Brentford extended their unbeaten run to ten Premier League matches with a spirited 1-1 draw away to league-leading Arsenal on Saturday afternoon.
Ivan Toney and his colleagues had squandered a glut of chances to open the scoring before Leandro Trossard came off the bench to put Arsenal ahead after the interval. However, Toney redeemed himself following his crossbar clattering with a 74th-minute equaliser against the Gunners.
That Brentford warranted a share of the spoils is hardly controversial – Thomas Frank gushed that it was potentially his side’s best performance of the season – however, the circumstances surrounding Toney’s equaliser is a little more open to interpretation.
There are a number of elements to the goal which left Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta exasperated. When the set piece which leads to the equaliser is initially arrowed to the back post, Ethan Pinnock appears to be beyond the deepest Arsenal defender while blocking Gabriel Magalhaes from defending the cross.
Post-game, Arteta raged: “We get told every single meeting that the blocker will be offside and the phase is offside.”
According to the Football Association’s Laws of the Game, a player in an offside position is deemed to be “involved in active play by…making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”.
Evidently, after a lengthy review, the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) – led by Lee Mason – didn’t deem Pinnock’s grabbling to “clearly impact” Gabriel.
Arteta also insisted that “both phases” were “offside”, referring to Christian Norgaard who played the ball across the six-yard box for Toney to nod in at the back post. It’s unclear if VAR scrutinised that particular element of the move but they certainly spent enough time scrolling through the frames to cast an eye over Norgaard’s heel position.
Amid uncertainty over exactly what part of the goal was illegal – if any – on-lookers struck a mix of frustration and confusion.
With the taste of injustice lingering, thoughts quickly turned to Arsenal’s impending date with Manchester City. The Gunners, who have failed to win their previous three matches across all competitions, host the reigning champions the day after Valentine’s Day.