Koscielny v Sagna: How fouling can be less risky than not fouling
Controversial decisions have been at the heart of the post-game narrative for 50% of our PL games so far this season (Sunderland and Villa) and there were 2 this weekend in particular which got me thinking.
Koscielny’s lunge on Johnson and Sagna’s tussle with Altidore are both widely considered to be poor calls on the ref’s part but, while one bad decision strongly benefited us and the other Sunderland, our players have been roundly criticised by most for their part in both situations.
I actually see both situations as almost mirroring each other (I’ll explain what I mean) and for this reason I believe Sagna was taking less of a risk than Koscielny, even though that seems counter-intuitive since Koscielny didn’t commit a foul and Sagna did.
This is how the situations are related:
Situation A sees Koscielny lunging in on Johnson, which opens up the possibility of bad luck by giving the referee a reason to award a penalty when there was only moderate immediate danger.
Situation B sees Sagna holding back Altidore, which opens up the possibility of good luck by giving the referee a reason to bring back play when there was significant immediate danger.
The fact that Sagna committed a foul and Koscielny didn’t in these situations becomes somewhat irrelevant in terms of risk because of their respective needs at the time.
In situation A, with Johnson running away from goal, on his weaker right foot, and with Gibbs covering, the danger would have been unlikely to increase had Koscielny stayed on his feet. Therefore the challenge he made was stupid and irrational, since it forced the referee to make a previously non-existent decision where one of the two outcomes dramatically increased the chance of an opposition goal, versus the situation as it stood, and the other left things as they were.
In situation B, given the difficulty Sagna found himself in (being turned by Altidore), his only other option was to let the Sunderland striker through for a 1-on-1 unimpeded. I am not suggesting here that Sagna couldn’t have defended the situation better from an earlier point, but given he was being turned the foul made sense since it forced the referee to make a previously non-existent decision where one of the two outcomes dramatically decreased the chance of an opposition goal, versus the situation as it stood, and the other left things as they were.
The risks that came with letting Altidore go far exceeded the risks that came with fouling him, just as the risks that came with sliding in on Johnson exceeded those of Koscielny staying on his feet. So, in this regard, Sagna’s foul was actually less risky than Koscielny’s non-foul.
As it happened, the ref’s decisions benefited us in one case and not in the other and the overall outcome worked to our advantage. But since most people believe the ref got both calls wrong things could be said to have ‘evened out’, although that never really happens.
And ultimately, regardless of the win, I think we’d all prefer it if we just cut out the risks altogether.Follow @wengerboy1Tell us what you think! If you agree, or have a different view, please leave a comment in the comments section or why not write a response or your own article on YouWrite?
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