An ’embarrassing display of cheating’ from Bukayo Saka or ‘stepping over a short barrier’

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Bukayo Saka clashes with Manuel Neuer
Bukayo Saka clashes with Manuel Neuer

The Bukayo Saka ‘stonewall’ penalty has prompted the longest explanation we have ever seen, while Arsenal did not deserve a win anyway.

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For f***’s Saka
Arsenal fans moaning at the ref should be moaning at Saka for not simply going round the keeper and winning them the leg. Embarrassing display of cheating.
Sam, Guernsey (THFC)


A very long explanation for a ‘stonewall’ penalty
Rival fans, stand down – it’s a stonewall pen. You would maybe have a point about Saka’s ***seemingly*** (more on this later) unnatural movement with his right leg but it’s moot given that Neuer’s own right leg attempts to win the ball, is far too slow and completely misses the ball then catches Saka right on the shin. Had Neuer actually been planted and still – as many commentators said in attempts to convince the public that Saka initiated the contact and is categorically untrue when you watch the replay – then sure they might have had a point.

Moreover, the idea that we can decide where and how the attacker’s leg(s) should move given what we think when watching in the third-person is ludicrous. Did Saka have to extend his leg out like that? Not necessarily but, and this is key, it depends on what he’s actually trying to do. And that is the point – who f***ing knows? How many great plays have been made precisely because the player in question did something that no one was expecting them to do at that moment?

If we’re using this logic – then Bergkamp’s touch for the Newcastle goal makes no f***ing sense… and we already know this. That’s why it’s such a memorable goal.

Had this been the modern game when that happened, the keeper is likely closing him down as he makes that touch and if he’d got a foot on him after that touch and brought him down the same people calling this Saka play a non-pen would have said “Well, Bergkamp ran into the keeper when the ball was going the other way which is a bit odd so no pen, for me, Clive.” And you would have felt justified in denying (arguably) the greatest ever goal we’ve seen since football was invented.

Off the top of my head, I can actually think of a very legitimate reason why Saka’s leg moved in such a fashion. Think about when you’re trying to step over a short barrier – do you approach it in a normal fashion as if you’re just walking in a straight line? Or do you slightly lift your leg at an angle to make sure you clear the barrier? Of course it’s the latter otherwise you risk your foot running into the obstacle you’re trying to step over and making a fool of yourself.

Saka did exactly that movement (btw, even if he knew it would help initiate contact just makes it a smart play and not illegal at all) which is very justified given how he has to not just perceive but ***anticipate*** what’s going on on the pitch in real time in front of him. If he thinks Neuer is going down (which he didn’t, but how is Saka supposed to know in real time?) then anticipating that and trying to lift his leg at such an angle to get over a horizontally positioned obstacle is, in fact, completely natural.

This is all happening on the pitch in real time and we have no idea what Saka – or any other player in that scenario – is thinking. To say “he didn’t have to move his leg like that to get past Neuer” is travelling down a hyper-subjective rabbit hole and, thus, is something that should be eliminated from the thought process. Could he have tried harder to stay up? Sure, theoretically it’s easy for us to say he could have. But that brings me to my second point.

Let’s deal in objectivity and not subjectivity – Neuer’s right leg is continually closing down (this is where VAR should have come in and noticed this detail – instead they’re clearly looking at the same thing the ref is which completely ruins the point of VAR…) on the area he thought the ball was going to be up until the point where 1. he’s far too slow so missed it then 2. makes contact with Saka’s shin. He is not still. He is still actively affecting the play, attempting to do something in a scenario in which the keeper is always expected to win the ball without failing (otherwise, it’s always been a pen) and completely fails to do so while making contact with the attacker.

What a massive advantage we’re giving to the keeper in this scenario if we think they are allowed to completely miss the ball and make any amount of contact with an attacker just because we happened to (totally subjectively) deem said attacker’s movement somehow “unnatural”.

Stonewall pen unless you do the most you can to convince yourself that Saka’s movement was unwarranted – the attacker should always be given freedom of movement in a scenario where the defender misses the ball – especially cause it was not a heavy touch and he was clearly still in relative control of the ball when the contact happened. Neuer gets nowhere near it, is moving ever closer to Saka the whole time and catches him. In order to consider that not a pen you really need to be looking for a reason to blame the attacker for something he is totally justified in doing in real time and that is exactly what rival fans are doing.

Btw – Arsenal did not deserve to win. Had that penalty been given and scored, the result would have been unlucky on Bayern. At the end of the day, they played well enough and we played poorly enough that a draw was definitely the fair result. While Wrighty is wrong (no pun intended) about it not being a pen, he’s 100% correct that we need to do better in Munich. Good chance we lose playing like that away to Brighton at the weekend – let alone against European stalwarts (although having an off year domestically) like Bayern in the Champions League.

Honestly, though, we would have gotten no credit for thoroughly beating a Bayern side that just lost to a promoted Bundesliga team. Better for us to do it in Munich to shut everybody up. Has to be the hard way for us Gooners – otherwise someone will always come up with some excuse to mitigate anything we do.
MAW, LA Gooner (How we respond against Villa will definitely forecast how we handle the rest of the run-in. Not afraid.)

