Tag Archives: Andy Madley

Tactics: the Brighton Break-down, or why Seagulls are sus…

We can’t afford to let our guard down against a side that is looking at a chance at qualifying for a European spot for the first time in its history. De Zerbi has his side playing positive, incisive football depsite being the anti-Chelsea, selling key players and replacing them astutely. Tottenham’s recent wobble can only intensify the Seagull’s hunger for climbing the table, and we’d do well to prepare for a scene out of Hitchcock rather than a cakewalk.

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So, Toon pegged us back. That's hardly a nail in the coffin.

 In the aftermath of our admittedly disappointing draw to Newcastle, some have wondered whether our apparently fragile and temporary table position has started to slip. Having missed a chance at going ten points clear, we now sit just five above City after their win at Stamford Bridge. Clearly, we should consider looking to the heavens to see if the sky is falling or, alternately, if pigs are flying. In either case, we owe it to ourselves to dig a little deeper…

It’s easier to suspect the former idiom after we’ve dropped points for the first time since 23 October and just third time all season. Is this then the first wobble that portends a deeper fall? From our point of view, it’s easy to let those old feelings of doubt creep in. After all, for as high as we’re flying, we’ve spent the last decade or dreading what felt like inevitable collapse, be it an unfortunate early goal conceded, a horror tackle,  or an epic, disastrous defeat. We’d watch as players on the pitch let their shoulders slump and chins drop. We’ve only had a few precious months to exorcise years of existential dread; it’s normal to feel murmurs of that same dread.

How to dispel them? Let’s drag out that latter idiom. Ever since we rose to the top of the table, various pundits (especially of the Mancunian variety) have held that Arsenal will win the Prem when pigs fly. However, they’re trying to have their cake and eat it while talking out of two orifices at once. On one hand, they’re touting Newcastle as a serious contender for a top-three finish at a mininum. On the other, they’re crowing about how this draw strikes a fatal wound to our own campaign. It can’t really be both. Sharing a point with a top-three rival is…normal if not preferable. If it had been, say, relegation fodder like Everton that came in and snatched a draw, that would be a different story—but that’s such a laughably unimaginable scenario that one wonders why I’d even mention it. 

The reality then is that  this result does offer some legitimacy to Newcastle’s status; but does not much away from ours. Only one club have beaten Newcastle, and that was away to Liverpool. This draw marks the sixth straight clean sheet Newcastle have kept, and they barely did so on Tuesday. Had we been just a bit sharper, especially in those first 15 minutes, or if Madley had remembered that he liked punishing shirt tugs (which he booked Nketiah and Ødegaard for in the first half), we might have come away with a comfy win. 

Newcastle played like they were Pulis-era Stoke with a bigger budget. Those are the kinds of tactics that used to intimidate and unsettle us. This squad, however, is made of sterner stuff, greater conviction, and deeper desire. For as young as they are, these players rise to challenges. Conceding a goal seems to anger them. I suspect that dropping points at home with inspire them that much more. It’s almost a pity that we have to wait almost ten days to properly show how we react to setback.

As a last note, this post originally appeared at the prestigious blog SheWoreAYellowRibbon. It was an honour to be published there. If you haven’t already been, give them a visit.

Bookings and hand-balls and shirt-tugs, oh my!

Well, that was anticlimactic. What was billed as a titanic clash between heavyweight contenders for the Prem title fizzled into a dour draw. Fair play to Newcastle, though. All they had to do as the visiting underdog was not lose, and not lose is what they did. Despite our keeping a mammoth 63% possession and creating any number of gilt-edged chances, we couldn’t penetrate this immovable object. In that sense, Newcastle came away the victors if not actually victorious, the draw doing more to validate their ascension than it did to coronate our campaign. Still, at the risk of sucking on some sour grapes, I have some griping to do, and griping is perhaps what I do best. Let’s get to it.

In the pre-match, I toyed with the idea that Saliba and Saka should try to get not just one but two yellow cards in order to serve a one-match suspension against Oxford United the FA Cup. Having been served four yellows already, a fifth would have seen them serve a suspension against Tottenham because the new rules state that yellow-card suspensions only apply to the competitions in which they’re earned. Thankfully, neither one saw yellow despite Madley showing us that particular card four times. It was a tetchy match, with tackles and fouls flying fast and furious, enough to make one wonder whether a more-experienced referee might have been better-suited to the situation.

In a match in which Nketiah was cautioned for this delicate toe-touch and grasp but this clattering wasn’t, one does have to wonder just what Madley was up to. In an ideal world, the referee is an objective arbiter whose decisions don’t affect the outcome of the match. 

