Well, we knew it was coming. Arsene Wenger has been charged by the FA with acting “abusive and/or improper and/or questioned the integrity of the match referee” in the officials’ changing room after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with West Brom on Sunday.
The incident stems from referee Mike Dean awarding a late penalty to West Brom for a “handball” committed by Calum Chambers. The decision has been roundly criticized by former players, former officials, and the footballing media. Even West Brom manager Alan Pardew thought the call was harsh.
In his post-match comments, Wenger criticized more than just the penalty decision. He hit out at the overall quality of English referees, pointing out that none have been invited to the World Cup, and he suggested that the referees don’t work enough games to stay sharp. He also lamented that you cannot criticize them because they are “untouchable.” Wenger followed up on those comments earlier today, saying that Mike Dean “saw what he wanted to see.”
Wenger could be facing a significant touchline ban. Last season, he was suspended for four matches for shoving referee Anthony Taylor, and because that incident occurred within the last 12 months, it factors into today’s charges.
I am no expert in FA disciplinary proceedings, but I don’t think that “the call was clearly wrong,” “Mike Dean is a terrible referee,” or “he has a demonstrated track record of making questionable decisions against Arsenal,” are acceptable defenses for Wenger’s conduct, regardless of how logical and appealing they may seem.
There is a lot we don’t know about what happened and what was said, but going into the officials’ changing room was not a good idea. Wenger surely had his reasons, but rules are rules. He almost certainly broke them and deserves punishment for doing so.
The good news is Wenger has until Friday to respond to the charges, so he will be available to manage Arsenal’s critical match against Chelsea tomorrow. Additionally, 3 of the Gunners’ next 6 matches are in cup competitions, which will lessen the Premier League impact of any suspension he receives.
What’s most disappointing about this fiasco is that the bigger-picture issues will likely go unaddressed. Mike Dean’s refereeing has been shown to negatively affect Arsenal. The quality of the officiating in the Premier League has gone down in recent years. The Premier League and the FA have dragged their feet on using VAR, even though it could help avoid these situations. [insert whatever refereeing-related gripe you may have here - it’s most likely warranted]
And I’ll just leave this here. One of these was given as a penalty, one of these was not:
How on earth can you give a penalty for this pic.twitter.com/WBPpIsK8hJ— Terje (@ArsenalTerje) December 31, 2017