One Set of Rules For Us, One for Everyone Else

By on September 19, 2009
Arsene in crowd
Brett Chase is a guest contributor to Arsenal Station. He lives in the New York City-area and has supported the Arsenal for a decade. He is also co-founder of the New York City Arsenal Supporters’ Club and a regular contributor to The Modern Republic, a blog which comments on football, music, and fashion.

With the news that UEFA had overturned their retroactive two-match ban for Eduardo, it got me thinking back to what I felt just after that punishment was handed down.  I was conflicted… I had to admit to myself and others that Eduardo had indeed taken a dive, shameful enough in itself; but because the punishment was so severe compared with what such an act would warrant if caught by the referee (a yellow card), I was also outraged.  Beyond that I felt hypocritical for having so openly and gleefully mocked such accomplished divers as Drogba and the Portuguese Master, Ronaldo.

However, after the huge fuss kicked up by the xenophobic English press over Eduardo’s dive ignited the media-sensitive and reactionary UEFA to take these measures, Arsenal played Manchester United in the biggest match of the season to that point.  And during the match, Wayne Rooney performed a carbon copy of Eduardo’s tumble in the box, winning a penalty that turned out to be the decisive goal in the contest.  On Match of the Day, one talking head lauded this as an intelligent act.  Rooney received similar treatment from seemingly everywhere, and had the audacity to issue this quote: ‘I’ve never intentionally dived. There have been times when I’ve tried to stay on my feet rather than go down. Everyone who watches me play knows I’m an honest player.’

Wayne Rooney doing what he does best

I felt nothing but rage at the injustice, and later explained as much to my friend Gareth, a lifelong Gooner, who summed it all up quite succinctly: “One set of rules for us, and one for everyone else.

It smacks of paranoia, I admit.  But if you look even at very recent Arsenal history, there’s more than a little truth to the statement.

On February 23, 2008, Martin Taylor was sent off for what many feel was one of the worst tackles ever seen.  A month later, Abou Diaby made a bad challenge on Bolton defender Gretar Steinsson, and was correctly sent off for it.  Diaby was villified in the press, labeled in many instances a “disgrace.”  Meanwhile, Taylor’s tackle was nearly universally defended by the press as without malice and “part of the game.”  Steve Bruce called it “not even a yellow card,” while Stephen Kelly said, “I don’t think you can send a player off for that. That’s football. It can happen. It is an accident.”

Had Diaby tackled Steinsson, or any player, in the manner that Taylor employed and with a similar result, I shudder to think what would’ve become of him.  I doubt he would be playing in England today if that had been the case.

And that was a case where there was something to even complain about.  I think we all remember how quick the press were to defend poor Hull manager Phil Brown, when he claimed after Hull’s loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup last season that Cesc Fabregas had spat upon his assistant manager, and at alternate times also claimed that Brown himself had been spat on, as well as his players.  After weeks of Brown appearing on every program that would have him to malign the Arsenal captain, the story was finally ruled by the FA as what it was, complete horseshit.


I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Arsenal players booked for dissent for questioning a referee’s decision (Gallas seemed to have quite the knack for this while he had the armband), but can anyone remember the last time Chelsea players were booked when surrounding the referee and shouting at him in vain efforts of intimidation?  Or how about Rooney himself?  For the number of times I’ve seen the Scouser clap at or curse directly at a referee, I’ve seen him booked once.

Martin SamuelMost recently, Martin Samuel has used his public forum as a soapbox to deride “a significant percentage” of Arsenal fans for singing a racist song about Adebayor last Saturday.  I’ll not stoop to mentioning the lyrics; suffice it to say that elephants are featured prominently.  Mr. Samuel fails to mention is a) what constitutes a significant percentage, and b) that this chant was drowned out by the overwhelming majority of Arsenal supporters singing our own anti-Adebayor chant, which invokes Arshavin and the fact that Adebayor was surplus to requirements at Arsenal.  Samuel also never made mention of this song the last two seasons, when opposing fans rained the offensive, racist song on Adebayor all over England, and quite loudly in both the red and sky blue sections of Manchester, which tells me that Mr. Samuel was either not paying attention to football at all before this season, which would invalidate any claim of expertise he might make, or that he did not fully disapprove of it until the very worst element of Arsenal supporters made use of it.  What the latter says about Mr. Samuel himself, I’ll leave up to you to decide.

