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This afternoon we lost a strangely subdued game against quite possibly the best side in the world on current form.

I wanted to start with that piece of perspective before digging a bit further into what happened and what we might make of it. Indeed, before the game there were many fans who would have been happy to take a single goal loss, so I hope we don’t get too disheartened by the result.

I actually thought it was possible we might nick something today and so to lose by a single goal, especially given the way we conceded it, is frustrating. But not really a surprise.

Before kick-off the team was hard to guess. As it turned out ESR was dropped to the bench and Pépé started on the left. Elneny came in for Ceballos whilst Tierney, Holding and Marí all started in defence.

The biggest incident of the game came only two minutes in. After a bright start City’s excellent Ruben Diaz switched the ball out wide to Mahrez on our left. Perhaps Tierney could have got closer to block the cross but if you get too close to Mahrez he has a tendency to slip past you. As it was, only Sterling and Bernardo Silva were in the middle, with our two centre-backs and Bellerin covering them. I’d be happy for Mahrez to cross that ball 99 times in 100. Today, however, was the hundredth time.

From that point on we have to look at Rob Holding because the defending is just diabolical. He is in a good position. He has a look to see where Sterling is. And then he just lets the little inside forward drift into space behind him and jump unchallenged to score what turns out to be the winner. Holding is a hard-working player who has been quietly efficient this season, so I don’t want to go to town on him but this is just awful, awful defending. If Sterling had outpaced him after getting in behind him then fine, no-one is going to complain that Rob isn’t the quickest player. But this goal is infuriating because week after week we have seen Holding make a series of fantastic headed clearances. He is good in the air and should beat Sterling without even needing to jump. It is a poor mistake and not the first time recently he has failed to mark his man in the box. He must improve because this should be bread and butter to him. (No Jon Moss, go away. I am not giving you any bread and butter.)

Alright, we’ve all seen it. Enough said. We will have to draw a line under it and Rob will have to make sure he is ready when next called upon. It is, however, worth noting that in the 88 minutes that followed City were poor by their own standards yet their centre-backs were excellent and never switched off. That is how you win things.

The rest of the match was a bit strange really. At first, they looked like they might score a hatful. We looked ragged. A lot of tired performers. However, the team in the ridiculous away shirt didn’t convert their superiority into clear chances, let alone goals, and by the half hour mark we had begun to emerge on top in a low quality game. Leno had barely been troubled. Marí was on his way to a solid game defensively, with a few wayward passes thrown in, but he would have expected a tougher test against this attack.

Saka alternated between looking shattered and well up for it. A couple of times his final ball or shot was not quite there. It was similar for Tierney, who got forward into some great positions without making the most of them. He looked increasingly despairing of his chances of getting back into position, still lacking in match fitness. Saka tracked bravely back for the Scot whose legs were not as willing as his heart.

We did not create much although it was good to see us stop the onslaught and play our way back into contention. I am sure the boss was positive of our chances at half-time. City did not put us to the sword and right until the last whistle a single goal in it meant we had something to play for.

Auba had a poor game. He could not hold the ball up. He never has done and he won’t start now. He was on the edge of things and when he did touch the ball he was off the pace. To be fair we didn’t give him much to feed off in the penalty area. Ødegaard was decent in the first half and he occupied a lot of spaces without receiving the ball. I think in a few games time his team-mates will be more used to his movement and will do a better job of finding him. However, the Norwegian faded in the second half and was hooked on 74 minutes for Laca, at the same time as Pepe came off for ESR. Both were sensible subs although they could have been made earlier and ultimately failed to inject the pace that might have got us something from the game. The direct, relentless presence of Gabi Martinelli might have been a good call too, but we will never know.

We need to have a word about Pépé. He was quiet today. No worse than anyone else and he did at least try to shoot but he did not have a big influence on proceedings. Now, from my armchair it looks like Arteta has got this one all wrong. We know Pépé is a confidence player who needs to play himself into form. The Boss has an almost perverse penchant for taking him out of the team when his confidence is highest and holding him back until he has lost all momentum before starting him in a big game. The flipside of his refusal to use Pépé in the last couple of games despite him looking increasingly effective is that now Bukayo Saka is knackered. The gaffer knows a lot more than me but I am struggling to see the sense in this one. I hope those who are not convinced by Pépé spare a thought for whether the manager is handling him in a way to get the best from him. And as for Saka- that boy needs a rest!

