Gary Neville confirms that Prem refs targeted Arteta with new rules…


Mikel Arteta, as we know, is known for his touchline theatrics, whether it’s clapping or shouting to his own players or demanding that referees apply the rules. Ironically (or hypocritically, depending on your point of view), he was booked after just fifteen minutes for insisting that Rodri be booked after dragging Havertz to the ground and breaking up what looked like a decent counter-attack. Havertz might have laid the ball off to the onrushing Rice, who had acres of space in front of him. Alas and alack.

Ødegaard and Saka had just won the ball went upfield. Saka passed to Havertz inside the centre-circle. Rodri pulled Havertz to the ground just a few feet from Attwell, who did see fit to call the foul but didn’t say anything to Rodri. Arteta took several brisk, running steps inside the technical area and gestured for a yellow card. To be fair, it appeared that he stepped out of the area but wasn’t aggressive. Nonetheless, Attwell took issue with Arteta’s reaction and booked him. Arteta stood there, hands in his pockets, and chuckled.

Speaking after the match, Gary Neville said that he was told that “Arteta was a big reason that [thew new rule] was brought in for his last season’s behaviour”. It seems a bit of a half-baked conspiracy, but the puzzle pieces fit without the need for a hammer to tap the innies into the outies. Just fifteen minutes into a preseason kickabout, Arteta’s been booked under the new rules against leaving the technical area or showing aggressive behaviour to the referees. Of course, this is Gary Neville we’re talking about, so it’s beset to keep grains of salt at the ready. He’s been known to be both sceptical and, well, salty regarding Arteta’s success. After all, it’s not everyone who can show some semblance of success in their first managerial role, is it Gary?

There was not much in what Arteta said or did that seemed excessive, unless you already have an anti-Arteta agenda. Attwell had other choices at his disposal. He could have walked over to Arteta, firmly reminded him of the new rules, and left it at that. If we’re to take Neville at his word (always a risky proposition, but bear with me…), Prem officials may have singled Arteta out as a bête noire of sorts, and not just for his attire. How much of that quick yellow card reflects Arteta’s reputation from previous seasons and how much of that reflects what Arteta did during the Community Shield? To be booked for his reputation would carry a certain ex post facto feeling.

Attwell did seem eager to book our players. He whistled them for six fouls and issued three yellow cards. Partey, Gabriel, and Havertz were each booked for the only fouls they committed. Meanwhile, he whistled City players for 11 fouls and issued zero yellow cards. Rodri was whistled for just three fouls but got away with perhaps a half-dozen others and was never so much as verbally admonished, much less booked, and if we want to talk about sanctioning people for past behaviour & reputation, well, we may be currently discussing public enemy number one.

In the end, though, justice of a sort prevailed when Ramsdale saved Rodri’s penalty to help us win the Community Shield. I’m just surprised that Attwell didn’t seize the moment to book Ramsdale or send Arteta off for excessive celebration.

It’s easy to feel like there’s a conspiracy when Arteta’s the only manager to have been booked so far. Then again, there’s just been the one match. Time will tell whether we’ll see Guardiola, Klopp, De Zerbi or other managers booked for their own histrionics. If past behaviour is any precedent, we’ll see Prem referees apply the new rules with the same even-handed consistency and objectivity with which they’ve always applied the old ones.

Somehow, I’m not reassured.

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13 thoughts on “Gary Neville confirms that Prem refs targeted Arteta with new rules…

  1. Kelechi

    When Klopp & Guardiola do it, they’re praised for their passion and intensity. We’ll see if refs will hold them accountable anyway.

    Are managers held to the same rules as players, so five yellows is a one-match ban?

  2. A Simple Truth

    for the love of God don’t lean any further into an already long-standing nonsensical conspiratorial narrative…Arteta has been a touchline shit show for the past couple of seasons, so it likely made sense to target him prior to the start of the season…in the long run, it should help us, as it will undoubtedly curtail his sideline nonsense

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Hey, I thought I did a decent job at mocking the conspiratorial mindset. Attwell isn’t a very good ref, but I doubt that he harbours any serious anti-Arsenal bias. The match commentators were similarly bemused at his apparent eagerness to book Arteta and reluctance to book City’s players. In the end, it’s a slow news day, and I came across Neville’s comments and decided to make a meal of them.