My only question is, what is the motivation?  Why do Arsenal get such stick while so many others get so little for similar or worse behavior?  I have earlier here branded the English press as xenophobic, and I stand by that accusation.  If it is as true as I believe it to be, this would affect Arsenal more than other clubs because, under Wenger, Arsenal have been, fairly or not, branded as anti-English.

It is true that Wenger has never gone out of his way to buy English players (the manager has on numerous occasions decried the overpricing of Jack WilshereEnglish talent on the transfer market), but while Arsenal have down the years had a more international flavor within the squad than other Premiership clubs, they are far from anti-English.  Right now, Arsenal have more English players in their squad than Liverpool.  What Arsenal do not have however, that Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U all do have, is an English star, and with all due respect to Nike for trying, Theo Walcott is not on that level quite yet.

But now that Eduardo’s suspension was overturned (in time for him to score a cracking winner over Standard Liege), perhaps we can finally put Gareth’s claim to one side.  I’m joking, of course.  What we can do is give at least the appeals branch of UEFA credit for possessing common sense.  Attempting to enforce an “Eduardo Rule” would have required a task force working around the clock to review every instance of possible deception in every match in every UEFA competition.  It would have been unwieldy and costly and completely unrealistic.

But rest assured, should Michel Platini find a feasible way of screwing over Arsenal, he will jump at the chance.  And every English sports journalist and football pundit will applaud.  What can we do?  We live in a world of rules.  It’s just that the rules aren’t always the same for everyone.

Arsene Wenger’s Pre-Match Press Conference

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  1. HN

    September 19, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Brilliant piece.

    But you know, the Arsenal hatred is not a new thing – it goes back decades to the 30’s and beyond. It’s only Wengers wonderful style of football that has appeared to dilute or disguise it somewhat in recent years.

    Sadly, it doesn’t take much for it for it all to come rushing back and we hear the same old crap we’re used to, over and over. And some new stuff. These days I just try take it as being part of an Arsenal fan even though it still annoys we.

    To steal a chant from a nearish neighbour – “no one likes us, we don’t care…”

  2. ray

    September 19, 2009 at 3:25 am

    come on let s move on this us against the press the referees the f.a. the world is commensing to look like paranoia.Let s put some things in perspective the penalty given agaist us vs. utd.was a penalty the goalie acted foolishly by rushing out and rooney tumbled into him it wasn t a dive he would have been a stupid ass if he tried not to make contact ,if you are presented with the occasion take it my son.Last wednesday our second goal was a handball with a capital h nobody complained and the third eg adebayor got what he deserved for stamping on van persie but nobody from our side mentioned how van persie entered from BEHIND to tackle ade.if it have been vice versa we would have accused ade of causing the rumpus because he entered from behind.In a league these things even out sometimes against us sometimes in our favour full stop

    • Davi

      September 19, 2009 at 6:27 am

      Hold on. If rooney is going down before the touch, is that not trying to deceive the referee? How do we know if almunia would have touched rooney significantly enough to knock him down if it hadnt actually happened yet?!
      Plenty of ppl mentioned van persie’s tackle, but thats a completely different thing. Those tackles happen all the time, and its just considered normal. A foul, maybe a booking. Van persie addressed that tackle in his own comments.
      The point is we never seem to get a 50-50 anymore in the big games. How did fletcher manage to come out with such credit against us, when he clearly should have been booked multiple times (which would have hindered his aggression) – not least should he have been booked for the penalty that never was, and then for kicking clichy’s shoulder.