Just to mix it up I thought I’d wait until we were into the meat of the piece before talking about our midfield. It is the same issue with The Axis Of Average that it always is. Xhakneny do not move the ball forwards enough. Or quickly enough. And this is still true despite an upturn in Xhaka’s performances which I would be churlish not to mention. He had a decent enough game. But we are not going to beat City with that pair in midfield and perhaps we were lucky that our opponents were not really at the races today. Nothing more to add. They are what they are and we have all seen enough of them to know it.

Now, on to Jon Moss. He is not my favourite chap. Out of all the chaps and chapesses in the world it is indeed safe to say that he is not top of my list. Watching him puff about like a steam train as the electricity powered high-speed shuttles that are professional footballers whizz past him is never fun at the best of times (even Xhaka out-paced him with relative ease). However, it is the games like today, where he incorporates his own brand of low-level incompetence, without making any glaring errors, that just really do my head in. Speaking of which, he did in fact make one egregious error, waving play on when Rob (who had a solid game after the opening twenty minutes) had his head whacked very hard by Cancelo’s knee. Apparently, the importance of stopping play for head injuries is not something Moss has understood so we waited until City had missed a chance after playing through the space our defender would have been in if he hadn’t been lying dazed on the floor before the ref decided he might need treatment.

I’ve written that jokily but on a serious note he should be reprimanded, or more likely taken aside for a quiet word, after that mistake. That Holding failed the concussion test and was subsequently replaced by David Luiz in a concussion substitution does not look good on Mr. Moss. These injuries must be taken seriously. The referees are instructed to do so. And he failed to follow that instruction, delaying treatment to someone with a concussion. Breaks in the game are a pain, especially as some players are now (rather despicably) grabbing their heads to get play stopped despite not being significantly injured. Yet this is an area where we must be safe not sorry, and the rules must be followed.

In his pessimistic and patronising commentary for Sky Gary Neville did make an apt analogy in comparing City to Floyd Mayweather for the way they got ahead and kept us at arm’s length, safe in their superiority. The new buzz-word is ‘game-state’ and I think City might have raised their levels more if they hadn’t scored so early. But with the game state as it was (we used to just say ‘cos they were winning) they let us play in front of them but were fairly comfortable throughout. Another day it might have backfired but we just didn’t have enough juice in the tank.

Overall, look, I can’t get too exercised about this one. How about you? I’ll look forward to hearing from everyone in The Drinks (comments) at the bottom of the page how you all saw it. See you there!

As ever, have a good one ‘holics.

60 Drinks to “Just When You Think You Are Holding A Salmon… Sterling Leaps Over Your Head!”

  1. 1
    Steve T says:

    First again????

    Everyone must still be on WhatsApp????

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    An excellent report of a very Meh game GSD. That was a Dennis Suarez of a game almost instantly forgettable . Nothing really good happened as far as we were concerned , nobody played really well and Auba played very badly. But everyone tried and given we had a tough game in Rome on Thursday night it was far from a disaster
    The only disaster was Moss . I feel we should all express our disapproval of his handling of the concussion to the Premier League . There’s being a tosser and being a dangerous tosser. He is the latter

  3. 3
    Bathgooner says:

    An extremely swift and excellent report GSD summarising nicely a rather drab affair.

    There were interestingly variable views in the previous drinks during and after the match which was a somewhat disappointing measure of our deficiencies when competing with a team created using the Treasury of a Fascist oil state.

    I have to agree with Steve T and indeed elsewhere I myself observed that it seemed to be ‘men against boys’ in the first 35 minutes. In most of the first half it looked like a training exercise for the Shitteh forwards and they could easily have been three up. To our credit we rallied and responded in the final ten minutes of that half, finally looking as if we wanted to compete in the game though we really can’t claim we deserved an equaliser in that period.

    In the second half we improved generally but huffed and puffed and really didn’t look likely to score an equaliser. It looked to me as if Shitteh had decided to see the game out with minimal exertion but could have raised their game and put more effort into getting another goal if they had needed to do so.

    I completely agree with your assessments of individual players. In this game Auba showed how little he offers when leading the line in this type of game. If the ball doesn’t stick up front you simply can’t relieve the pressure on your defence. He has many qualities but he was in John Stones’ pocket all game. I too thought the changes came too late but I’m not sure that it would have made much difference.

