A few things to get though today, so let’s start with the good news.
Despite the endless possibilities of difficult draws, we got about as kind a group as we could have ever wished for in yesterday’s draw – Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar, making their debut in the competition, Olympiakos, never a massive threat, and Standard Liege, again appearing for the first time.
The match up with Liege brings back some great memories – the first end of season video I ever bought was the 93/94 Cup Winners Cup run, ‘One-nil to the Arsenal’, featuring a 10-0 aggregate win over the Belgians, capped off with a 7-0 thumping away from home, Eddie McGoldrick scoring a counter attack goal the present team would be proud of. Good times.
Of course we’ll hear the typical line of there being no easy games, and we shouldn’t take any match lightly – the opposition will be up for every match involving us, they are glamour ties for them – but we have no excuse for not getting through to the knockout stages once again. In fact, all the English teams have avoided banana skins, and should all get through.
On a sour note, UEFA have charged Eduardo with diving, and if found guilty (which almost seems inevitable), he will face a two match ban.
Now before I start on this tirade, let me clear one thing up – the player dived. I have no problem with admitting it, and didn’t enjoy seeing it.
However, this charge is utterly ludicrous on a number of levels. Firstly, the accepted punishment for a dive is a yellow card. Therefore, he should be given a retrospective yellow card and the issue closed. Instead, UEFA have this bizarre rule where an offence that carries only a caution can be punished more severely as they see fit.
That in itself I don’t have a problem with. Long time readers will know I’m an advocate of retrospective punishments for clear simulation. But you can only do that if you punish everyone. UEFA should only ban Eduardo if they ban every other diver this season. Which they won’t.
The only reason this has resulted in a charge is that so much of a fuss has been made by the SFA and the media. And if that is used as a basis for charges in the future, then a very dangerous precedent has been set.
As I see it, UEFA have a two logical choices:
a) Ban everyone for two games who dives in a match, irrespective of whether a referee books them for it (without this last point, dives would be more lightly punished if they are more obvious, which would be bizarre and wrong).
b) Caution everyone who dives in a match, using video evidence if the referee missed it.
Instead, they seem to be taking a third approach:
c) Trust the referee’s judgement, up until the point where associations begin to complain, then bring a particular player to task, making him a scapegoat.
As I said before, the player dived, and I think he deserves punishment. But it has to be in line with that dished out to other players committing the same offence, otherwise we have dangerous inconsistency.
The emotional side of me is infuriated that this charge has been brought, but the rational side thinks that it would be better for everyone if it were accepted and the punishment completed without complaint. Pires was vilified for a dive that was not out of the ordinary, and suffered for years – Eduardo may find the same happen to him unless he is seen to accept it and move on. His two match ban shouldn’t affect our ability to progress.
That seems an unlikely approach, however, given Wenger’s ire at the decision:
“I’ve fought my whole life against cheating and I’ve seen some obvious cases where Uefa didn’t intervene. On and off the pitch things have happened where no action was taken. This is the first time since I’ve been in football that the judgement has been made by the referee is not accepted by the football bodies.”
“Usually a situation that has been assessed and judged by the referee can’t be touched again. Now every single decision made by a referee can be challenged. So for me they’ve opened a very dangerous door here.”
You can’t deny that he has a point – up until now a referee’s decision has been final, but all of a sudden UEFA are looking to overrule it in one special case. Very very dangerous.
This has to be an all of nothing thing. You either look to stamp out diving, or you don’t, you can’t single out individual instances to make your mark – it makes no sense.
But, unfortunately, we cannot expect logic to be applied, so I guess we’ll have to accept whatever happens and move on. Any punishment is a stick Wenger can beat UEFA with in the future, when the situation is reversed. It might come in handy someday.
We have bigger fish to fry right now – in a little over 24 hours we have a trip to Old Trafford. Irritatingly, it is the last day of my club’s cricket season tomorrow, and the sunny day gives me no chance of getting out of it, so I’ll be taping the match, hoping to see it later without knowing the result. I don’t fancy my chances, being surrounded my sportsmen, but we’ll see.
Until then, enjoy the game.