Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Look to your players Mr Wenger

“Every single decision has gone against us in every game and I don’t know why…” Arsène Wenger, April 2007

I like and admire Arsène Wenger. His teams play wonderful passing soccer, just like I imagine my team will play when they get to the professional level!

So it always surprises me when he makes statements about referees that make no sense. I felt sorry for him and his team when they played so well at Liverpool in the Champions League but lost out to a penalty decision that was his player’s own fault rather than the referees fault. And it was something dear to the hearts of all of us at Better Soccer Coaching where our publisher is Liverpool through and through.

By throwing himself at Liverpool’s Ryan Babbel, Kolo Toure was leaving himself open to a split second interpretation of the game by a referee. From the refs position it looked like a penalty so he gave it. The reason Wenger was sore was that in the first leg a different referee in a similar incident had chosen not to give a penalty. This time it was an Arsenal player who was knocked over in the penalty area. A definite penalty, fumed Wenger. The two decisions over the two legs were virtually identical but the referees saw them differently.

It’s difficult to criticize a referee over his interpretation. Last week playing at home my Under 15s had one of our best young referees on the pitch. At 0-0 we had a certain penalty turned down when a player tripped our striker. No penalty. Up the other end they went and to my amazement they won a penalty. I wasn’t happy and stormed around the pitch to our linesman, who confirmed it was a penalty. I asked the ref at half-time why he hadn’t given our penalty. “I’m really sorry, Dave,” he said, “at that point two players ran into my line of vision and I couldn’t actually see what happened. I can only give what I see.”

And that’s the truth of it. These guys give what they see. I accept what my referee tells me because I know him and because on a rainy cold day you expect things like that. Just because a match is on TV doesn’t mean the conditions are any different to the conditions my referee was playing in.

Where Arsène Wenger went wrong was that it was his players at fault. If his forwards – namely Emmanuel Adebayor – had scored from the chances that came their way Wenger wouldn’t need a refereeing decision to decide his fate. If Philippe Senderos had actually defended Wenger would not be ranting at the referee.

In a way it’s “welcome to our world Mr Wenger”. The world we write about in Better Soccer Coaching. If young Matt had put his three easy chances into the net on Sunday I wouldn’t have worried about the penalty. If Tom hadn’t rugby tackled the opposition they wouldn’t have been given a penalty.

Players lose games – not referees.

Dave Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching

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