📣 Straight to the comments! ‘All footballers are cheats. I watch games thinking “there has to be one guy on the pitch with too much self respect to go down under challenge like they’ve been sniped” but there really isn’t. Certainly some are a bit more cheat-y than others, but it’s basically culturally ingrained at this point.’ – Kryten. Respond here

But how did Arsenal play? Well…
What a crazy week for ManU, Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Real and Bayern.

Take the lead, fall behind then come back to win/draw.

I’m putting it all down to the Solar eclipse.

But with the eclipse now come and gone, hopefully we can look at things in the clear light of day.

I am disappointed that Arsenal didn’t win after going ahead, as although Bayern are having an off season, they are full of individual quality and were always going to step up for UCL nights.

Minor drop in concentration and individual errors cost Arsenal, but they still came back well to draw the game.

With no Away Goals anymore, the second leg still needs to be won by either team.

The expectation will be on Bayern to be more proactive in the return leg and that might suit Arsenal as Bayern were always most threatening last night on the counter, i expect Arsenal to setup like they did again City. I think this game is still very much 50/50.

Very much looking forward to next week. Although we have to be focussed on Villa first. Luckily they have a big midweek game too.
Hats (Get well soon Phil – we are all hoping for a fast recovery)

READ: Naive Arsenal give Neville ’emotional’ ammunition against Kane’s old dark arts


…The Arsenal goals scored versus Bayern were class. Bayern were more reliant on Arsenal mistakes. Fair enough they capitalised on those mistakes. The point I’m making is that Arsenal can compete at the next level. Not sure what Raya was doing out there but there was enough time and space to clear the ball adequately. We were cruising and smelling blood at the time. A few minutes later poor defensive work found us 2:1 down…so frustrating!

I was impressed with how Arsenal kept plugging away and got their just reward at the end. Cracking substitutions by that Fraud Arteta!

Cracking game of football and atmosphere. Arsenal is alive again.
Chris, Croydon


…Just finished watching this and here are the (knee jerk) conclusions:

* Arsenal could (should) have both won and lost.

* Bayern are still a very good side, might need pens next week…

* Arsenal work rate needs to be higher, lots of the lads didn’t want to contest the low % balls

* We badly need a left back, Kiwior at fault for first goal and Zinchenko not up to it, any sign of Timber?

* What was Arteta doing bringing on Partey, wrong game wrong time…

* We badly need an (old style) stryker, oh for Wrighty, Smith, any one who’ll take a chance on a final ball

* The CL knock out games have been great, more like 5 a side stuff

* Liverpool will be loving this, another set of 90mins madness for both next week will suit em

* It should be a good wake up call for the team not to be complacent

* I’m still not sure re Saliba and Gabriel, I think Rice makes them look better than they might be.

* I think I’m generally happy with this result

* Crowd needs to be better, they were good but with no Bayern supporters it was an edge to be exploited. Watching Liverpool v City at Anfield a few weeks back you could not hear an explosion the place was so loud for the 2nd half, every home team needs that..

And breathe…next week will be great…!
Liam (gooner)


Does Haaland need De Bruyne?
End of first half of Madrid v City and I find myself asking for about the 20th time this season…. Is Haaland actually not very good without De Bruyne?

Haaland is a classic big man CF who is the end of the movement like Van Nistelrooy used to be. Not much good unless he has service. He’s definitely nowhere near as good as Aguero was. I’d go as far as to say if De Bruyne isn’t playing then there’s no point in Haaland playing either because he contributes nothing without service. He can’t even hold up the ball and Rudiger is genuinely making him look like a league 2 player. Do City fans get as frustrated watching him as rival fans?

If I could take any player from City at Liverpool it wouldn’t be Haaland, Foden is the obvious choice or Rodri. Would anyone take Haaland? Not sure they would. Arsenal maybe since Odegaard creates a lot of chances.

READ: Haaland kryptonite justifies Keane jibe with Real Madrid, Man City set for era-defining rivalry


Yes please
At the start of the Champions League fixtures where the camera is panning across the players I would love it if one mad lad was absolutely belting out the Champions League theme tune like it was the National Anthem.

All the best
Mannix (Boro Fan)


Leave VVD alone
Not sure why VVD is getting all the criticism. Sure let’s blame the one constant who has always been there while the supporting cast keeps changing. Our defence isn’t as strong as Arsenal’s but it took a mistake and a worldie for them to score. Our defence can get by just fine if the attackers can just finish off their chances

Our record against the big six is poor but that is largely down to our poor finishing as demonstrated on Sunday. It’s worth noting that we’re still level on points with the team that leads that mini-category. Whatever we’re doing is still working.

That game also showed that it’s time for experience. The young lads have done well but we need the likes of Alisson, Konate, Trent and Jota back for the run-in.


Actually, following a legend can be okay
Can you stop with your “every single warning from history warns against replacing a legend” nonsense please?