Arteta, who to this point has been diplomatic in extremis, said that “there were two scandalous penalties”. The second was far milder than the first, and, occurring as it did in stoppage time, was far less likely to get called. In it, Xhaka drives into the box and tries to cross only to see the ball strike Jacob Murphy’s outstretched arm. Truth be told, it would have taken some courage for Madley to have awarded the penalty. That’s a game-changer, and Murphy’s arm was not in an unnatural position, outstretched though it may have been.

The real travesty occured a half-hour earlier during a set-piece that saw Dan Burns pull Gabriel Magalhães’s jersey hard enough to turn it a full 180 degrees, enough to maybe even cause Gabi to go to ground to attract Madley’s attention. Having already booked Ødegaard and Nketiah for much-milder shirt-tugs, one might have expected Madley to point to the spot. Alas, it was not to be. Ignoring the borderline handball in stoppage time is one thing; a referee doesn’t want to make such a marginal call at such a consequential moment. However, this uncalled foul happened with a more than 30 minutes to play, plenty of time for the call to submerge into the larger flow of the match and for Newcastle to fight back. It was the more-blatant foul, and Madley should have awarded it. He didn’t it.

One of the hallmarks of this squad’s progress under Arteta has been its ability to take referees and even opponents out of matches by scoring first and refusing to concede silly goals. Time and time again, under Emery and under Wenger, we were undone by those frailties. In this match, as important and as symbolic as it was, we really had to continue that trend by scoring early. We didn’t. We had chances, but we couldn’t find the back of the net. As a result, against a squad making a name for itself by keeping clean sheets, we forfeited our fate to an overmatched, inconsistent referee, and we’ll have to weather the consequences. It’s not Madley’s fault we had to share a point with Newcastle. It might have been nice for him to have awarded us a penalty on Burns’s attempt at undressing Magalhães, but one lesson we have to keep studying is the fact that we can’t count on the referees to give us the benefit of the doubt.

In the end, we did take the match to our visitors and came agonisingly close to piercing their defenses. Even if the result is less than satisfying, we at least emerge unscathed, no worse for wear, and still eight points clear atop the table. If we can get through other, similarly vital fixtures in this fashion, we’ll be just fine. It’s not as gratifying as getting all three points, but it might still be just enough. We shall see…

Arsenal 0-0 Newcastle: highlights as they happen!

Okay, so not as they happen but as I find them . I’ll link to replays of key moments from today’s match as quickly and as frequently as I can.

We’ve looked very bright and positive throughout most of the first match here, creating lots of chances. We just need a better final touch…
Madley is struggling to control this match. 
Halftime. Sorry to say that I’ll have to stop updating this post due to some family stuff. COYG!

Should Saka or Saliba get a fifth yellow today? Yes and no…

With both William Saliba and Bukayo Saka each having received four yellow cards (and not a single player has been booked for fouling Saka), it might be tempting for them to get just a bit Machiavellian and earn that fifth booking today for something innocuous like time-wasting. No need to provoke a straight red with anything reckless. After all, a fifth yellow card before matchday 19 would result in a one-match suspension, to be served in our next competitive match: the FA Cup fourth round against League One Oxford United, against whom they’d be unlikely to play anyway…right? Doing so would also have the added benefit of clearing the deck ahead of the NLD, allowing them to release the handbrake in a vital clash. Not so fast.

Under the FA’s new rules, yellow-card suspensions only apply to the competition in which they’re earned. They don’t accumulate across all three competitions anymore. If either of our lads picks up that fifth yellow card against Newcastle, they’ll serve that one-match suspension not against Oxford but against Tottenham. This is hardly ideal, even if it feels like Tottenham are staggering right now. We might have enough cover at CB if Saliba were to get suspended, but we can’t really say the same at right wing. Even if Smith-Rowe is back in training, he may not be fully fit to face Tottenham. 

Long story short, lads: avoid yellow cards at all costs.

But wait. There’s a twist. It turns out that getting a second yellow card changes things. If the player gets a second yellow, that red-card suspension is served in the next competitive match…in this case, against Oxford United. What’s more, the player remains on four yellow cards. In other words, should referee Andy Madley do to us what he’s done to us in previous matches (he’s given us seven yellow cards in the only two matches he’s supervised) and give Saka or Saliba that first yellow card, they should play on until the 89th minute and make sure to take a really, really long time with their next throw-in. Of course, there’s always the risk that Madley will know what they’re up. We have to play our cards carefully to ensure that he shows his.

Sorry for the short post, but I do believe we have a match to play, and I don’t want to belabour the point. In an ideal world, we don’t have to worry about these machinations. Let’s get ready to watch some footy!