Hasty Uefa in tactical retreat

Well, frankly, I wasn’t expecting that.

Platini must be hiding under his duvet in embarrassment this evening as the Uefa appeals body came to the conclusion that, when it comes to accusing someone of deception, you have to be able to prove it.

This was what they had to say about it:

Following examination of all the evidence, notably the declarations of both the referee and the referees’ assessor, as well as the various video footage, it was not established to the panel’s satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty.

So how would they have been able to prove deception? I imagine they would have needed to have been comfortable that there was no contact at all when Eduardo tumbled. In this case, that just can’t be proven.

Arsenal are happy too:

“We are grateful that the Appeals Body focused on the evidence and made the right decision in this case. We were able to show that there was contact between the goalkeeper and Eduardo and that the decision of the UEFA Disciplinary body should be annulled. We fully support the drive for fair play in football and believe it is important that UEFA provide clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced going forward. We are glad to put this incident behind us and concentrate on the games ahead.”

As is Eduardo:

“I’m very pleased that we have finally arrived at the truth. All we needed to do was to prove what happened and we have managed to do that. This decision makes me feel a lot better… All I remember of the incident is that as soon as I had possession of the ball I headed towards goal at full speed. I was very close to the Celtic keeper and felt contact on my foot and then lost my balance. I know perhaps more than anyone else that when you have contact at speed it can be dangerous. I just want to say that I’m a fair player. To score goals you must take your opportunities and I’m not the type of player who needs to be dishonest to score goals.”

Interesting stuff, because at the time, like many others, I thought Eduardo did dive. It looked that way to me. However, he is adamant he did not dive, rather that he lost his balance having felt contact. As Uefa have discovered, in this instance, given no clear evidence that he fell to the ground in order to deceive the referee and earn a penalty, he has to be taken at his word.

Perhaps the most telling thing is the admission that “I know perhaps more than anyone else that when you have contact at speed it can be dangerous.” So basically, he was trying to avoid injury. Psychologically, given the horrendous leg break in January 2008, that argument makes a lot of sense.

On top of that, as Arsenal implied, any retrospective punishment for this kind of thing needs “clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced going forward”. Most people would support that – and that was patently lacking in this instance.

Banning Eduardo would have opened a can of worms they’re not prepared to deal with, at least not at the moment.

So some football fans might moan, and many will disagree, but Uefa came to the only conclusion they could in the end.

Eduardo: Arsenal appeal, of course

So what’s going on? Well predictably, Arsenal have appealed against the Eduardo ban. And they haven’t minced their words with their response to Uefa:

The Club is in receipt of Uefa’s reasoned decision in relation to the charge against Eduardo. We strongly believe that the decision taken is deeply flawed and not based on any forensic review of the video evidence available. There are obvious errors and inconsistencies in Uefa’s judgment and we intend to appeal.

Ouch – no doubt this one will run and run, and Uefa are probably in something of a pickle now. I really enjoyed The Times’ Patrick Barclay’s piece here, in which he describes the case as “the worst case of disciplinary bungling I can remember in football”.

Elsewhere, some traction on the chanting that went on (again) over the weekend, aimed at Wenger. Highlighted by many Arsenal blogs and on Twitter, the issue is picking up weight in the mainstream media. For those who didn’t hear fellow blogger GilbertoSilver from Gunnerblog on Radio 5live this morning, you can hear him talk about it here, 47 minutes in. Well worth a listen (only available to those in the UK).

Update: I’ve just read this in the Guardian. Looks as if, following complaints from “an Arsenal supporters’ group” United will look again at ways of stopping it and are deeply embarrassed. Fair play to them for the response. And all power to whoever raised this with them.

Other things

So, what with it being the middle of the lull, I took in a few films this week. One, The Gooner Review, a no-holds-barred season review featuring interviews with what seemed like dozens of celebrity gooners, and the other a remake of the 80s movie The Firm.

The Gooner Review

OK, so we’re already diving headlong into the season, but this 08-09 season review is well worth a punt. Not just because 100% of all profits go to Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation – a good enough reason to pick it up in its own right. Mainly though, because it’s an honest and candid appraisal of the season from people who wear the Arsenal on their sleeves. The DVD is dripping with well-known gooners – it’s fronted by Paul Kaye, and features interviews with Bob Wilson, Tom Watt, Nick Hornby, David Soul, Shovell – and loads more. And despite not securing the rights to any of the footage (they tried), it’s good to see other Arsenal fans moaning about the same things we all moaned about last season and praising all the good bits too. I totally enjoyed it.