If any manager in Liverpool history qualifies for legend status, it’s Bill Shankly, winning Liverpool promotion to the top flight and then three leagues and a UEFA cup in his fourteen-and-a-half years. The trophy list is slightly less impressive than Klopp, but the transformation in the club’s status was greater. Shankly’s successor, Bob Paisley, didn’t appear too weighed down by his legend-following status, churning out 6 leagues and three European Cups in his seven years. Leading Liverpool through its first years as a club of global renown pretty much qualifies him as a legend too.

Then Joe Fagan, his successor, also seemed to do ok despite the following-a-legend curse, winning a treble in his first season. After Fagan, Kenny Dalglish secured his own legend status, with three leagues to follow up. Of course both Fagan’s and Dalglish’s spells as manager ended in tragedies far more terrible and important than anything that ever happens in a football match, but I assume none of us is ghoulish or silly enough to attribute that to the footballing success of their predecessors.

After Dalglish the wheels did come off with the Souness fiasco, but you can’t attribute that to the following-the-legend curse, while ignoring the previous three hugely successful successions.

In your article in January, you listed the Benitez-Hodgson succession as an example of the legend-following curse. If you think Rafa Benitez was a Liverpool legend, you don’t understand Liverpool. Yes, he seemed like a decent guy who genuinely got Liverpool as a club, yes the 2005 Champions League win was one of the greatest one-off achievements in LFC history given the context, and yes he gets a warm reception whenever he comes back to Anfield.

But does anyone honestly think he’ll be in the conversation with Shankly, Paisley, Klopp and Dalglish for greatest ever Liverpool manager a few decades from now? Even if, for the sake of argument, you do accept Rafa as legendary (he absolutely wasn’t but still), was it really following Rafa which caused Roy to fail? Or was it the completely dysfunctional Hicks/Gillett operating structure he was working under? Or the fact that Roy’s only big club management experience was two years at Inter 13 years before he joined Liverpool? You have to be looking very hard indeed for evidence of the following-a-legend curse to find it here.

Even with the two most discussed examples of the supposed curse – Fergie-Moyes and Wenger-Emery – I don’t see much evidence that it was following a legend rather than other circumstances that caused the new guys’ problems. The United squad had been in decline for years. There would almost certainly have been a drop-off in results in the years from 2013 whoever had been in the manager’s seat.

Plus David Moyes was chosen because he was the manager who most reminded Fergie of Fergie rather than because he was the best person for the job. A more suitable manager may well have fared better. It was because Fergie was a legend that he was allowed to make that choice, but Klopp has been very clear that he has no role in choosing his successor, so that’s not relevant here.

As for Wenger-Emery, Wenger was fired for being, by the end of his tenure, pretty rubbish at his job. Emery initially delivered an improvement in form, but just couldn’t maintain it. Surely if it was the following-a-legend curse causing the problem, he would have been overawed from day 1 but then started to improve, rather than the other way around?

The drop-off in Arsenal success between 2006 and 2013 was much greater than that which followed Wenger’s departure and that was within Wenger’s reign. Football clubs get better or get worse all the time. Just because it happens at the same time as a change of manager doesn’t mean it was caused by a change of manager.

Taking all that into account, may I suggest you rephrase with “some warnings from history suggest replacing a legend is difficult, but even those examples aren’t clear cut and there are lots of examples of managers following legends and doing very well indeed”?
Tom, LFC


The eight-year-old keeps dreaming…
I am 8 years old, it’s May 1989 and the big match is on ITV. It’s odd because it was a Friday and I had never seen live football on a Friday.

I am sat at home, kitted out in my awesome grey candy away shirt ( think peak John Barnes )

I felt it was Liverpool’s title to lose. I was young but I read teletext, I knew we just had to draw or win.

Then, Barnes in the corner, why not kick it out, you are my hero, but you don’t. The rest shows me pain that lasts a life time.

We lost. I cried, and swearing that I would hate Arsenal forever. Fast forward to the 90’s and it was United and Arsenal with a combined anger, why always them ? Why did I feel pain in those games?

2001- Arsenal are killing us in the Fa Cup final, Henchoz blatantly hand balls on the line. No red !

Henry can’t score. Hypiaa clears it off the line. It’s only a matter of time. Ah. Damn – Freddie scores. That’s that…. Corner. God misses, Owen !!

My teeth are chattering, my nerves in my mouth. Surely we can’t win this!

Paddy Berger long ball, aiming for relief, Owen. There’s Dixon. Bang, see you soon, Adam’s, oops. Too quick, is this redemption ? Booooom. Win. I feel on top of the world. The 8 year old screaming in joy….

I’m 43 now. I cannot stand the idea that Arsenal win anything. Ever. It’s always been Arsenal. Anyone but Arsenal. I won’t be alone.

Bayern and Kane will win, it will help quell the ghosts of my 8 yr old , crying as I slept.

City? F**k it. Win the league. If Liverpool don’t … please win. I have enjoyed the 33-42 year old age when Arsenal were average. Odd trophy here and then but small club.
Ade, Guildford