27 December 2014

Enough of Giroud. Why were Onuoha and Ferdinand stil on the pitch (and other gripes)?

Let's get a few things out of the way right off the bat. One, Giroud, took the bait. He fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Two, the fact that we were still looking to put QPR away 52 minutes into a match is a far-bigger issue than the decisions Atkinson was making. Three, if we're looking to the referee to help us see off QPR, well, we have bigger issues than how much contact Giroud's forehead made with Onuoha. This was one we really should have settled by halftime but have no one to blame, really, but ourselves. Having gotten that out of the way, let's get to the self-righteous umbrage-taking, shall we?

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As to the incident itself, it's ludicrous that Onuoha wasn't booked for the shove that so enraged Giroud. For what it's worth, that should have been a second yellow for Onuoha after manhandling Welbeck in the 24th minute, dragging him down inside the area only for Atkinson to wave play on. Welbeck does get pulled to the ground as Onuoha has both hands wrapped 'round him from behind. Moments later, Ferdinand does see yellow for tripping Welbeck. You might ask what Ferdinand has to do with anything when it would be Onuoha who later on shoves Giroud into the keeper.

Alexis had wasted a penalty, scuffing a tame shot that Green had no trouble in saving, but he atoned for that with a nifty headed goal in the 36th minute to break the seal, and it felt for a moment as if we could run away with the match. However, the minutes dragged on, and we had to wait until after halftime to find a second goal. Tomáš Rosický lofted a lovely ball behind QPR's back line, and it was Giroud who outraced Onuoha and Ferdinand only for Green to beat him to it, but his clearance struck Giroud, who had been shouldered forward by Onuoha. Giroud jumped up and charged towards Onuoha, leaning in with his head as if to go to forehead-to-forehead with the 94kg defender who fell as if struck by a 2x4. Giroud seemed almost immediately to regret the moment of madness. It occurred in full-view of Atkinson, who wasted no time in sending Giroud off on a straight red. A three-match ban has already been issued, meaning that Giroud will miss trips to Upton Park and St. Mary's as well as a visit from Hull. So be it.

Back to the dilemma in front of us. Giroud, as mentioned, has taken the bait, and he seems to know it. As he trots off, along comes Rio Ferdinand from behind with a cartoonish look of malice, and he grabs Giroud's neck roughly and mutters something no doubt very Zen and New Age-ish about aligning one's chakras. This happens, again, in full view of Atkinson, who does nothing even as he watches. Given how quickly Onuoha went to ground, it's a pity that Giroud took the high road, shrugging off the shiatsu massage and leaving the pitch. Perhaps he should have gone to ground, gasping and clutching at his throat. Had Atkinson deigned to show any awareness of the situation, he would have at least discussed the issue with Ferdinand, suggesting if nothing else that one must apply gentle pressure with both hands rather than squeezing tightly with one. Ah, well. I'm sure that Atkinson looks for only the most-definite, egregious of fouls, especially in the area, before he'll step in.

Oh. What's that? QPR's goal came through a penalty awarded on the slightest of touches? Debuchy made more contact with the ball than he did with the extant molecules of Hoilett's sock, and yet Atkinson saw fit to award the penalty, which Austin blasted straight down the middle. Arsenal 2-1 QPR. Squeaky-bum time as we'd go into the final 15 minutes down a man against a desperate and inspired squad. Still, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Late on, Gibbs was lucky when he scythed down Zamora in the first minute of stoppage-time as Zamora looked to latch onto a cross just seven yards out. Perhaps atoning for other calls and non-calls, Atkinson ignored the clash. Whether that represents some kind of karma or simply a continuation of shoddy refereeing is for others to decide.

We'll have a few days to process what this means. It's rare that a win should provoke such soul-searching, but we have to grapple with a dilemma. We've just barely beaten one of the Prem's worst sides while playing at home, and we'll again be without a vital cog, misfiring though he be, for three matches, two of them involving visits tp clubs sitting above us on the table. Here's hoping that the win and the sending-off galvanize us in some mysterious, pseudo-scientific way. Combined with West Ham's loss at Stamford Bridge, our trip to Upton Park on Sunday gets a bit tetchier. If nothing else, we get to say that we live in interesting times...