    On to Athens! Get it right, lads.

  4. 4
    Steve T says:

    Cheers for your efforts Dino. Good stuff.

    A game that we were never really in if the truth to be told. I think you are spot on when you say how good they are at the moment. But Alex Scott was spot on for me when she said that Citeh did not get out of third gear. I didn’t see a single moment in that game when we looked like scoring.

    Their goal was a defensive shambles, as you say. A lot has been made of how high Sterling got off the ground? I think we should focus on the fact that not one of three defenders left the ground. Very poor. I also like Holding. I think as a player he is limited at times. However, he is probably the most improved player in the squad. He was certainly head and shoulders above Mari today. Apart from the goal, he had a decent game.

    I personally think that a midfield of Elneny and Xhaka is woeful. Elneny is a good, honest, hard working pro. He’s just not good enough. Xhaka looks average when he has a quality player (Partey) next to him. Otherwise, he just reverts to type. Both need to be sold in the summer for me. I didn’t see an ounce of creativity in either.

    It’s a bit difficult to judge PEA. He’s definitely struggling but if you get no service then the guess his job becomes even more tough?

    The other positive today was of course Saka. I look at how lacklustre and ineffective Pépé was/is, and then compare him with Saka. The difference at times is immeasurable. He’s had his moments but it’s games like today that just emphasise for me that he’s not good enough at this level.

    As I said, nice write up GSD, but the fact you’ve decided to dedicate two lengthy paragraphs to the official is somewhat bizarre to me. Especially as you say, he made no glaring errors? I know that you have little in the way of positivity for any premier league officials. They are your views and you’re more than entitled to them. However, from looking at the Holding incident, has he actually confirmed that he knew it was a head injury? I don’t actually know the answer to that. I like the idea of the concussion replacements. It makes perfect sense to me. With knowledge of the head injury, he may well have stopped the game? Who knows? Nice to hear Arteta confirm that he was absolutely fine at the end of the game

    All of that said, it was quite nostalgic. I almost miss the days of the officials constantly being corrupt and totally at fault for us losing games, 48 hours before we have kicked off?

    Onwards and upwards. Time to focus on a ridiculous trip to Greece for a home game, and then a really tricky run of games in the league.

    Keep the faith.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    Maybe I don’t watch enough of the German league to make an informed comparison of German and English referees but from what I have seen the Germans are far superior.

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    At any rate I enjoyed your report GSD on a rather odd and disjointed match that we never felt like winning if we didn’t take a beating by the league’s best either.

  7. 7
    North Bank Ned says:

    Swift, sharp and to the point, GSD, which is more than can be said for either of the two sides today.

    I seem to be the odd one out in believing that City did not get out of third gear because they couldn’t be bothered as they were leading for all but two minutes of the game, but because tactically we stifled them, albeit at the cost of having to play a counterattacking game that we never got going — although. that said, lots of commentators are praising City’s central defenders, which suggests they had more to do than it appeared.

  8. 8
    scruzgooner says:

    well in, per usual, dino. not much else to say. we are not able to compete against the best in europe, clearly. yet we could have done what has been done to us over all these years, and nick a draw at the end, which would have been glossy as hell.

    onwards, gooners.

  9. 9
    Osakamatt says:

    We’ll have to be the odd couple Ned
    as that’s largely what I thought too.
    We made an error, they scored. They
    didn’t make any obvious errors and we
    didn’t score. Not a great game to watch
    and one we didn’t really learn anything
    new from so we’ll have to suck it up
    and move on.

  10. 10
    Osakamatt says:

    Excellent report and very quick
    Wouldn’t argue with any of that
    and also glad to hear afterwards
    that Rob is fine. Moss was indeed
    useless but I tend not to blame
    him really as he has been useless
    for years – who keeps employing
    him as a top level match official?
    Yep, it’s those fuckers who are
    responsible for the generally low
    standard of refereeing we have to
    put up with week in, week out.
    Steve T makes a good point about
    there being less allegations of corruption
    etc these days – have we simply become
    numbed by the incompetence?

  11. 11
    Osakamatt says:

    AMN getting game time at CM
    for West Brom – did ok in the
    game I saw bits of this weekend.
    Didn’t see Joe W.
    Was just thinking about them as
    I pondered selling both Xhaka and
    Elneny this summer.

