My Final Thoughts On Wednesday

Perhaps many of the regular readers here were surprised by my reaction to the outcome of Wednesday’s match. I still stand by my assertions that Fabregas dove, especially after having seen replays, though I’m tempering it somewhat as you’ll see. I have had time to think about it and I’ve found that I can’t assert that he is a constant diver simply because I haven’t watch him enough to know that sort of thing. For instance, I have watched Busi and Dani Alves quite a few times and I think that I can say that they’re both constant exaggerators and sometimes out-and-out divers. And I try to harangue them for it. Perhaps I should do it more aggressively and more pointedly–I will try to do so from here on out.

Kevin, usually the smarter of the two of us anyway, brings up the more important points than whether or not Cesc dove in his well-thought-out review, which is well worth your time if you haven’t already read it. I hope no one took my reaction as thinking that Cesc was the reason that we drew what should have been a clear victory–though I suppose there’s little chance of that. I was angry, indeed, and I’m still angry, but I think my anger is tempered now by the passage of time and a nice amount of sleep. And pudding.

First, before I discuss any of the actual match, I apologize–I’m sorry–if I offended anyone with my language and aggression in last night’s post. It was ill-thought out and needless. It won’t happen again. Obviously the post stays up so that I can look at it from time-to-time so as to remind myself and others what I shouldn’t do.

Okay then.

I like Arsenal. I enjoy watching Arsenal. The Arsenal fans I watched the game with last night were a nice crowd with only one or two comments thrown our way and I think they were said jokingly. We, of course, joked back, and I hope people recognized that, besides my “diver” yell during the penalty debacle, it was all in jest. I’ll probably go back to Woodwork to watch the second leg, which should be another doozy. I just hope that this time it has football deciding the outcome and not a bad call, a dive, and a bad card.

Before you freak out about whether or not Cesc dove, I think it’s important to note that we’re talking about two incidents. I haven’t heard anyone say he didn’t dive to earn Pique (his best friend, they say) a yellow card that got him banned from the next match. (What’s more, he actually rugby tackled Pique and got away without a second yellow, but that’s not exactly his fault). It’s also important to discuss what a dive is. To me, a dive is intentionally conning the ref by making an act look like a foul when it wasn’t. That’s a fairly vague definition, I know, especially coming on the heels of me finding a difference between exaggeration and diving in the first paragraph. What I mean by exaggeration is making a tackle look worse than it was, such as when Dani Alves flops on the ground like a fish out of water screaming and clutching his foot after it was merely grazed. That’s exaggeration because there was actual contact.

I have now been able to rewatch both of the plays that I originally called dives (Pique’s yellow card at 70:58 and the red card against Puyol in the 85th) and here’s what I think of them: Cesc certainly exaggerated in both and blurred the line between dive and exaggeration in both. I can’t seem to find YouTube footage of Pique’s yellow card (please provide it in the comments if you have it), but here’s what happened: Nasri, Diaby, and Cesc play a triangle move around Busi, with Diaby threading the ball to Cesc who one-touches it to Nasri, who one-touches it back towards Cesc on a diagonal. The ball is overhit, however, and Pique, who is bodied up against Cesc, puts his arm out to stop Cesc, who goes down like a ton of bricks. The ball was nowhere near him and he could see that. He even begins to turn towards the ref before he hits the ground, with the ball already gone (straight to Alves who was quite a ways from Cesc’s path). Massimo Busacca: conned. I think that was a dive because he can see the ball is gone and he has no chance at it, so he goes down. You may consider it merely an exaggeration and part of what players do to show the ref that they were impeded–and Cesc was impeded (slightly), but the ball was gone and Cesc knew it–but I stand by it being a dive. I’m okay with it not being called a dive and being called an exaggeration, but isn’t that bad too?

On to the next one, where there is footage.

