One of the biggest moments in Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal in the first North London Derby of the season was the handball penalty called against Cristian Romero in the second half. Cuti was going down to block a shot when the ball was deflected off of a player and onto his arm, which was outstretched because he’s, y’know, a human being and following the laws of physics.
VAR had a good long look at it and determined that it was a penalty, which is surely a decision they could have made, but also completely inconsistent with how that same situation has been adjudicated in numerous other matches, both this season and in the past. But it was ruled a penalty, Bukayo Saka converted from the spot, and Spurs went down 2-1 before Son Heung-Min equalized two minutes later.
After the match, Ange Postecoglou was asked about the penalty decision in the post-match press conference, and his answer was pretty much how I would’ve answered it too.
“Mate, I couldn’t see but I’ve got no idea about the handball rule. I really don’t. I saw the one yesterday at Wolves and it just seems if it hits your hand it’s a penalty and then other times if it hits your hand, it isn’t a penalty. I’ve got no idea. It is the one rule in the game I just don’t understand. Unless we start developing armless defenders I don’t know how you are supposed to block things and be in a natural position. It is what it is mate. You kind of hope these things even themselves out over the course of a year but I don’t understand the handball rule. I have said that to referees in the past and I don’t know how they see it to be honest.
“I think any clarity [on the handball rule] would be good because I have got no idea, mate. That is probably just me but I have no idea what the handball rule is because I’ve seen all sorts of handballs given and all sorts of handballs not given and they look identical to me. I don’t know. I don’t understand it.
Football managers — they’re just like us!
Honestly, I’ve been a Premier League watcher for 13 years now and I still don’t know what a handball is. The rules have changed so often, but there’s never any clarity over what’s “deliberate” and what “unnatural position” is and whether this handball is actually a handball or actually it isn’t because y’know reasons. It’s stupid. I hate it. Honestly I think whenever the ball hits a player’s arm in the box the ref should just flip a coin and let fate decide.
Otherwise, Ange said he was pretty happy with how things turned out and the Tottenham players’ overall performance in this match.
“It’s not about being happy with the result, for me it was about the performance. You can get a result here, a draw, and like I said before you can walk away knowing that ‘you know what, we escaped’, but I don’t have that feeling now. I think we went toe to toe with a top team and at times I thought we really asserted our dominance on the game. At times they did but that’s what happens when you face top sides.
“Even if we had lost today, and I don’t like losing, but for me to keep pushing these guys, they need to feel that out there that what we talk about and work on, they can see it come to fruition and when it does against a top team, being brave with our approach, that’s the key thing. For me I’m pleased.”
Ange was asked about Destiny Udogie’s performance, which looked a little shaky, especially after picking up an early yellow card, but solidified over the course of the match.
“Spot on. I thought both our full-backs had difficult jobs today. Arsenal’s wide players are outstanding players and that’s where their threats are.
“Destiny getting booked early, it could have made it difficult. But the way he dealt with it, in the end I thought he was the dominant player on that side of the pitch. He finished really strong and had to contend with having a yellow card. It’s a great learning experience for him and for all the guys. They’ve come through that, going toe to toe with a top side.
“You would much rather win and wouldn’t be happy if you lost, but if you put the result to one side, you walk away thinking, ‘OK if we continue down this road, we can be a team that competes against the best.’”
Ange finally gave an update on Brennan Johnson, who was a second half substitute after picking up what appeared to be a knock, as well as Son Heung-Min and James Maddison, who he said were both less than 100% before the match today.
“Not sure with Brennan, it seems like he felt something, I think his hamstring. We’ll assess that. Madders and Sonny weren’t 100% going into the game but they got through it which suggests that it’s nothing serious.”
That suggests that the second half subs for both Madders and Sonny were more precautionary to avoid further injury in a pressure cooker of a NLD than anything else. Hopefully all three are going to be okay in time for next week’s home match against Liverpool.