  12. 12
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers all.

    I’d just like to clarify what Mikel Arteta said about Rob after the game. He said
    “He’s fine, it will take him a few days probably [to recover] but he seems ok.”

    So he is fine compared to, say, Raul Jimenez, who is still not recovered from the head injury he sustained against us earlier in the season. But not necessarily fine compared to someone who hasn’t failed a concussion test in the last hour and may take a few days to recover.

    He has not, apparently, received a significant long term injury. But personally I would not call his state at the end of the game ‘absolutely fine’, and neither did Arteta.

  13. 13
    BtM says:

    Great summary. I had expected to see City dominate possession. I had not expected to see Rob Holding gift them a goal inside three minutes.

    In a season of close margins, with the exceptions of L’pool away and Villa at home, yesterday was the only league game in which I’d agree that we didn’t make enough chances to win but for poor finishing (and for stupid red cards/penalties).

    I will feel more sympathetic for Pepe when I see him control the ball first time (at least 90% of the time), take up better positions to receive the ball, and pass ahead of players moving forward rather than behind them. There was one point yesterday when he stood and watched Hector run past him with the ball rather than moving up his wing. Had Willian played as poorly, the twatter chorus would have reached peak crescendo.

  14. 14
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    We’ve disagreed about referees for years so I doubt either one of us will change our minds now…

    On this specific point I think it is well worth talking about the referee in light of his failure to implement a new protocol which has been specifically brought in to improve player safety. There is no point having concussion protocols if people don’t care when they are ignored. If you think Jon Moss has too hard a job to assess Holding’s injury and follow the game fully in the event that he has not sustained a head injury then perhaps we might consider a system whereby someone on the sideline assesses that and informs the ref in his earpiece? Or, like rugby, where medics can come onto the pitch while play continues? I wonder if any of the referees have asked for help with this? Or said that they are uncomfortable taking this task on? Once they accept this responsibility it is up to them to discharge it. Player safety comes first.

    As to the general point. Well, if we had a player who was a 4 out of 10 every week I’d be pretty miffed if we were never supposed to mention him unless he gave away a penalty or got a red card. That is what Jon Moss is like. As Matt alludes to @10, I cannot get my head around an attitude which says “he was no shitter than usual, so why mention him?”

    And it is important I point out how crap he is when it doesn’t affect games as any mention of how crap he is when he does affect games gets labelled as making excuses. By that logic we should cease from commenting on the referees and just make them accountable only to themselves. Oh, wait..

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    The exchange about referees is an important one . Steve has a background in rugby where respect for the referee is much greater and in my view the TMO system works much better and more transparently than it does in football
    Despite Moss being a lardy and his previous poor performances nothing he did yesterday affected the outcome of the game . We were beaten by a better side . Moss refereed our Cup Final against Villa and in my view favoured us significantly in his decisions . He denied them two penalties , one of which – Bellerin on Grealish was stonewall. But that aside GSD’s point is very important.
    The concussion protocol was brought in to provide protection and immediate treatment for potentially seriously injured players . When Holding went down the referee needed to assess if Holding was potentially concussed . That was his first consideration not to let City build an attack through the channel the prone Holding occupied . I have spent a lot of my career considering negligence and it is a term bandied about far too lightly. But that was negligence yesterday . If Rob had swallowed his tongue he could have died . So I do feel there needs to be censure for Moss, if only to underline what an important part of the referee’s job this is

  16. 16
    BtM says:

    @11 OM, I watch WBA play over the weekend only to see how well AMN played. He was their best player on the day imo but their overall standard is low, the bar isn’t high and both Xhaka and Elneny might have been expected to ‘shine’ too. Fatso has him playing left side of midfield, I wonder if he’d prefer right?

    It looks like he’ll play every game until the end of the season giving MA8 and other suitors every opportunity to assess his merits. I’d love him to make it at Arsenal but I’m not convinced that he will.

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks for a lively report GSD. You’ve done a great job there. Especially as the game was very dull. I’m probably of the view that we did what we had to to draw their sting, but their DMs were good enough to stop us counterattacking.