The Firm

I got to see a pre-launch screening of this, a remake of Alan Clarke’s controversial 80s film about West Ham and Millwall hooligan firms (trailer here). Given what happened last week, it’s coming out at an interesting time to say the least. As a film, it’s well shot – the soundtrack and casual clobber take me back more than a few years, but while the clothes, the cameraderie and the adrenalin are appealing (to the principle character) at first, by the end, the pointlessness of the increasing brutality is clear.

Did it take me back to my years watching the Arsenal in the 80s? Hehe – no, in a word. I did experience a few hairy moments from my North Bank vantage point, but as I recall, I spent most of the terrace-based 80s looking at the back of someone else’s head. It used to happen every bloody game – get there early, get a good spot, then 5 minutes before kick-off the tallest man in the world would squeeze in right in front. The singing was good though…

Window slams shut/Arsenal slam Uefa

In the end, it was a damp squib of a transfer deadline day, hyped to the nines but delivering nothing of interest, and nothing at all for Arsenal.

The whole absurd day, which has become a newspaper-selling website-hitting phenomenon all of its own, with Sky Sports News the very worst culprit, is summed up for me by this one entry from the Guardian’s live transfer deadline day page:

5.02pm One of the most absurdly portentous bits of TV I’ve ever seen: Sky Sports News actually counted down the end of the transfer window with the bongs from Big Ben, like it was New Year’s Eve. On the last bong a voice broke in “we’re just hearing Peter Lovenkrands has signed for Newcastle!” Incredible. History in the making.

It was a day much like the summer, during which England’s bigger clubs did little or no business. In fact, the ‘Big Four’ are £75.3m in the black. Maybe Wenger’s portentous warning about the new 50% tax rate coming in has made buying new players difficult. Or maybe, finally, football is waking up to the recession.

So where does that leave us? I’m with the Goonerholic in thinking that, compared to this time last year we are stronger. We are stronger in defence – Vermaelen, Senderos, Traore and Gibbs all essentially additions to the squad. We are stronger in midfield with Rosicky back, Arshavin here and Song a man transformed. Up front, we are about the same as last year in terms of goalscoring potential – Eduardo replacing Adebayor. Add to that a year’s worth of experience, and we are better off now.

However, whether we are strong enough is hard to say. ‘Enough’ for me is a side that can challenge for all the major honours – rather than last year, when we did pretty well in the cups (coming up short in the semis) but were out of the equation in the league by November.

There is much more competition this year, but early signs are good. So yes, we could have benefited from a bit more cover in midfield, another striker and another goalkeeper – who wouldn’t? But nobody ever came, our squad is now finalised until January, so that from me is the final word. I see no point in criticising when a) based on early-season form there is nothing currently to criticise and b) all clubs have tightened their belts. Overall, I’m more positive than I am negative.

Eduardo

No surprises perhaps that Uefa have now banned Eduardo for two matches for diving. Arsenal’s official statement is here, as angry an official response as you will ever see.

“…We have been deeply frustrated by the perfunctory and apparently arbitrary process that Uefa has followed in this instance. We believe it is imperative that Uefa’s explanation for its decision provides clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced. It is also critical that Uefa provides specific details of the processes it plans to adopt in reviewing all games under its jurisdiction.”

It’s not difficult to see why Arsenal are angry. If a player is seen to dive by a referee he gets a yellow card. However, out of the blue Uefa have now ruled that, if the same offence is not seen then it can be reviewed later and a punishment four times as strong can be given. According to Uefa, a red card (two game ban) is now as bad as a dive (two game ban). Does that make sense? I think we know the answer to that.

And will it now be rigorously enforced for all dives not seen by the referee? Who will bring them to Uefa’s attention? What is the process? Is it just in Uefa competitions or is this new rule enforceable in the Premier League?

Also, this rule was brought in in 2006. Why no punishments until now? Why is Eduardo the first?

Lots of questions to answer.