to get his fingers round his throat.
And before that?
How about Taylor’s flying elbow into Sagna’s head very early in the first half? Taylor led with the elbow, made no attempt to get the ball and could have inflicted serious damage on our right back. It was also a straight red card assault, but none of the four officials on duty noticed it.
Admittedly, Song’s stamp on Barton was also missed by those highly trained officiators, who clearly need to go to SpecSavers.
In the second half, Sagna, again, was the victim of a throttling by either Obertin or Guttierez (sorry, can’t remember which one) as both players were running for a ball deep in Arsenal’s half. The same sort of throttling that earned Abou Diaby a red at Newcastle last season.
Barton’s dives all resulted in free kicks for the home side; Arsenal players had to be virtually rugby tackled before referee Walton would put the whistle to his lips.
Frankly we should no longer be surprised.
They say that referees’ decisions even themselves out over the course of a season. Well, from an Arsenal perspective, for several years now our seasons have been about as even as the Himalayas.
I have written before about how I think that referees have a subconscious agenda against Arsenal. Essentially, they see us as a foreign team playing in an English league and this leads to preconceptions that (a) our Johnnie foreigners all cheat and (b) they don’t like it up ‘em.
So, on his Premiership debut, our new African attacker, recently signed from the French league, gets tripped in the box and an inept official decides it must have been a dive. He’s not sure, so he doesn’t stop to book him for simulation in case the TV cameras prove him to be incompetent, but he doesn’t give the penalty either.
Likewise with the Barton-Gervinho scuffle. Barton can assault our player – that’s just a red-blooded Englishman showing passion. Just a yellow card for “getting a bit carried away”. Gervinho, of course, gets a red for what must have been a meaty right hook, right? That tough Barton fellow wouldn’t fall to the ground like that unless he had been seriously hurt would he?
I estimate that last season refereeing mistakes – whether from incompetence or from subconscious bias –cost us at least 12 points. The worst example all year was in Saturday’s corresponding fixture, when Phil Dowd pulled on a black-and-white striped shirt and started playing for the Geordies.
His appalling performance that day left us utterly demoralised and I have little doubt that it was that result, rather than the Carling Cup final, that set the tone for our late-season collapse. If Dowd had made just one less mistake we would have still won 4-3 and our title charge may well have stayed on track.
I don’t expect this season to be any different. As Saturday showed, we will continue to get the crappy end of the stick – the one that’s covered in essence of Barton.
It means we probably have to be effectively 10 points better than Man Utd to have a chance of pipping them to the title by just a point.
I’m not sure what we can do about it.
Just be philosophical I suppose…