    On the concussion based protocols, there was an even more egregious example in the West Ham/Spurs game . Soucek went down in the area with blood streaming from his face, yet the ref (Craig Pawson) allowed play to go on and Kane was able to get a shot away. Wonder what would have happened if the shot had gone in? Soucek had to have stitches in the cut and was off the field for seven minutes. I was wincing every time he headed the ball.

    Thursday’s game in Greece is critical because our season is essentially over if we don’t go through. It’s why I wouldn’t have played Saka, our most potent attacking player, but one showing signs of weariness, yesterday. My learned and prehistoric friend, the author of the piece above, disagrees and says we’ll stuff them anyway (and bless him for his optimism). Maybe so, maybe not. I sincerely hope he’s right and I’m wrong. Time will tell.

  18. 18
    Steve T says:

    “On this specific point I think it is well worth talking about the referee in light of his failure to implement a new protocol which has been specifically brought in to improve player safety.”

    Excellent point GSD. Couldn’t agree more. I also agree that player safety should be paramount. Even more so with head injuries.

    So, if you’re going to talk about his failure to implement the rules, surely you should ask him why he didn’t stop the game before jumping to conclusions? Personally I’m not a big fan of just relying on assumptions to make a judgement about someone. I would consider it both pertinent and a courtesy to at least ask the question first before making a judgement call? Let’s be honest here, there are many contributors here that have more than shared their opinion of Moss on other forums. Some views are incredibly abusive as you will more than know. So, with those opinions firmly ingrained is it easy to form any kind of objective view? Not for me to judge thankfully.

    I watched MOTD last night with interest to try and see what had actually happened. Just out of curiosity. Having watched the incident again I’m not convinced that Moss knew Holding had a head injury. He watches the incident and almost immediately waves play on. I take it from this decision that his initial thoughts were to give a free kick to City for a foul. Holding bringing the player down. His attention is then immediately drawn to the ball and the play in front of him. People may agree, they may disagree. But I’m certainly not going to judge someone for making a decision without having the decency to at least ask questions first. If he knew it was a head injury and just played on then disciplinary action should follow. All of that said, if a player receives a head injury that could have the potential of being serious then I have no issues with medical staff rushing on immediately.

    Over the years there has been all sorts of abuse and completely unfounded allegations directed towards officials. But the simple fact is, the game doesn’t go ahead without them. So, how do we improve the standard? Unlike bt8, I’ve never watched a single game of German football so can’t really comment on the standards of their officials. I would love to hear constructive comments from people here on how we improve the standards of officials, rather than just negative abuse that is based on assumptions. Especially when even despite VAR, the game is still littered with cheats and divers.

    I have a big interest in rugby, as well as football, for all sorts of reasons. I don’t know if that makes me have more respect and tolerance for officials? Maybe it does. But my point re your excellent write up GSD was a simple one. Two lengthy paragraphs to deride and castigate an individual when no one has even asked him the question snacked slightly of paranoia and obsession in my view. Without knowing the full facts, people have clearly made up their minds already? As demonstrated quite vehemently elsewhere.

    No one should be exempt from criticism. Least of all the officials. But what has always frustrated me is the preconceived ideas that don’t have that results in their judgement prior to a ball being kicked. Come up with ways of making them better? I’d love to hear them.

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    Steve. I’ve long been frustrated that Refs are not allowed to comment on their in game decisions after the game. It would be good to get their perspectives.

  20. 20
    Steve T says:

    Countryman. I’m very much with you. But until such times I’m not going rely on assumptions.

    As I said, I’m sure there isn’t anyone involved in football that would not want the standards improving. I’ve just yet so seen anything that I would remotely consider constructive.

  21. 21
    Steve T says:

    Yet to see even.

    Obviously using Trev’s phone to type on.

  22. 22
    bt8 says:

    Drink 22 on 2/21/21

    Was gonna call it digital day until I remembered the 2’s don’t work same as 0’s

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@9: I welcome your company. I trust we are not the nails that stick out…

  24. 24
    North Bank Ned says:

    What parallel time zone are you in, bt8? Isn’t it 2/22/21 everywhere else?

  25. 25
    Osakamatt says:

    well, no one has hammered us yet
    Ned so I think we may be safe…….

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    As I understand German refereeing, the coaching of refs as they come up through the lower levels is far more rigorous than in England, and assessment stricter (refs get relegated to lower leagues if they are not up to scratch). Thus, once they have worked their way up to the Bundesliga, they have good refereeing habits ingrained in them.