      • ArsenalStation

        September 19, 2009 at 9:22 pm

        Of course, it’s a dive. It was amusing, and infuriating, to hear all the pundits make excuses for why what Rooney did wasn’t a dive at OT and again for England… Things like, “Almunia shouldn’t have come out like that” and others… Hell, that applies to Boruc too. These are the same guys who persecuted Eduardo daily for weeks in their penny rags. No integrity.

  3. mc-gooner

    September 19, 2009 at 3:56 am

    just because you are paranoid dosn’t mean people arnt out to get you!!!!!!!

  4. Big Raddy

    September 19, 2009 at 4:19 am

    Excellent article.

    Ray. One could also look at Song’s booklng which was a direct result of Ade trying to kick Song into next week. But I see your point. Nonetheless, adding the tackle on Cesc, the Song kick, the elbow on Gallas, the kick to the face of RvP, it could certainly be argued the Adebayor should not have been on the pitch to make that run towards the Arse fans – for which he should be reprimanded and nothing more.

    As to Anti-Arsenal media bias. It is not paranoia – just a matter of fact. It has been so for many generations.

    No-one could argue with Rooney’s penalty this season, but how about the dive that led to the end of our unbeaten 49 game run?Did the media scream, rant and rave about that? It was a clear case of cheating. But because it was MU, ….. nothing, and I could give many, many examples.

    • ray

      September 19, 2009 at 4:48 am

      yes i agree with you a dive ended our 49 game run but at the end of a season these things even out or so i hope ,in the champions league or fa cup its a different story you can t remedy for any mistake or misfortune remember 2001 or against luton in 88

      • Davi

        September 19, 2009 at 6:31 am

        They never do even out. We’ve been luckless for several years, while Utd have had all the luck in the world.
        In 07/08 it took a horror challenge on eduardo, plus a non-penalty for birmingham to draw with us. Following that i noticed in a run of about 8 games we either didnt get a penalty, had a goal disallowed or the opponents scored a goal which were at best dubious. In that time maybe one or two things went our way. Those games prevented us from winning the title, despite the fact we were easily the best side that year -even without van persie or rosicky for most of it. So luck doesnt even itself out. Thats just closing your eyes to the problem im sorry to say

        • ray

          September 19, 2009 at 8:45 am

          not to be a spoilsport but that season we had a competitive team (flamini and fabregas were fabulous that year)but our squad was lacking it wasn t only by chance that we finished third although its true a non penalty against the blues started our debacle

          • ArsenalStation

            September 19, 2009 at 9:27 pm

            In my lifetime I have watched an Arsenal team that was clearly better than any other team in the league and not win the title three times. The first was 1998-99… that may be my favorite Arsenal side of all-time. Again in 2002-03 when we gave it away in the last 6 weeks or so or we’d have become the first team to ever win doubles in consecutive years, and of course 07-08. I still think about 98-99 and 07-08 is right up there. In February, before Birmingham, I truly believed we were going to win the title. And if you look at that side and this one you can see Wenger has essentially been forced to build a new team since then as a sort of Plan B.

  5. Dr Gooner

    September 19, 2009 at 4:19 am

    I was not aware that this arsenal hatred spanned back to the 1930s. But in recent times, I have also attributed it to the fact that Wenger is French, nearly half his team has always been French and the other half are foreigners. I would not call it racism (before anyone reads too much into it), but I am calling it envy (of someone elses and not your own’s – i.e British – success). I am not French by the way, or foreign, so I am not being paranoid!

  6. 'holic

    September 19, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Very well worked piece Brett. Appreciated every word there. Well done.

    • Comrade23

      September 21, 2009 at 4:40 am

      Thanks for the kind words, ‘Holic. Coming from you, that means a lot.

  7. Josh

    September 19, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Fantastic article. Too much have we been criticised and pointed at while the same has been happening at every other club around!

