Arsenal was robbed of two points at West Brom on Sunday by a controversial penalty call from referee Mike Dean.
The Gunners had to settle for a 1-1 draw after Dean awarded the Baggies an 88th-minute penalty for a handball. The decision wasn’t even debatable. It was simply incorrect.
never a handball. Dean's had a mare. what's Chambers supposed to do with his arm??
Mourinho will see this and have a long laugh (or cry.) pic.twitter.com/6TMfE8vLuX
— amadí (@amadoit__) December 31, 2017
Kieran Gibbs’ cross struck Calum Chambers in the arm. But the handball was not deliberate. There was nothing Chambers could have done to prevent it. His arm wasn’t in an unnatural position. The ball, had it not hit his arm, would have hit his stomach.
Arsenal players surrounded Dean at the final whistle. They, and Arsene Wenger, were incensed, and rightly so. Petr Cech in particular was furious, and was booked in the aftermath.
“We have meetings with the referees prior to the season, and every time, it comes to this point,” Cech told Sky Sports after the match. “The player is too close to the ball. He has no chance to react. That will never be a penalty.
“And now the referee gives this with two minutes to go. I asked him why he changed his opinion, when every time we have this meeting, it is clear that they are saying this is not a pen.”
Wenger ranted about the professionalism of referees in general, a point he has made before. He argued that more consistent work would improve the overall standard of refereeing in the Premier League. He, of course, also disagreed with the call.
Arsenal perhaps hadn’t done enough to deserve three points, but had gone ahead seven minutes before Jay Rodriguez converted from the penalty spot.
Alexis Sanchez won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, and sent it right into the West Brom wall. But the wall opened up, and Sanchez’s shot deflected off James McClean and into the net. Had it not touched McClean, it would have gone wide of the post.
It will go down as an own goal, and maybe that’s fitting, because Arsenal, for much of the 90 minutes, looked incapable of breaking the deadlock on its own.
There was something distressing about watching Sanchez buzz around the Hawthorns. Amid reports of frictions between the Chilean and his teammates, and assumptions that he could soon be on his way out of North London, he seemed to feel as if he had to beat West Brom on his own. When he wanted the ball and his fellow attackers didn’t oblige, he would swing his arms in frustration – the exact type of gestures that have reportedly infuriated senior Arsenal players.
But eventually Sanchez did do it on his own – or at least without the help of another Arsenal player. For several minutes, all was well. Arsenal’s celebrations were noticeably enthusiastic. Fans raised a fuss when several Gunners hadn’t celebrated with Sanchez on Thursday at Crystal Palace. There was nothing eyebrow-raising this time around.
But the celebrations were cut short by Dean’s terrible decision. Sanchez’s performance, and even Arsenal’s lack of creative ideas without the injured Mesut Ozil, were overshadowed by it. The Gunners should have jumped into fifth place, within one point of Liverpool in fourth. Thanks to Dean, they didn’t.
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