From the Premier League matches on New Year’s Day, we saw that referee Howard Webb had a poor game in Manchester Utd’s fourth home defeat of the season, but it couldn’t mask the huge problems the Champions have.
Manchester United slumped to defeat at the hands of Tottenham, who look rejuvenated under Tim Sherwood, now playing a 4-4-2 system. Emmanuel Adebayor has been very impressive since his return to first team football and scored the opener at Old Trafford in a 2-1 victory for the Lilywhites, making AVB’s decision to not use him even more bizarre.
United, on the other hand, are in need of a clearout in my view. As a United fan myself, it is very difficult to watch a squad that is certainly the poorest in the last decade. The midfield area is the weakest, but I think a top quality winger, a left back, a centre back plus two central midfielders are needed, not necessarily in this transfer window, but definitely in the summer. Players such as Anderson, Nani and Antonio Valencia are not performing, as well as two older players in Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, who I think is on his last legs as a Premier League player.
Howard Webb was in charge of the game yesterday and I personally think he had a mixed game. Early in the second half, with United 1-0 down, Danny Welbeck went down after a tackle from the impressive Vlad Chiriches. There is no doubt that this was a tough call for Webb to make, but I felt (bias aside) it was a penalty. Welbeck was traveling at full speed and I think any contact will make the England international lose balance. Chiriches made contact and Welbeck went down. Webb didn’t give the penalty, but I’m unsure why he didn’t book Welbeck for diving, if he felt there was not sufficient contact.
Only a few minutes later, after two goals in one minute made it 2-1 to Spurs, their goalkeeper Hugo Lloris came charging of his line, which he has a reputation of doing, and brought down Ashley Young in the penalty area. Young has been known as a persistent offender of diving, but Lloris made no contact with the ball and went straight through Young, who did his best to avoid being clattered. I could not believe it wasn’t a penalty. David Moyes called the decision “scandalous” in a post match interview.
Lastly on the United-Spurs game, Adnan Januzaj was again booked for diving after a challenge from left back Danny Rose. It was a harsh booking. There are many challenges similar that result in free kicks and unfortunately, Januzaj’s building reputation as a “diver” went against him, which further angered Moyes who said in his press conference post game “Have you seen that decision? That is a terrible decision. Adnan got bumped.”
Despite all of these incidents, it doesn’t mask the problems United have at this moment. Moyes is now under huge pressure from the United faithful to get the checkbook out in this window, but I think it’ll very hard to find the right player, right now.
Moving on to Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Southampton, I was in awe of Oscar’s performance after he came on for Juan Mata, who reacted to being substituted in a negative manner. Credit to Jose Mourinho though, the subs changed the game and the Blues ran out comfortable winners. Oscar scored one and was instrumental in the flowing attacks Chelsea created. However, he was booked at 0-0 for a dive in the penalty box, after beating goalkeeper Kelvin Davis but deciding to make contact with Davis and go down, when all he needed to do was stay on his feet and roll the ball home. Davis was beaten and pulled out of the challenge to avoid conceding a penalty, so Oscar made a strange decision to go down. It was a great spot by ref Martin Atkinson, who immediately showed the yellow card.
West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce is now under huge pressure after the Hammers lost 2-1 to fellow strugglers Fulham in what was being called a relegation 6-pointer, even at this stage of the season. West Ham took the lead through Mohamed Diame but were pegged back by Steve Sidwell’s header. Shortly afterwards, Kevin Nolan was spotted by Mark Clattenburg in an off the ball altercation with Fernando Amoriabieta. Nolan, who is an experienced player and captain of West Ham, pushed over the Fulham defender before deciding to kick him in the back of the leg right under the nose of the referee. Clattenburg showed the red card and Nolan had no complaints. Allardyce states post game that Nolan let his side down. Not just yesterday, but for the next 3 games. This is Nolan’s second sending off in a month, following another off the ball incident with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. The Cottagers went on to win 2-1 and lifted them out of the bottom three.
West Bromwich Albion started the new year better than they finished the last, with a 1-0 win over Newcastle, scoring a late penalty courtesy of Saido Berahino, who I must say, is a very promising talent for the future. Before the decisive goal, Mathieu Debuchy flew into a tackle with Claudio Yacob and the French right back made a very poor challenge, with both feet off the ground, combined with pace. Lee Mason had no option but to send him off.
Finally in this very packed article, Marouane Chamakh was very lucky to avoid a red card from Mike Dean. He pushed Wes Hoolahan in the face after a disagreement. Dean must have seen the altercation, as he booked both players, but he definitely made an incorrect call, which could have changed the game.
Editor’s note: Browse through the previous weeks of key Premier League refereeing decisions.