There are several ways to think of this, of course, and I know that I’m a Barcelona fan and I know that I’ve voiced my opinion of it. Brooks Peck of Dirty Tackle has voiced his. But let’s go over it quickly: Bendtner provides a nice ball over the top towards Cesc, Puyol beats him to the ball, and Cesc kicks into Puyol and then falls down with his arms raised and, most crucially, already turning to look at the ref. His arms fly up and he exaggerates the fall. There was obviously contact, but it was contact initiated by Cesc, not Puyol. Some are arguing that Cesc was winding up and they’re right, but it doesn’t matter whatsoever because he doesn’t have the right to shooting space when Puyol is already there. He didn’t wind up and get kicked by Puyol, but rather, Puyol was kicked, resulting in Cesc falling down. That he raises his arms and exaggerates the fall is, I think, the blurry line where exaggeration and dive converge. I now say that he exaggerated. I think that works better with the facts. One dive, one exaggeration. It’s Massimo Busacca that bottled it, so to speak. He gave in to the roar of the crowd, even though he had a perfectly good view of what happened. Once he called the foul, the red card was just applying the letter of the law, which is fine, if obviously harsh, but it was the foul that was so an absurdity and that led directly to a wrong card being issued (and that’s why it won’t be overturned).

So yeah, long story short: I take back what I said about that being a dive. Oops. My bad. But I can still see it the way I saw it earlier as well, which is that he intentionally conned the ref, which is one way of saying “dive”. So you could see it that way, but I now choose not to at this point. And anyway, we should have beaten them like 8-0, but we blew it and that’s our fault. Dammit.

I hope that Cesc didn’t break his leg–that would be terrible. I hope that he recovers and helps Arsenal win the EPL title. I really do. [update: apparently he cracked his fibula and is out for 6 weeks] I also hope that in his absence we crush Arsenal 5-0 at the Camp Nou next week. I hope we show the world what 90 minutes of brilliant football is like instead of just 68. I can hope that Puyol and Pique’s cards will be overturned, but I know that neither of them will be; I also hope that, if his card stands, Puyol gets a one-match ban instead of a 2-match ban like Didier Drogba got for his stomp on Thiago Motta. Puyol will come back with a yellow card to his name, I believe, so he’s still a suspension risk if we make it to the semis, but better that he gets a yellow in the semi first leg and misses the second leg than missing the final, right?

And one final note: I still don’t ever want Cesc. Maybe I’ll change my tune in a few years, but for now, rest assured that I’m against his arrival. 1) He costs too much, 2) he’s not that good (Xaviniesta’s better, I think JDS will be as good), especially for the price and 3) he’s a divin’, cheatin’, wankin’, hooooooor. Ha.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

117 Comments

  1. bomba
    April 4, 2010

    Just read through these posts, and for a bunch of guys who claim to be very confident about the certainty of a Barca victory, and that you were pleased with the end result last week, you are whigning rather persisently. First, if you are going to complain about referees, tell it to a Chelsea supporter. If Chelsea were not so hated that game would live in infamy as the standard of poor refereeing. 4 Chelsea penalties denied (2 would have resulted in a red).

    As for Wednesday’s game, Of course Cesc didn’t dive, and the penalty was spot on. You claim to have viewed the play from 50 angles. Which angle shows Puyol trying to play the ball? Not dirty, but certainly a penalty and by the rules a red card (Lehmann).

    The card on Pique was soft and Cesc embellished, but that’s nothing compared to the embellishment of Barca players throughout the game who had Arsenal players booked all over the pitch. Including BTW, writhing in pain afer a clean tackle from Fabregas and getting him a booking. Get the blinders off.

    Still say that the first 20 minutes wee some of the best football I have seen since some of the great Brasil sides. That said, though Barca had more possession. Chances were limited and Arsenal created nearly as many opportunities between 20-70 mins. Before you flip out, watch the game again and start at 22 mins.

  2. vdh
    April 5, 2010

    everyone who sees a dive from cesc is blind. puyol came from behind,cesc see him so he couldn’t choose to kick puyol. the penalty is fair, it’s the same as if you accidentaly touch someone’s feets while running behind at full pace in the box : it’s penalty because you prevent the attacker to play the ball. The red card, however, seems a bit harsh but that’s fifa rules.

    • vdh
      April 5, 2010

      edit : cesc DIDN’T SEE him

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