View From The Bank: Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0

Frustration; not simply because we failed to capitalise fully at the top of the table, but moreso because crucial decisions, yet again at the Emirates, did not go Arsenal’s way.

Refereeing in the Premier League is going backwards. I have never known a season where so many baffling decisions have been made. And in high profile matches too. The Rooney elbow incident still defies belief.

Yesterday it was the turn of Mr A Taylor, whose Wikipedia page is littered with incidents. Say no more.

Match of the Day unsurprisingly failed to show an incident in the first half where Bendtner ran through to a ball over the top and a Sunderland defender (can’t remember who as there was no replay on the big screen after what happened with the infamous Saha goal a few weeks back) ran across the Dane, taking him down. Looked a clear foul from where I was sitting (again in the Upper Northbank, don’t ask), yet play was waved on. That should have been a free-kick within Nasri range and a red card for the Sunderalnd man. No mention on MOTD (if anyone has seen a replay of this on Football First, YouTube etc, please let me know as it looked a stone-waller to me).

Nearing the end of the match we should have been awarded a penalty when Arshavin burst through and was clearly tugged back and then blatently pushed by Bramble, knocking the Russian off balance causing him to slice his shot wide. A clear foul, waved away by Mr A Taylor.

Minutes later, Arshavin made a perfectly timed run to beat the offside trap, only to be judged incorrectly offside having rounded Sunderland’s impressive keeper, Simon Mignolet, and rolled the ball into the net. Wenger was rightfully apoplectic.

“It was a fantastic decision by the linesman! My job is to deliver games; the referee’s job is to make the right decisions. It’s frustrating that the two decisions went against us. They punished us severely, especially the offside that wasn’t. These things can have an impact on the league. Justice has not been done and it’s not the first time.”

Now, there is the old adage that referees usually favour the home side: Arsenal have not experienced this much this season. And of course, unless I’m mistaken, on touch and go offside decisions,the ruling should favour the attacker. That always used to be the rule anyhow, though it’s hard to keep up with the offside ruling as it is today.

We’ve had some abject refereeing performances this season, to say the least. Of late, memory recalls the Saha goal, the penalty awarded against us at Newcastle and some very iffy decisions in the recent Stoke match.

Cesc made a valid point on yesterday’s Soccer AM:

“I would bring in referees that have played the game – ex-players being referees, because they see the game. Some referees make decisions that they don’t understand because they haven’t played football before. So I would like to see some ex-players as referees because I’m sure they would understand us better.”

Give Sunderland credit; they defended expertly. Too many Gooners expect Arsenal to roll over teams such as Sunderland, but you have to take certain crucial factors into account: We’re missing our three best players in Cesc, RVP and Vermaelen. We’re also currently without our one player with real pace in Theo. In an ideal world, Walcott would have been perfect to throw on for the last half hour to have a real go at a tiring defence. We didn’t have any pace on the bench yesterday, aside from the erratic Eboue.

The usual suspects were again singled out by frustrated Gooners. Denilson, Bendtner and Diaby were again targetted as the reason why we didn’t claim all three points yesterday. Denilson did his job; he’s a water carrier, similar to a Deschamps. Bendtner was a threat in the first half, forcing a fine save from Mignolet. He wasn’t as effective when moved out to the right, but then the majority of the play was down our left flank.

Diaby, had one of those games that he has from time to time where he takes too many touches and slows down our tempo. He’s very frustrating as we know what he’s capable of, but yesterday he stunk the place out. Give him the benefit of the doubt though as he has played just 307 minutes of football this year, due to injury and suspension.

A word on Koscielny and Sczcesny who performed diligently yesterday showing great character after the horrors of Wembley. Koscielny was solid and assured, joining the attack at any given opportunity while Sczcesny made two fine saves in each half; the late save from Wellbeck was truly world class, this could easily have found the net.

One point is better than none, though Arsenal deserved all 3 points. Mr A Taylor, from Greater Manchester, may be the difference in this year’s title race. Let’s hope not.

Keep the faith. In Wenger we trust.