City boss Chris Hughton could not hide his frustration at this weekend’s events at The Emirates as three goals in the final seven minutes for Arsenal ripped a famous Canary victory out of his hands.
A goal up – albeit against the balance of play and possession against the North London giants – the finishing line and three, priceless Premier League away points were almost within reach only for a distant linesman to ruin everyone’s day.
It was he, not the referee, that adjudged Kei Kamara to have fouled Olivier Giroud.
Mikel Arteta stepped up to convert the penalty; thereafter – with a burning sense of injustice eating into Norwich’s discipline and concentration – so the Gunners finally ran riot and secured the victory that leap-frogs them over North London neighbours Spurs and into third.
For the Canaries, defeat for QPR and draws for both Aston Villa and Reading keeps others with work to do to overhaul the Norfolk side, but nerves will be twitching when Reading arrive at Carrow Road. One game that City can ill-afford to lose.
Maybe, just maybe, today’s feelings of injustice can be bottled and unleashed against the all-but doomed Royals.
Certainly Hughton felt his side were hard done by; that the officials had done little to help Norwich’s nerves going into the ‘business end’ of the season.
“We’re aggrieved,” the Canary boss told the BBC afterwards. “It’s a decision that has gone against us – that the linesman has given from 45-50 yards away when there’s a referee less than ten yards away.
“Nobody really appeals for it. Is there some contact? Yes, there is; does he [Kamara] play the ball? Yes, he does. But for a linesman to give it from that distance away… I think it’s almost criminal. On a day when we deserved so much more.”
By Hughton’s own standards of moderate, diplomatic language, to throw the ‘criminal’ word into the mix would merely point to the depth of his frustration after Michael Turner’s 56th minute opener had given Norwich a lead that they would keep for the next 30 minutes.
But on the back of that one decision, so Arsenal twisted the knife with further, swift strikes from first Giroud and then Lucas Podolski. The latter, too, came with a high degree of controversy attached; Hughton claiming a huge offside that was again, unspotted by the assistant.
“We deserved so much more,” said Hughton, after handing skipper Grant Holt a start at The Emirates. Chances, however, were few and far between; hence the manager’s anger at having got one and taken one, Norwich left North London empty-handed.
“It’s not as if you’ll show it back and [the referee’s] view was blocked,” added Hughton.
“He had a clear view and didn’t give it and the linesman did and that’s really tough on us. Particularly to come here; to The Emirates. We gave a really good account of ourselves for 85 minutes. But we need to bounce back.”
A couple more bounces back and Norwich will be over the finishing line; safe for another season and – with the latest TV deal kicking in this summer – in unheard of riches.
But many a twist and turn still lies in wait. The next few weeks will not be for the faint-hearted.
Not that Norwich were without fault; 1-1 would still have been a decent result.
“What we did show was a bit of naievety; and that’s something that we have to learn from – at 1-1 we’re still in the game,” he added, well aware that the pressure will build again as the Canaries look to take full advantage of their remaining home games.
The survival boil needs to be lanced – ASAP, ideally.
“We’ve got three home games out of the five [remaining] and we’ve got to make sure that we make the most of them. But it won’t be difficult to dust this lot down – they are a good group.”
Lindsay McNeile says
The Picture in the Sunday Times Sports section says it all.
Brian Granville , the writer normally so balanced in his observations, suggests the incident was a stone wall penalty beside a full colour picture showing Giroud’s hand ripping into Km shirt and hauling him towards the ground. Cant see what KK was doing with his hand, but it was clearly mutual pulling. Unlike Giroud’s unilateral yank on Bassong’s shirt for the second…….expertly analysed by the Sky Team. By then the clear offside is academic. We did not deserve to win; nor to lose in that fashion
If we do go down, it will not be because we lost at the Emirates. Hughton has been playing a very dangerous game for many months now. Whilst all the writers on this site have lauded his pragmatic approach, I have felt for some time that settling for a draw from each game is self defeating and is more than likely to end in relegation.
We are now in a mess of our own making and I just hope we can get out of it. If Hughton’s ultra cautious approach is all we can look forward to at Carrow Rd for years to come, I fear for the club’s relationship with its fan base. We all understand that we will never match the financial resources of Man Utd and Chelsea, but I think we could at least give Fulham and West Ham a run for their money!
Most commenators have pointed out that Arsenal’s breakthrough goal was the result of the linesman, Richard West, making two bad decisions in a row. But the fact that the second error immediately followed the first was probably no coincidence.
Snodgrass was understandbly livid with the linesman’s decision to award a corner, and he clearly let West know exactly how he felt, and what he thought of him. It’s often harder to hear from someone else that we’re wrong when deep down inside we suspect we may have messed up. It’s even harder not to react defensively when the other person screams at you. So West was probably livid with Snodgrass – precisely because he suspected he may have been wrong about the corner, and because in the heat of the moment he didn’t want to admit it. The fact that the player had apparently “shown a lack of respect” only helped West to justify his own anger.
He couldn’t shout back, but consiously or unconsiously, part of West was looking for an early opportunity to satisfy his simmering anger, his inner desire for revenge. In a position of power, he wouldn’t have to wait long. But his haste betrayed him. The referee, Mick Jones, had by far the better view of the mutual shirt pulling between Kamara and Giroud, so West should have deferred to his judgement. But the linesman couldn’t help jumping at the chance to satisfy his desire for revenge. He made the penalty call even though, as David Moyes later said on MOTD, no linesman has given a penalty in such circumstances all season. The decision wasn’t just wrong, it was extraordinary.
The dispute between West and the Norwich players escalated as a result of his action. Perhaps influencing his decision not to flag for either the foul or the offside in the build up to Arsenal’s third goal, even though they occured right in front of him. Unfortunately for West, assuming the refereeing authorities do their job, his lack of self control means he won’t run the line in the premier league again for some time.