This is not a post to moan about a referee getting a decision wrong.  Rather, this particular incident got me wondering, “How is that supposed to work then?”  Maybe you have the answer…

It’s been reasonably well accepted that Arsenal’s opener against Middlesbrough should have been flagged offside (video link).  Graham Poll on Setanta’s Football Matters thought so.  So did the Right Result website.  So did Allison Rudd on The Game podcast.

Although Nicklas Bendtner didn’t play the ball, he impeded the goalkeeper’s ability to save the shot from an offside position by running into his path at a crucial moment.  The flag stayed down though and Arsenal went on to win the game 2-0.

But here’s the thing that made me say “Hmmm”.

  • The referee can see whether the player is interfering with the goalkeeper, but not whether the player is offside.
  • The assistant ref can see whether the player is offside, but (possibly) not whether the player is interfering with the goalkeeper.

How can the ref and lino collaborate to make the right decision in such cases?

Should the assistant have put his flag up, even if he’s not sure whether the offside player was involved in play?  Should the referee have gone and talked with the linesman even though there was no flag?  What if play had somehow continued with Arsenal in possession, not allowing for a quick chat between the officials?

Are there any referees out there – real ones or couch referees like myself – who can help clear this up?