Following Arsenal's Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich, manager Arsene Wenger didn't focus on Mesut Ozil's poor performance, his Ryo Miyachi blunder or Bayern Munich's general superiority. He focused on Arjen Robben and his alleged simulation.
In the first leg at the Emirates, the Frenchman was so irked by Robben's antics that he performed a diving gesture right to his face.
In the second leg this week, flopping was back on the agenda as Robben made some dubious penalty claims. In the 50th minute, the tricky winger dramatically went down in the box as Santi Cazorla appeared to apply very little, if no contact at all.
Then, in the dying minutes, Robben drew a foul from Laurent Koscielny for a penalty which was saved by Lukas Fabianski. But once again, Robben's technique drew a visibly frsutrated reaction from Le Professeur.
After the game, Wenger did not hold back in his criticism (via The Metro):
Robben is very good at getting the maximum of nothing.
He is a great player, but also a good diver.
He gets past the player, then he actually slows down, looking for the foul.
The Arsenal manager has drawn criticism for his critique of Robben's performances, particularly from the man himself, who responded in kind on ITV (via Goal.com):
I always say if you're a big manager, take your loss. If you win, be happy, enjoy. But if you lose, don't start complaining about silly things.
It was two penalties but I don't want to defend myself. From a big manager you expect a little bit more if you lose.
Effectively, Robben is attacking Wenger for lacking class in this situation. This is incredibly galling from a player who quite clearly uses cheating as a means to gain an advantage.
Just take a look at this clip from a league game against Bochum to see what he is capable of:
We can watch slow motion replays of the challenges until the cows come home, but the fact is that the Dutchman goes down more often than he should. And when he is legitimately fouled, he becomes the boy who cried wolf.
In 2010, I was lucky enough to get a front-row seat at the Champions League Final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. I watched Robben command the right wing from a matter of yards away, and I witnessed him flop under minimal contact. The most shocking part of the act was the yelp he emitted as he was going down.
Suffice to say, up-close and in-person, his antics are even less convincing than they are on television. But if this is the case, why did he go unpunished for his Cazorla dive on Tuesday evening?
The referee waved play on, presumably seeing that no foul was committed. But if the letter of the law was obeyed, he should have received a yellow card for simulation.
The fact is, referees are too lenient on divers.
In the current climate, players like Robben are aware that the risk of being caught is far outweighed by the reward of winning a foul or penalty. Going down is easier than trying to go all the way and shoot and there are relatively few repercussions for a serial diver, other than a loss of respect from the opposition.
Players who simulate fouls are not only tolerated, but seen as an acceptable part of the modern game. Why else would the likes of Luis Suarez openly admit to diving?
If anything is going to change, Robben and his ilk need to know their actions have negative consequences.
Why not introduce retroactive bans for diving? Or give red cards to those caught trying to con the referee? If this is too extreme, then the Sepp Blatter-backed idea of introducing a "sin bin" for cheaters could be effective.
Arjen Robben believes he is in the right, and believes he is morally justified to chastise Arsene Wenger. He is talented enough to succeed without resorting to diving, but until he is punished more severely, nothing will change.
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