Wednesday 17 January 2018

AidanO’Hara: Managers don't care how many wrongs make a right

It's the magic word when it comes to referees and is always requested with a degree of fake sympathy for their cause. Several times in a season a manager will see a decision go against his team, pretend to empathise with the difficulty of a referee's job and then deliver the magic words: "All we want is a little bit of consistency."

It doesn't seem to matter whether the decision is wrong or right, once it's consistently wrong or right. But if they were really being honest, a manager would say that they want all of the decisions to go in their favour all of the time.

On Saturday, Chris Hughton, who is not normally one to complain too much, found it difficult to stomach the decision of the linesman to award a penalty when Kei Kamara grabbed the shirt of Olivier Giroud in the penalty box and gave Arsenal the chance to equalise.

There was sympathy for Hughton's cause and his bizarre logic that, because the referee was closer to the incident, his should have been the final call even though his view was blocked by the perpetrator of the foul.

The same logic would decree that if somebody stood within an inch of a wall next to a window, they should have a better view of the outside world than somebody standing four feet away. But then, this is football so what has logic got to do with it?

Far from being praised for making the right decision, the linesman was described as 'busy', which is football code for an irritant who wants to be the centre of attention. And even when they're right, they're wrong.

Hughton had a more valid point about the initial corner or an offside decision for Arsenal's third goal but, in terms of the penalty incident, he would have been better served asking Kamara why, with five minutes to go, he would take a chance of yanking an opponent's jersey in the penalty area rather than bemoan the series of decisions as "almost criminal".

In the same way that you'll often get away with driving over the speed limit because nobody sees it, attempting to get away with sneaky fouls always carried the risk that you'll get caught. And if you do, pointing to several other incidents in mitigation – or other drivers on the road who may have been driving faster than you – is a pointless way to justify your own actions.

In the final minutes of yesterday's FA Cup semi-final, Vincent Kompany almost disrobed Fernando Torres when the striker was going through on goal and, like Kamara, he did it in such a way that the referee couldn't spot it. Unlike Kamara, neither could the linesman.

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez was furious that a penalty wasn't awarded but afterwards, when asked if he had been lucky to get away with it, Kompany said it was "great defending". And it was great defending because it wasn't punished. If Kamara had got away with it against Giroud, it would have been great defending too.


It's impossible to create a scenario of consistency across the spectrum simply because rules, even in golf now it seems, are so open to interpretation.

Football, for example, has evolved to the point where a handball on the goal-line is both a penalty and a red card even if there is no intent.

The rule reads that a player should be sent off if deemed to be "denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball". The key word there should be "deliberately" but the game has evolved that the key word has become "handling" and, because of the way it is now interpreted, the correct application of the rule would now cause an outcry.

When asked about the penalty decision against Norwich, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger used the classic riposte that the free-kick from which Norwich scored from shouldn't have been awarded.

It was the same with Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp last week when half of his outfield players were in an offside position in the seconds before their winning goal. Klopp felt that this decision was fine because Malaga's second goal had, barely, been offside. Once your team wins, as Hughton will probably show in the future, it doesn't matter how many wrongs there are once they eventually make a right.

Away from the penalty incident, the Norwich boss has justifiable reasons for complaint but it's a guarantee that every manager can recall several incidents this season in which a decision went against them and use that as a justification if one goes in their favour.

Even if they can't, they've always got the fallback options of blaming the officials rather than looking closer to home.

In the end, that's about the only thing that remains consistent.

Irish Independent

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