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Mark Halsey: Arsenal right to feel aggrieved by referee decisions

| 24.02.2022

Mark Halsey spent 14 years as a Premier League referee and in an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes discussed his time officiating in the top flight.

In part one, he talked about Sol Campbell, Jose Mourinho and the managers that gave him a hard time and in part two he gave us his thoughts on how VAR could be improved, the death threats he received after sending off then-Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and the two players that were always ‘in his ear’.

Here, he looks at Arsenal’s poor disciplinary record and says the Gunners are right to feel aggrieved by some of the decisions that have gone against them this season, especially Gabriel Martinelli’s red card at Wolves.

Poor man-management from referees is the reason behind Arsenal’s disciplinary record

Arsenal had an abysmal start to the season and plenty were calling for Mikel Arteta’s head, but it has to be said he’s done a terrific job in recent months, and he’s proving a lot of people wrong. He’s getting rid of a lot of the trouble-makers around the place – and it sounds very much like the Mikel I knew as a player.

You always knew he was on the pitch when you refereed him. He was always sound to deal with, but at the same time he’d always make sure he stood his ground if he thought he was right and I was wrong – that happened on many occasions!

A lot of Arsenal supporters have spoken to me about the standard of officiating in the Premier League at the moment, and how their side are seemingly picked on. Some of their players’ names go before them.

There have been plenty of moments this season whereby I don’t think Arsenal can have any complaints about some of the decisions which have gone against them.

But there are times, I think, where referees could manage incidents better than they have done. That comes down to the leadership and direction of the management staff at the PGMOL.

Granit Xhaka, Arsenal

If you look at some of the incidents against them in recent weeks – I think it was Ashley Westwood who came in and stamped on Kieran Tierney. You’ve got to look at that and think their fans have got a point. Was that a clear and obvious error by the match official to not notice that? You’d say yes, it was.

He may have been unsighted, but then why has VAR not stepped in? Granit Xhaka has been sent off on a few occasions where they’ve gone and reviewed certain situations again, so I definitely think supporters are right to feel hard done by.

There are other examples in there too from this season alone, where a bit of man-management from the referee means Arsenal’s players might have avoided red cards.

If I remember rightly, Arsenal took the lead against Manchester City before giving away a penalty, then got a man sent off and conceded another late on.

From a referee’s perspective, it’s about having a bit more control in those situations, and having the awareness to look at what’s going on around you, and how you can prevent things from escalating.

And then you can look at the Gabriel Martinelli incident at Wolves a couple of weeks ago – the quickfire two yellow cards. Now, Michael Oliver is by far, without a shadow of a doubt, our best referee.

But sometimes, referees are like players – they can’t be at their best every game. In that case, I just think that, granted, by law Martinelli has to be two metres away from the throw-in taker.

He’s clearly trying to obstruct the Wolves player from taking the throw-in, but then bang, you should hit your whistle there. Stop the game. Wolves aren’t going to score from there. Is it a promising attack?

It’s about managing the game. If Michael had just blown his whistle and shown Martinelli a yellow card then that second incident wouldn’t have happened.

And this is where Arsenal supporters have a point. In that same week, Scott McTominay grabs hold of a Brighton player who wanted to take a quick throw-in. He keeps hold of him for a few seconds and then basically throws him away, and the referee just lets play continue without booking him. So it comes down to consistency and man-management.

Do you want to see McTominay get booked for that? Not really, but then you’ve got to be consistent in your officiating, so you can see where Arsenal feel aggrieved.

You have to look at the two Martinelli incidents and think ‘OK, I’m going to forget about the throw-in, I’ll put that to one side. I’m going to caution him for stopping a promising attack, and then I’m going to go back and tell him that if he does anything else like that, he’ll be getting a second yellow’. Just manage the situation.



Alex Apati

Alex has been with the Ladbrokes PR team since 2017 having previously worked for the news department. From sparring with Peter Fury to talking interviews on the Duke and Duchess' baby names, he's covered a range of sports and novelty events.

A frustrated West Brom fan who is no stranger to an oche, Alex is originally from Dudley, although he's worked hard to rid himself of the Black Country twang.