Paul Merson and Jamie Redknapp reach an agreement on Arsenal’s penalty against Liverpool
Arsenal maintained their lead in the Premier League with a 3-2 victory over Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, but it was a decision in the second half that sparked controversy.
Michael Oliver’s decision to award Arsenal a penalty in the second half against Liverpool, according to Paul Merson and Jamie Redknapp, was “soft.”
The Gunners took the lead at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday thanks to a fine Gabriel Martinelli finish, but Liverpool recovered from a slow start to equalize in the 34th minute through Darwin Nunez. Arsenal took the lead during first-half stoppage time when Bukayo Saka stabbed the ball home from close range, only for Roberto Firmino to equalize shortly after the restart.
There was more late drama, however, when Arsenal were awarded a penalty in the 76th minute after Thiago Alcantara brought down Gabriel Jesus inside the visitors’ area after knocking the back of the striker’s heel while challenging for a cross. As tempers flared on the field, VAR upheld Oliver’s decision to award the penalty, and Saka slotted home the spot-kick.
The decision to award the penalty was a major talking point following the game, with Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp, Paul Merson, and John Barnes all weighing in. “I think it’s a soft penalty, we can agree on that,” Redknapp said. “But how Liverpool defended there, Fabinho on the floor, there was no urgency, and I think that goal sums up where Liverpool are as a unit.”
“No one is taking responsibility, pressing, or attempting to win tackles. Fabinho collapses and may have received a knock; he is normally a defensive midfielder; compare that to Thomas Partey today, who was alert to every situation; nobody is really doing their job.”
Merson agreed with Redknapp, saying, “I would say soft.” I called it right away because he kicked the back of his foot, which is a penalty. It’s a home penalty, but with VAR, it doesn’t matter. The lad [Saka] is a fantastic player with a lot of heart; it took a long time, about two minutes before the penalty was taken as well.”
Barnes, a former Liverpool winger, added, “I think it’s very soft, it’s a very soft penalty.” Yes, there is contact, but contact does not imply a penalty.
“Thiago tries to control the ball, it fails, when the ball goes out wide and comes to Gabriel Jesus, he gets the ball and Thiago kicks him, but I don’t think the kick is enough to bring him down.” There is contact, but I believe it is a soft penalty because he went down without being able to shoot or because the kick caused him to go down.”
Following the game, which saw Arsenal move to the top of the Premier League and Liverpool drop to tenth, Reds manager Jurgen Klopp had a lot to say about the decision to award the Gunners a penalty. “What can I say now about that situation?” said the German. He [Michael Oliver] immediately thought it was a penalty, which is intriguing, but his
“Mr [Darren] England looked at it and thought it was a penalty as well.” In life, we know that if two referees agree, that is the truth we must accept.
“If I look at the situation again, if there was contact – and I’m not sure there was – there could have been soft contact – then the player goes back on both feet and then down, that’s an indication that something was made up.” But not for the officials.
“However, they thought it was a clear handball in the first half when Diogo placed the ball on Gabriel’s arm, and we can’t change that.”
“Our situation is complicated enough with injuries, but in a game like this, when decisions go against you, it’s kind of typical, but it doesn’t help.” We’ve now lost the game.”
Many fans on social media called the handball Klopp is referring to “baffling.” Following a Jota cross, Gabriel Magalhaes was seen handling the ball inside his own penalty area, but both Oliver and the VAR officials, Darren England and Edward Stuart, decided against awarding a penalty.