    On stopping games for head injuries: surely between the assistant referees, the third referee and the VAR officials, there are sufficient eyes available to alert the referee that he needs to stop play immediately because of a suspected head wound.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@25: 🙂

  28. 28
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent review GSD — both the content and the tone completely resonate.

    I think we stuck well to a tactical plan and good structural balance. What we lacked is what we have lacked for a very long time — the ability to make quick defense-to-attack transitions when the opportunities presented themselves. Against high quality midfielders and fullbacks our deep lying midfield duo was entirely hapless in terms of transition even though they did their defensive duties well enough. Xhaka and Elneny are sincere players with certain strengths but they lack the guile and speed of thought to pass through the lines orchestrated by Fernandinho et al. Partey would have made this game more stretched for them.

    I thought Mikel also may have missed a trick by not starting Laca who is much more adept than Auba at dropping deep and holding the ball and then bringing the flanks into play.

    Are we progressing or regressing or standing still? I think the overall trend is that of foreword movement despite some inevitable alarms and dips along the way. Mikel arrested the slide, and didn’t let the well earned FA cup fool him or the club with any sense of complacency. Players like Leno, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, ESR, Saka, Martinelli, Ødegaard et al. can form the backbone of a very good team (at least a top 4 contender) when complemented with the right support, there are noticeable progress in our attacking play and a degree of consistency in our defensive performances. It will probably take at least two more transfer windows before we get a team closer to what Mikel envisions.

    Qualifying for Europe next year will be great but I myself will remain patient and optimistic even if we don’t. I personally never expected the post-Arsene years to be a swift return back to the top. We were almost imploding, averted that danger, and slowly gathering back strength.

  29. 29
    Doctor Faustus says:

    All that said — I think Mikel also has (not unexpectedly) his own rapid learning curve. I don’t think his usage of Pépé, Willian, Nelson and Martinelli have been consistent at all with respect to their performances and respective future potentials.

    His subs in a match that we are chasing is very conservative, and his over-reliance on players like Xhaka or Luiz neither of whom represent the future for us.

  30. 30
    bt8 says:

    Re: Ned @24. Trying to figure that one out. 😂😂😂

  31. 31
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    I cannot ask Moss anything about his decision making as the refs have codified their silence on all aspects of their performance. Seriously, what is your suggestion here? How on earth is anyone meant to ask Moss about the incident?

    Your point appears to be that no-one can make any comment on what the referees do without hearing from them, which we know they have made impossible. Ergo, no discussion is valid.

    “Two lengthy paragraphs to deride and castigate an individual when no one has even asked him the question snacked slightly of paranoia and obsession in my view.”
    The suggestion that it is possible to ask him a question is daft. We all know it is not. He gets stick because he is a poor referee. That is it. Nothing more. Paranoia and obsession do not come into it. Although, using your own reasoning, before making that sort of judgment don’t you think it would be ‘pertinent and a courtesy’ to ask me about it? You will find I am actually available to comment, unlike Jon Moss.

    It would certainly be both ‘pertinent and a courtesy’ if the referees deigned to explain their decisions. Although I am of course not advocating that they speak directly to the media after games. There must be a sensible path forwards. Personally I wonder why we do not have an approach like rugby where it is easy to hear the on-field referee and the video referee and all decisions are extremely clear at the time they are made?

    As to whether Moss saw it as a head injury or not… On re-reading my post I have phrased my comment clumsily. I said “Apparently, the importance of stopping play for head injuries is not something Moss has understood…”
    My point here was that he should have taken longer to assess the injury rather than merely a quick glance, as it was more important that he got the head-injury decision right than that he followed the ongoing game. My point was not that he was aware that it was a head injury and failed to stop play. To clarify, I do not think he realised the nature of the injury and if he had I am sure he would have stopped the game. He is a poor referee but I have no reason to think he is not a perfectly decent bloke. (That is why i criticise his refereeing; I do not call him names or abuse him.)

    I would suggest that this incident shows that there will be times when it is impossible for the on-field referee to make a head-injury assessment AND referee the ongoing game. Until such time as a system is devised (and the PGMOL allow it to happen) whereby he does not have to do both of those things then he is going to have to pick one. The one he picks should always be the one where serious injury is a risk.
    Personally, if I were a ref, as soon as the new protocols were explained to me I would have told them that I cannot look in two places at once and requested off-field refereeing assistance to deal with head injuries as I could not acceot the responsibilty of having to stop the game for concussions whilst also trying to follow the ball. But then I do not commit to doing stuff that I cannot actually do. I say again, once refs acceot that responsibilty they have a duty to discharge it. If it is unworkable they are the ones who made up the system. They must be accountable.