  8. woody

    September 19, 2009 at 5:01 am

    always pleasure to read your articles

  9. Davi

    September 19, 2009 at 6:22 am

    All good points.
    Another hypocrisy is that everyone seems to expect wenger to come out and attack his own players whenever they do something wrong. And then he gets the “i didnt see it” label.
    Other managers have always done this. You dont come out and openly attack your own players, you try to deflect. What about all the times ronaldo dived for utd, and all ferguson did was say he needed more ref protection, which only served to allow him to dive with more freedom. Then when eduardo dives, wenger gets attacked for not attacking the croatian! (even though to my mind hes the only big4 manager to ever condemn his own player publicly for diving – eboue ECL final)

  10. India-Gunner

    September 19, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Excellent article.

    I reckon the reasons behind the referee and the press don’t like Arsenal are:

    1) Too many French players (very high percentage). Arsenal being seem like a breeding ground for French teams (senior and youth).

    2) English is envy of French team success.

    3) No BIG white star players in England. Walcott is still far away compare to Gerald, Lampard, Rooney and Terry. Further more Walcott is not WHITE too. If someone look back for last few seasons, these 4 players were the blue eye boys. National players don’t guarantee you have flavour treatment from the referee and the press, You have to be WHITE. Evidence: Heskey, Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon, Defoe etc didn’t have that kind of flavour treatment from the referee. So the only hope is Wilshere NOT Walcott.

    4) Most referees (not all) are either Liverpool fans or Man Utd fans. This applicable to the pundits too. I don’t blame the pundits though, most of them are ex-Liverpool, ex-Man Utd or ex-Spurs.

  11. Comrade23

    September 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks all…

    I too was unaware the bias against Arsenal stretched back as far as the 1930’s, but I think it’s foolishness not to believe it now. I have over the years castigated myself for thinking that the press were being unduly critical of Arsenal, but in recent years expecially I’ve found it to be pretty plain that this is not some paranoid fantasy but the real state of things in the world of English football.

    Perhaps the last two matches and all the scrutiny they’ve demanded might prompt some referees not to go right after us, and when this Arsenal team is on their game, all they usually need is a fairly officiated match.

    • ArsenalStation

      September 19, 2009 at 9:13 pm

      Even farther back than the 1930s. It all began after WWI when the Football League resumed play. They were expanding the league by two sides. The first two in the second division would come up and the bottom two in the first division would go down and the extra two places would be 3rd and 4th in the Second Division. Arsenal finished fifth in the Second Division that year and through some backroom negotiating and calling-in of debts, Sir Henry Norris arranged for the Football League to promote 5th-placed Arsenal into the First Division, where they have remained ever since.

      Of course, another option would’ve been to let the two last place First Division sides remain and just promote 1 and 2 from the Second Division but Chairman Norris was a forceful personality and talked the League out of that. The result was that Arsenal were promoted after finishing in 5th place and Tottenham were relegated despite the league expanding. Gotta love that!!!

      In the 1930s, under Chapman and then George Allison after the former’s death, the animosity actually receded as Arsenal became the dominant club in the English game for a decade until the onset of WWII. Kind of like United now multiplied by five considering the playing field was much more level in those days. Any of a dozen sides could challenge for the title so such a long run of dominance is even more impressive. In fact, at their height in 1934, England beat Italy and the legendary Guiseppe Meazza, 3-2, at Highbury with a side which contained 7 Gunners.

  12. Donnyfan1

    September 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    If you want a true horror story- count the fouls against Arsenal by Wigan at the Emirates. And then count the bookings they received. Compare that with Arsenal’s foul count and the bookings they received. It beggars belief and it happens game after game. It really is time the FA and the executive responsible for ref’s behaviour looked at this. some Arsenal players are getting kicked to bits. Look at the Club’s injury record. What arethose responsible for the beautiful game doing about it. Why don’t the best players in the world want to play here? Ask them- ask Fabregas, Van Persie. Rosiky and Eduardo if they would recommend Messi and Kaka come here!! And why is it that in CLeague games the teams are controlled quicker and more fairly. Could it be that the FA is not responsible for CL refs!! I think so.

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