Mike Dean certainly didn’t do Tottenham any favours during the North London derby, but the controversial referee can’t be held completely culpable for the frustrating loss.
While it’s true that his incorrect foul decision on Davinson Sánchez led directly to Shkodran Mustafi’s opener, Spurs simply weren’t good enough on the day to dignify a better result. Did Dean’s harsh ruling on Spurs’ Colombian center back change the complexion of the match?
Did Sánchez pull back the diminutive Arsenal Chilean to unfairly win the ball?
Mauricio Pochettino was correct in his post-game press conference.
Dean’s incorrect decision and the linesman’s missed offside definitely altered the course of the match. But in those moments Tottenham must be more resilient. By thwarting the resulting free kick Sanchez’s teammates could have provided him with the clemency he so deserved.
Unfortunately Sánchez wasn’t so lucky.
Spurs didn’t play well enough
Tottenham should have handled the resulting free kick more assuredly, even if it was marginally offside. Which it was.
But how many times have we witnessed Premier League officials get calls wrong that have a direct outcome on the match?
Probably more times than I cursed Arsenal and Dean on Saturday.
But that’s the entire point. No team can rely on officiating to be infallible. Until video review is introduced for questionable offside calls human error will linger in perpetuity, like Arsene Wenger on the Arsenal touchline.
By no means am I defending Dean, who shows incessantly his propensity for getting pivotal calls wrong in crucial matches. But Tottenham are accountable for slack marking on the Mustafi goal. It was offside by the narrowest of margins and should have never allowed but Jan Vertonghen let Mustafi get the better of him. The German easily won the physical duel with Vertonghen, brushing him aside to meet the ball forcefully in midair.
The German center back wanted it more, and was rewarded. That’s the harsh truth of it.
So while Dean, for his poor judgement and incompetence, deserves to be the star of countless memes and the butt of a bevy of jokes, Mauricio Pochettino’s men must also be held partially accountable.
The first half simply wasn’t good enough. And I’m sure in reflection the gaffer will reinforce that notion to the lads in the locker room.