    I do not think it is my responsibilty (or that of anyone else writing on a blog) to make suggestions about how to improve refereeing in football. That is what the PGMOL should be doing. And it is yet another reason why I, and countless others, wish to see an independent body set up to provide oversight to what they do. I do however agree that all that can be done to improve the standards should be done. I think part of the frustration people have at referees is the way they have insulated themselves from accountability and proved resistent to any change which they see as reducing their power. Unlike in rugby, the organisation that runs football referees does little to encourage fans to think well of them. They seem to serve referees, not football.

    I will also say Steve, that part of my depth of feeling about this issue is that, on another day, this could have gone seriously badly for Rob Holding and I am pissed off that he did not get the protection and treatment he should have from the referee. My frustration is about that situation more than that it is aimed at Jon Moss. He just so happened to be the man in the middle and a history of being rubbish at his job which meant I showed less patience with him than I would have done if he had been consistently competent, or, if anyone can imagine such a thing, actually good.
    And I liked the line about him being a steam engine. I thought it might get a smile in the middle of a report on a pretty dull match.

    I’ll be damn glad when dry February is over. I could use a pint. Oh, bugger. Well, a can then. In the meantime, anyone who wants a drink please have one on me. Steve, make yours a double.

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Palace coup. Benteke at the death.

  33. 33
    North Bank Ned says:

    Premier League referees who are also FIFA referees:

    Stuart Attwell
    Peter Bankes
    David Coote
    Chris Kavanagh
    Andrew Madley
    Michael Oliver
    Craig Pawson
    Anthony Taylor
    Paul Tierney

    Premier League referees who are not FIFA referees:

    Martin Atkinson
    Mike Dean
    Kevin Friend
    Andre Marriner
    Jon Moss
    Graham Scott
    Lee Mason
    Simon Hooper
    Darren England
    Robert Jones

    Spot the common denominators.

  34. 34
    Steve T says:

    Evening GSD.

    I’m not going to pass any opinion on Moss. He was the official on the day. That’s that. You’re right, no one can ask him about what happened and how he came to his decision. Having watched the incident again, he don’t think he even realised Holding was injured, let alone it being a head injury. His indication to play on to me was a show that he viewed Rob’s challenge as a foul and was playing an advantage to City? Again, just my interpretation from the TV pictures. Why should he then look back and not follow play?

    I didn’t need to ask for your comments GSD. You had put your views across quite clearly. The fact that you’ve now said above that you “don’t think he realised the nature of the injury, and if he had, he would have stopped the game.” That’s a change from “ Speaking of which, he did in fact make one egregious error, waving play on when Rob (who had a solid game after the opening twenty minutes) had his head whacked very hard by Cancelo’s knee.”

    As I said, no officials are beyond criticism or reproach. I would happily see anything implemented that improved both their image and performances. You are again right, neither you, or anyone else here has a responsibility to provide ways of improving refereeing. But I have a problem In life with anyone that constantly moans about matters, but can offer nothing constructive in the way of making improvements. Now, that is not aimed at you GSD, it’s a problem that personally irks me in life. Lots of Mr and Mrs Hindsight’s all over the place, and it drives me nuts. Ban players for 6 games when it can be confirmed that a player has taken a blatant dive? There you go, there’s one. That wouid hopefully cut down on the chests and make their jobs a bit easier. Solutions people, bring me solutions. I’m sure there is more than one on here that in their professional careers have used very similar phrases?

    Anyone can make any comment that they see fit. As you did, and as I did. That’s what it’s all about. My view is just different. I’m just not in the habit of making a judgment call based on assumptions.

    Don’t do dry February. Or dry January. Or dry any month for that matter. What a bizarre state of affairs. So thank you. March 1st and the first round is still on Lars. I’ll get the next lot, just before BtM makes his excuses and leaves.

    Keep the faith.

  35. 35
    TTG says:

    Just checking .
    Did you get my email ? If you didn’t could you email me at peter@lebeauvisage.co.uk in connection with our celebration of the 71 double . Thanks mate

  36. 36
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Steve.

