Howard Webb admits key mistake was made in the refereeing during Arsenal vs Manchester City

Eyebrows were raised after Chelsea player Gusto was sent off for similar conduct.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 11th October 2023

Veteran referee and PGMOL chief Howard Webb has admitted that a key mistake was made during the refereeing of the game between Arsenal and Manchester City over the weekend.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited head, who refereed in the Premier League and various international tournaments for over a decade, was speaking on the latest episode of Match Officials Mic’d Up: the new show which digs into officiating and VAR controversies of top-flight football matches.

While the latest edition covered various decisions from recent football matches — including breaking his silence on the highly controversial VAR error and subsequent leaked audio from the Spurs vs Liverpool the week prior — one instance they also chose to focus on was Mateo Kovačić‘s potential sending off,

The Croatian midfielder, who signed for City this summer, brought down Arsenal’s Martin Ødegaard with what Webb dubbed “clearly a poor tackle”, going on to say that “if a red card had been given by Michael Oliver on the day it would have been a very straightforward check complete”. Instead, he only saw yellow.

Howard Webb smirks as he admits the City midfielder was very lucky to stay on the pitch against Arsenal.

As the 52-year-old attempts to explain to former England striker and co-presenter, Michael Owen, the angle and position of the foot in relation to wear it lands on Ødegaard’s ankle was slightly different to that of Chelsea’s Malo Gusto, who saw a straight red after VAR overturned an initial booking just the day before.


Insisting that the video referees at Stockley Park didn’t see enough to correct the first official in this case and didn’t want to risk “re-refereeing” the game, he ultimately said he could see why the first decision stood despite protests in the stadium.

However, as anyone who watched the game will know, just 15 seconds later, Kovačić put in a similarly poor challenge on Declan Rice and despite a chorus of home fans chanting “off, off!”, as well as Gary Neville saying “he’s in trouble” during the commentary, the 29-year-old still somehow stayed on the pitch.


Here’s the second mistimed tackle just moments later:

You can watch the full analysis and comparison between the two incidents HERE.

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When asked by Owen if he thought he was lucky to stay on after this second rash lunge almost immediately after the previous one, Webb said that although by the laws of the game “the VAR obviously can’t get involved with second yellows… he was an extremely fortunate player to stay on the field.”

Arguing the other side a little and reassuring his belief that Michael Oliver is “one of the best referees in the world” at present, he did go on to say that the ref will no doubt go back and review his own decision in this case and that he was obviously trying to avoid “a negative impact on the game by overreacting”.


At the start of this new Premier League season, rule changes included referees being told to be more lenient when it comes to challenges and, where possible, to refrain from stopping play for some challenges in order to let the play run more freely.

It was the only incident that arose during the game either, as a touchline tiff also occurred just after full-time with stadium footage shedding new light on what exactly happened.

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Featured Image — Sky Sports Premier League (via YouTube)/Mateo Kovačić (via Instagram)