by Alex McCarthy

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The penalty given against Arsenal last night was debatable to say the least. Gael Clichy could not have gotten his arm out the way, meaning ball to hand surly, and thus no penalty. On the other side of the coin, his arm has impeded Nani’s run on goal and therefore gained an illegal, if not inadvertent illegal advantage, meaning penalty United.

Football is currently living through and perhaps always has, a massive grey area. The rules are determined by an individuals opinion rather than black and white coding. You hear a lot said about goal-line technology, but even then, all that does is prolong the mystery – it will still be someone’s opinion of any case, just with the advantage to see it again. I take the point that in the event of whether the ball has or has not crossed the line, there can be a definite answer, but what about two-footed lunges, handballs, last man fouls, even offsides… how many times have you found yourself arguing till your blue in the face about an incident and neither of you can be proved our right to be correct?

For instance, there was a moment last night where Andrei Arshavin very lackadaisically lost the ball on the edge of his own area, and then lunged through Darren Fletcher. It was high, through the back of the man, and he followed through with his trailing leg making it two footed. All three of those I’ve seen people walk for in the past, yet on this occasion it was a yellow. Perhaps Howard Webb was sympathetic to the occasion and what not, however rules are rules. I remember when hitting man before the ball from behind was originally outlawed and players were walking left, right and centre, now – it’s almost not enough of a craze for people to jump on. If Flecther’s leg ends in pieces like Eduardo’, Ramsey’s etc, it’s a red no doubt, and that tackle had much less caution for the man than Shawcross’s on the latter

Offsides as well, whether men interfere or not in the play no counts for so much, or very little you could argue. Every week we are seeing a keepers view impeded by a player running across him, and that player appears to be deemed not interfering with play? Well is interfering with play only touching the ball then? So much of football is movement, it drags players out of position for marking or tracking, and other players make chances in channels etc, but if they do not receive the ball, it doesn’t mean what they’ve done hasn’t benefited someone else then having more space or taking a defender away, so of course everyone is interfering with play. To be more concise, your especially having an impact if you are in the box at the time of a goal and offside. If the Kepper has to think about that man, he must be surly?

There’s not even a definitive answer or conclusion to it all. The FA, UEFA, FIFA and so on are forever tampering and altering the game that rules seem to be made on top of rules, to counter previous rules – its a never ending cycle! I suppose it’s all part an parcel of why football is great though in the grand scheme of things, the fact it’s so engaging we argue and debate every week about it, the fact felt the need to write about it, why 70,000+ last night flocked to Old Trafford to see it – it’s still a great, great game.

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