Everyone in the game will have taken Arsene Wenger’s latest outburst with a pinch of salt, but that does not make it alright.
You have to take into account the myriad factors behind his latest post-match rant, and, while Raheem Sterling, playing the way he is, can afford to laugh accusations of cheating off, he might well still ask his own manager to have a word in some shape or form, because his personality as well as his integrity has been impugned by the Arsenal manager.
It’s easy for us to reflect without the intensity and passion that accompany a defeat in the spotlight, but it would have been just as easy to sugar-coat Wenger’s points so that they were not so readily dismissed by the sheer evidence of our own eyes.
Let’s face it, there was no dive, even if he has gone down easily, but I’d have turned on a bit more charm and talked about how the pace of the game today makes a referee’s job more difficult. It’s hardly a disgrace to lose to a City side in this kind of form, is it?
If I’d have mentioned the offside for the third goal at all, I’d have said the sooner technology is in use the better, because it would have kept us in the game.
I find that you can say virtually the same thing without saying so much you might regret. He might not take anything back at all, of course, but I think a clarification is in order at the next available opportunity, which obviously means waiting until after the international break.
It’s never good to call someone a cheat, but especially not when we have the luxury of all those angles to pore over with which to prove him wrong.
The effect his rant might have could be to go the other way from some irresponsible bandwagon directed against officials, by which I mean maybe there’s a manager out there who will stick up for them. Let’s hope so.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the referees in our country are as good as, if not better than any in the world when it comes to honesty. They always try and get it right, whether they manage that or not, and I’ve not once sensed any agenda in all my years watching and playing.
On top of that, in contrast to one of Arsene’s many claims, they are patently trying to get better, and I noticed a big difference just in the time I played. The Respect campaign may have floundered but that was no fault of theirs and personally I could not help but see their fitness levels come on in leaps and bounds as well as referees starting to hold their hands up in a way that seemed to me to be a deliberate choice to communicate with us in a more productive way.
Mark Clattenburg was an example of both and I appreciated the time at Fulham that he waited until our next game and said I’d been right and he’d been wrong last time.
All those left behind after Clattenburg’s departure are professional in their outlook and are all trying to get better in whatever way possible. There’s simply no denying it.
Arsene is susceptible to going over the top verbally and it’s less to do with the failings of Michael Oliver and his team than with the fact he can’t get the results he needs from the ingredients at his disposal. It’s some catch-up job he has on his hands already and we all know what kind of problems he has got with his own club’s fans. Going on live TV and letting rip has done nothing to address that predicament, whether it was an attempt at deflection or not!