      1. A Simple Truth

        if you look at it objectively the ref should have booked both Ode and Rodri in the first half, as the letter got away with a second cynical shirt tug in the 2nd half…other than that it was a fairly balanced outing, considering that our early fouls came when we were chasing shadows, which usually leads to some cynical and bookable offences…I don’t think you got too carried away, I just worry whenever this particular narrative crops up

    2. Eoin ó Conchobhair

      you’ve been popping up nough to know by now that Jon likes to start with a wind-up in the title or first paragraph before he returns to something more reasonable. Whatever Neville said is probably his usual bollocks, showing that he’s someone privy to some ITK intel. For all we know he only said what he said about the new touchline rules because Arteta got booked. how’s that for ex post facto?

      1. A Simple Truth

        well-aware of Jon’s literary MO and I did read the full article…my preeminent concern was the whole slippery slope tin foil hat conspiracy nonsense that generally follows these types of discussions, regardless of the author’s tone

  3. Palladio43

    While there is a faint possibility that pointing out to officials that they have missed certain fouls or transgressions, especially if on a serial basis by a player, may sensitize the officials to watch a bit more closely, it often just annoys them or alienates them. It is probably more effective, especially in baseball and basketball, in riling or rousing the fans resulting in a possible spark in the team, but probably just in even more abuse hurled at the officials. With the advent of instant replay and VAR, the claims of blind officials and missed calls has declined even though the tech, happily, is not yet used for every ball and strike or foul.
    Arteta may feel that the histrionics have some effect on getting officials to look more carefully at the opposing players, but I suspect it has no effect on rallying his side who, much like the officials, may be weary of his acts and tune him out rather than respond as he might wish.
    Baseball managers get tossed after ranting and raving out on the field and, usually, for swearing, spitting,and throwing dirt. Allegedly, they are trying to show their players that they are backing them even if they know it is a futile exercise and the calls will not be reversed. Arteta, fortunately, avoids a red card for a blatant transgression, in most instances, but what does he accomplish. Admittedly some of his peers also wave their arms and scream, but do they do as much as he does? What about those that sit placidly or just spend time trying to unzip their coat?
    Getting carded in a “friendly” where the player’s yellow cards are not even counted going forward (what about MA’s card), seems a cheap warning that some behavior may be excessive, if only because the officials, even those we learned to despise or accused of blatant bias, something Jon has been wont to do, are human beings and not bots, with feelings and expect some respect, let alone want to go about with their jobs.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      You raise some fair points. Arteta himself should have learned some lessons from when he whipped Anfield into a furor with his antics, contributing to a calamitous result.

      I doubt however that the players weary of it. Whether it inspires them is another question none of us can answer with any real insight.

      Its impact on the referees is similarly difficult to discern. Is Arteta really made an example of as Neville seems to say? Was he the only manager mentioned to Neville? Again, we’ll probably never know. The proof will be in the pudding; if we see other managers get booked, I’ll stand corrected.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Thanks for popping in, Hjorvar – I might be exaggerating here or there, but we’ll have to see how these new rules are applied. I don’t think there’s an actual agenda against Arteta, in the end. He will have to be more careful, that’s for sure.

  4. reg

    Arteta misjudged badly against Liverpool at Anfield two seasons ago when he riled the wrong side.
    I did think Attwell showed a bias with his yellow cards to Arsenal. Usually if it’s a non violent discretion the referee will have a word with the player for the first offence especially in the first half and more so if it is a “friendly” match.
    However I agree With Guardiola that it should be renamed a super cup in line with similar matches overseas. It is really not a friendly as both teams want to win and don’t experiment with their teams by the time it is played.


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