    I think we’ve both made our points. Hopefully the refereeing improves.

    And hopefully our league position does too.

    I had a dream last night that we were losing 5-3 to Benfica but then I got subbed on. All the players were not allowed to run and we had to scooch around the floor on our arses, which seemed totally natural. The match was played indoors in a sports hall and we ended up winning 6-5. You heard it here first folks.

  37. 37
    Trev says:

    Thanks GSD for a good and interesting report.

    I quite like the style of this – more team, player and incident based.

    Sorry to be so late in getting to such a quickly produced report – just very busy and, in truth, i need a bit of distance after another defeat before i set about reading about it 🙁

  38. 38
    bt8 says:

    Salmon holding for the upper crust perhaps but plaice holding’s the order of the day it seems.

  39. 39
    North Bank Ned says:

    Congrats to Lotte Wubben-Moy who made her England Women debut when she came on as a 75th-minute sub for Leah Williamson against Northern Ireland.

  40. 40
    bt8 says:

    Between Covid, Brexit and perhaps other factors, the entire Premier League made a total of 26 signings in the January transfer window – just over half the number of deals completed in January of last year, Untold Arsenal reports.

    Arsenal did well to bring in Odegaard in those circumstances.

  41. 41
    bt8 says:

    7am Kickoff wrote a nice piece on sandwiches. Really.

  42. 42
    TTG says:

    I saw bits of the Atletico / Chelsea game tonight. I thought Atletico were negative, tedious and clearly second best to a side that are about six or seventh best in England . It may be something to do with the impact of Covid – affected football but I’m forming the impression that La Liga is well behind the Premier League in terms of quality and intensity.
    I think this explains why Partey has struggled physically in adjusting to the Premier League and I thought Ødegaard looked shell-shocked on Sunday. There’s not a team close to City in Spain and maybe only Bayern in Europe match up to them . It may also explain why Unai Emery is looking a much better manager in Spain than he did in England .

  43. 43
    TTG says:

    Partey is back in full training. Expected to play on Thursday

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@42: Fair point about the intensity of La Liga games being less than that in the Premiership. In addition, every game in the Premiership is like that for the full 90. There are no games where the top teams can coast through the last 20 mins and give their stars a breather.

  45. 45
    North Bank Ned says:

    No sign of KT3 in the training video on the club’s site.

  46. 46
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Has Lacazette really been an upgrade to Giroud? I always liked Giroud but also thought that Laca probably brings more. Arseblog raises an interesting comparison where Ollie comes out better:

    The transfer fire

  47. 47
    bt8 says:

    Thomas Partey a maybe but Rob Holding a definite no for our Greece trip due to concussion.

  48. 48
    bt8 says:

    Benfica played a 0-0 draw with relegation-threatened Farense over the weekend after our first leg tie so maybe we should be expected to keep their strikers at bay. Note the cautious language there. Hopefully everyone avoids red cards and Auba isn’t cautious about scoring.

  49. 49
    TTG says:


  50. 50
    TTG says:


  51. 51
    bt8 says:

    Goal, as they say

  52. 52
    Snap says:

    Took it off my boot tty.

  53. 53
    bt8 says:

    Well in but don’t let the adulation swell your head.

  54. 54
    TTG says:

    Tierney trained today but apparently he stood apart from the group in short sleeves !

  55. 55
    bathgooner says:

    This one’s for bt8. Thanks for the reminder of a great number. Had completely forgotten it.

  56. 56
    North Bank Ned says:

    I trust VAR is taking a look for a self-assist at the half-ton.

  57. 57
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@54: I worry that now temperatures have risen above freezing, Tierney might suffer from heatstroke.

  58. 58
    Osakamatt says:

    Bit of individual brilliance there
    TTG for the half ton – well in sir.
    Not sure I’d start Partey. We know
    Benfica are very average now so pile
    forward early and put it to bed by
    the 20 minute mark.

  59. 59
    TTG says:

    Charles Watts claims Partey won’t play . I would be inclined not to play him either but he could sit on the bench. Why take him otherwise unless he’s low on Metaxa !
    Sorry about my chicanery I’m a wicked fellow but I can never resist a tap-in even if I set it up myself .

  60. 60
    scruzgooner says: