Did Arsenal deserve a penalty vs Man City? Reactions to controversial referee decision on Ederson foul, Saka goal
When Anthony Taylor whistled for the Emirates on Wednesday and pointed to the penalty spot, it was a powerful moment in the Premier League title race.
Arsenal had fallen behind earlier thanks to Kevin de Bruyne, who picked out a glorious chip after a poor back pass from Takehiro Tomiyasu, but Taylor gave them the opportunity to equalize.
As Eddie Nketiah broke into the Manchester City penalty area, he was rolled over by City goalkeeper Ederson and Taylor pointed to the penalty spot. It was an extremely contentious decision that dominated mid-term talks.
With so much excitement at play, the decision made waves across the Premier League universe. Man City entered the game three points adrift of Arsenal as the Gunners maintained a narrow margin at the top of the Premier League. As such, the game offered the opportunity for a big swing in either direction. Ultimately, Man City would shrug off the incident and secure a 3-1 win, but it was a monumental decision at the time.
Opinions abounded as to whether Taylor got the call right, both on the field in London and around the world. Sporting News takes a look at the debate.
MORE: Full up-to-the-minute coverage of Man City’s 3-1 win over Arsenal
Controversial Arsenal penalty against Man City in the first half
After Manchester City led the game 1-0 in the first half thanks to a Kevin de Bruyne opening goal, Arsenal secured turnover in midfield and pushed into the attacking third.
Granit Xhaka looped the ball over the top for Eddie Nketiah, who beat Kyle Walker on delivery. It forced Man City goalkeeper Ederson off his line to fight and as Nketiah fired his shot Ederson collided with the Arsenal striker.
The shot was well placed and while Nathan Ake raced back to clear it off the line referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the penalty spot. Bukayo Saka would step forward and send Ederson the wrong way, leveling the score at 1-1 where it would remain until half-time.
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Was Ederson’s challenge to Nketiah a foul?
Anthony Taylor’s decision to award Arsenal a penalty was highly controversial at the moment as Manchester City players surrounded the referee to protest the call.
On the one hand, Ederson was completely out of control, flying late into the challenge and unable to touch the ball. He collided hard with Nketiah, knocking the Arsenal striker to the ground with great force.
However, many believed Ederson’s challenge wasn’t worth a penalty as the contact didn’t affect Nketiah’s ability to get a clean shot off. The goalkeepers are given some leeway to put the attackers freely on goal and the narrow angle for Nketiah made it a difficult early period.
The rules of the game are extremely vague on this subject. A foul is awarded “when a player commits any of the following offenses against an opponent in a manner deemed by the referee to be negligent, reckless or using excessive force.”
In this case, the referee failed to show Ederson a yellow card, meaning he ruled the Man City keeper’s foul “negligent” because if it had been “reckless” he should have shown a card. “Careless” is defined as “when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration or acts carelessly in a challenge.”
Referee Arsenal vs Manchester City
The official who awarded the penalty in Arsenal vs Man City was Anthony Taylor, who is considered one of the best referees in England.
Taylor has been one of the most forgiving officials in the Premier League this season, bottoming out among Premier League officials in fouls per tackle and midfield in fouls per game and yellow cards per game. He had dealt 55 yellows in 15 games coming into this game, fifth in the league by total cards but mainly by number of games officiated, as his mark of 3.67 yellows per game puts him in 11th place. He also had two red cards in his 15 competitive games.
The penalty given to Arsenal in that game was the third they have given in 16 games all season, putting them 15th in penalties per game.
Later in the game, Taylor pointed to the point for Manchester City and awarded Erling Haaland a penalty for a foul by Gabriel, but the incident was annulled at the VAR review as Haaland was correctly ruled offside.
Did VAR review Arsenal’s penalty decision?
VAR official at the Emirates David Coote will have reviewed this decision by Anthony Taylor but ultimately chose not to intervene. VAR officials were ordered to only intervene when a “clear and obvious” error was made and Coote noted that while there may have been some controversy over that goal, that incident was not enough to warrant a reconciliation of the game Video review.
Ahead of this game, there was some controversy surrounding the appointment of the VAR official. The contract was originally awarded to John Brooks.
However, Brooks blundered on VAR duties at the weekend, drawing false offside lines that erroneously ruled out a Pervis Estupinan goal for Brighton against Crystal Palace. As a result, Brooks has been replaced in two of his forthcoming VAR appearances, in that game and in Monday’s Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool.
Social media reaction to Arsenal’s penalty decision
In the US broadcast of the game, former Everton and US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard offered his thoughts, believing that while it was close, it was ultimately a penalty. Howard explains that he initially thought it wasn’t the right call because Ederson “didn’t leave his feet” (he did, but it sounds like Howard meant it wasn’t tackle to ground), finally the challenge came late and there is enough contact to award a penalty.
The BeIN Sports studio crew didn’t think it was the right decision and Ronald de Boer simply said “no” when asked if it was the right decision.
Some pointed out that during the World Cup, a similar decision was made when Argentina won a penalty against Croatia in the semifinals when Dominik Livakovic fouled Julian Alvarez, resulting in an opening goal by Lionel Messi from the penalty spot.
Others around the world also commented on the decision, a pivotal one that saw Arsenal equalize at a critical moment.