Now Norwich City must use sense of injustice
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In nearly 50 years of going to football matches I can't remember coming away feeling as angry as I did on Saturday, having seen one man make five game-changing errors in the space of as many minutes, every one of them in favour of the home side.
Take a bow Richard West, clearly dissatisfied with a supporting role and determined to take centre stage with the penalty decision that visibly knocked the stuffing out of City. Just as at Sunderland an inexperienced assistant referee responded to the reaction of a vociferous section of the crowd behind him to give a highly contentious spot-kick.
That this stemmed from an incorrect award of a corner by West was bad enough, but his subsequent failure to respond to shirt pulling by Olivier Giroud as he forced in Arsenal's second was inexcusable. Add to that his failure to flag for either a clear foul by Giroud and an offside against Theo Walcott in the build-up to the third and his chances of being the next face of Specsavers had gone through the roof.
I have no problem with human error, but I do struggle with someone who can claim to see a marginal shirt pull at 40 yards (but misses an identical incident) yet fails to spot a foul and an offside occurring 30 yards closer. No one expects officials to be 100pc perfect but we have a right to at least expect basic competence.
A cursory glance at Mr West's refereeing record in the Conference last season shows someone with an obsession with cards that would shame the average Mississippi gambler. In one spell he managed to issue five reds in just seven games. He appears to like to get himself noticed, and he certainly achieved that on Saturday.
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In any normal occupation the sort of glaring inadequacy that he displayed would lead to the dole queue, but no doubt Mr West will be gracing another Premier League ground soon enough.
City are having no luck whatsoever with officials at the moment, with Newcastle having a perfectly good equaliser ruled out by another assistant referee's blunder to help Sunderland close the gap on Sunday. Even the Youth team aren't immune, as they had to put up with Stuart Atwell, the Justin Bieber of referees, for the second leg of their semi-final. Predictably he produced the sort of bizarre, self-obsessed performance that saw him dumped from the elite referee's panel, but even he couldn't prevent a magnificent victory by the youngsters.
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Returning to the seniors, the reality is that matters are still in City's hands and the magnificent effort at The Emirates, along with the simmering sense of injustice, should be tools that can be put to good use.
In fact City came within minutes of producing the perfect away performance, first absorbing Arsenal's inevitable pressure and then starting to produce their own threat on the counter. Even when Arsene Wenger sent on three more internationals from the bench it seemed that City were coping well until Mr West's unfortunate interventions.
Losing is bad enough, but losing having been seven minutes from a famous victory, and in such circumstances, is truly heartbreaking, and it was a very downhearted Yellow Army that trudged away into the north London rain. However, feeling sorry for ourselves will get us nowhere. Last week is gone and we have to look forward. Victory against Reading tomorrow would lift the atmosphere and provide a springboard for the rest of the season.
This is a time when everyone needs to unite behind the team. Any reservations about Chris Hughton, tactics, team selection or the choice of pies will hopefully be left outside the ground tomorrow.
We are all in this together and we can all play a part.