Arsenal 2 – 0 WBA: Divers are already retrospectively punished

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Divers are already retrospectively punished…
Yes, Santi dived.  Yes, it was ugly.  And no, I don’t want it happening again.  That said, you won’t hear me lambasting him for it.  There are two reasons: the first is that we’re so desperate for points at the moment that I’ll take them however we can get them.  The second is that, unlike the majority of pundits, I don’t find diving to be the great corrupting evil of our game.  In fact, I’d far sooner see a player dive than commit a dangerous two-footed tackle.  It seems an odd quirk of our culture and its latent obsession with a neanderthal interpretation of masculinity that we’re more accepting of physical violence than a bit of cunning.  Fundamentally, I believe players are entitled to leap out of the way of a tackle.  There is no obligation to take the hit and get hurt.

That, I suspect, is exactly what Cazorla was attempting: to anticipate contact and exaggerate it to guarantee the decision.  Rather embarrassingly for him, the contact never came, and his subsequent leap and tumble can only ever be called a dive.  In an ideal world, the ref spots it and hands Cazorla a yellow card.  Unfortunately, the referee in this case was having a ninety minutes littered with incompetence, and made a poor decision.  You have to feel for West Brom, but few clubs are whiter-than-white here.  The Baggies themselves tried to win a penalty after a laughable dive from Markus Rosenberg.

There is outcry about the lack of retrospective punishment for divers.  I’m not sure I agree.  One need only have watched the second half to see the FA’s unspoken judiciary system in place.  Cazorla dribbled between four tackles, before being clearly fouled on the edge of the box: no free-kick.  This punishment can last longer than just one game – simply ask Gareth Bale, who has been booked twice recently for ‘dives’ when any other player would have won a free-kick.  In this age of television replays, the reputation earned becomes the punishment.  Santi will be lucky to win another penalty this season.

This was a much better Arsenal display…
We ought to have scored at least four goals, and looked relatively comfortable at the back too.  The midfield of Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta looked so much better for a rest, and the latter showed just what a ballsy character he is with two no-nonsense penalties.  The English pair of Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain had their best games of the season.  I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that Chamberlain can put together a run of form to allay some of the concerns about Theo Walcott’s inevitable departure.

I occasionally wonder just what the other players make of Gervinho…
The Ivorian had one of his better games on Saturday.  He was energetic, hard-working and covered huge areas of the pitch.  However, his decision-making, final ball and finishing will always leave a lot to be desired.  In fact, the most reliable thing about Gervinho is that I will be complaining about him after the game.  When he missed from six yards out, Lukas Podolski, who was warming up on the sidelines, held his face in his hands for a good five seconds.  Little did he know he’d trump Gervinho with an even more outrageous miss after coming on as a substitute.

Olivier Giroud needs a goal again…
The Frenchman was desperate to take the second penalty, and not at all happy about Mikel Arteta asserting his authority and taking the kick himself.  When Arteta scored, Giroud turned and trudged back to the centre-circle as the rest of the team celebrated.  It was a little stroppy, and the mark of a player who is starting to feel the pressure again after failing to score in his last five appearances.

Arsenal are now just two points off fourth spot…
…whilst Chelsea’s mini blip means we’re only five points off third.  We’re in the fortunate position of being in direct competition with teams which are as flawed as our own.  If we can get it together, Champions League qualification is still very much within our grasp.

That said, it was painful seeing RVP clinch the Manchester derby…
That’s what football ought to be about.  Those glorious moments when you pinch victory in a table-topping clash thanks to your star player.  We had a player like that.  We sold him.  Still, look at that bank balance.  Lovely.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.