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Arsenal Should Feel Hard Done-By After Crucial Officiating Mistakes Vs Sunderland

PL Highlights: Arsenal/Sunderland

Two critical calls by officials in Saturday’s Arsenal against Sunderland match unfairly went against the Gunners in a match that may have a massive impact on the 2010-11 Premier League title race.

In an evenly matched game between Arsenal and Sunderland, where the Mackems had their chances to win the game too, there were two pivotal moments that will haunt Arsenal supporters.

In the 87th minute, with Arsenal on the attack (see above video), Nicklas Bendtner delivered a delightful through-ball that split open the Sunderland defense and allowed Andrey Arshavin to run on, to control the ball and push it around Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and knock it into the net. However, the assistant referee had raised his flag for offside and Sunderland was awarded a free-kick instead.

When I watched the game in real-time, the decision initially looked like a sound one as Arshavin appeared to be well offside. However, after seeing the TV replay, it looked like Arshavin was either marginally behind or level with the Sunderland defender when Bendtner struck the pass.

To be completely fair, the angle of the TV replay wasn’t as good as it could have been. I was hoping for a long shot that was in a vertical line with the incident, but the best we got instead was a diagonal view from one of the cameras along the touchline. But it still appeared that Arsenal had a valid goal unfairly chalked off.

In the other key incident in the game, in the 81st minute Arshavin was again involved (see video below).

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In this instance, Samir Nasri played a lovely through-ball for Arshavin to collect and then bolted down the pitch alongside Titus Bramble as the Sunderland player tried to stop him. There seemed to be some minimal contact between Bramble and Arshavin as they ran towards the box, but at the moment when Arshavin drew his leg back to prepare his shot on goal, Bramble pushed Arshavin which pushed him off balance and resulted in the Russian’s shot going wide instead of on goal.

It was a stone cold penalty decision but referee Anthony Taylor didn’t seem bothered and called for a goal kick instead.

In both cases for Arsenal, they were undone by poor officiating decisions. Rather than it being a conspiracy against Arsenal, the simple fact of the matter is that we, the TV viewers, have an unfair advantage over the officials in that we can analyze the game on TV and see replays of incidents which referees don’t have the luxury of seeing during games. So while the officials made two critical wrong decisions Saturday, it’s more of a illustration of how wrong FIFA’s policy on no video evidence is rather than two simple human mistakes.

The two mistakes by officials are cruel blows to Arsenal’s title race aspirations. The 0-0 draw could have a massive impact on who will become the Premier League title winner especially if Manchester United wins tomorrow against Liverpool and widens the gap between first and second.

What do you think? Should Arsenal players and fans feel hard done-by after the referee’s decisions today? Or is this just a norm in English football where you win some and lose some decisions? Share your opinion in the comments section below.


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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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