After Jens Stryger Larsen committed a late penalty on Wednesday night, Franck Kessie made no mistake from the spot, cooly depositing his attempt past Juan Musso to salvage a point for Milan who had no business taking anything from the match.
The Dane’s egregious handball was an indisputable penalty that required no video review or further consideration. That, regardless of what side of the Calcio aisle you reside, cannot be argued.
However, this occurrence fueled more suspicion over the amount of penalties the Rossonave received throughout the season.
The Italian side have now been awarded a whopping 16 penalties, easily the most in Serie A. Then, there is a pretty significant drop-off, with Sassuolo (8) and Roma (6), followed by Lazio, Juventus, Inter and Napoli are all on five apiece.
This difference is where the suspicion derives from. However, looking at the sheer volume of awarded penalties without context is not how to go about their penalties fortunes. Unlike last night’s dubious handball by Stryger Larsen, there have been instances where VAR has been called into action to determine a key moment in a match.
For the most part, each of these have been fairly given after further review. The clear and obvious penalties should be completely thrown out here, because contact in the box or an arm in an unnatural position like last night preventing a ball’s path is as cut and dry as it gets.
This is not to say that of the sixteen, a select handful cannot be analyzed or disputed. Ante Rebic vs. Benevento or Theo Hernandez against Martin Caceres back in November are two that immediately come to mind.
Owning a reputation for being a gritty, classic physical defender, the Uruguayan had his arm up near the Milan fullback’s upper chest, obstructing his run with the ball in the box. In years past, a less-stringent and more defensively-driven Serie A may have given the benefit of the doubt to Caceres.
Now, it appears the rules tend almost always to favour the attacking player. Then there are the instances against Roma, the first involving Gianluca Mancini and Hakan Calhanoglu earlier in the season.
There is contact from the Italian defender who bundles into the Turkish playmaker as he attempts to control the ball, but certainly nothing more than an effort to close down.
This can be easily deemed the softest of the 16 penalties this season, and one that strikes observers as a makeup call for a previous penalty called against Ismaël Bennacer earlier in the match.
Unlike the ruling against Federico Fazio last weekend where the Giallorossi defender stepped on Davide Calabria’s foot at the very edge of the box, Mancini should not have been penalized for making a fair and honest defensive act to get the ball.
The subject of penalties has been a widely discussed topic for decades and is one of the many reasons for the implementation of VAR into the modern game today. Its purpose, among other things, is to erase doubt and mitigate potential errors and narrow the grey area that exists as a result of human error or interpretation of the game as it is presented.
Who is favoured by the officials? Is the way in which they are given fair and balanced? The argument around which clubs have earned the most penalties tends to cause divide and stir debate.
Technology or no technology, it is improbable the controversy stemming from penalties will ever vanish from football. There will always be more clear and obvious penalties committed. Then there are those that are open to interpretation.
So, what is the solution? Is the intervention of technology too much and ruining the organic, human element of the game? Do the rules and their application need to be re-examined further in order to establish more consistency? At the end of the day, the goal is to get the calls accurate for all, no matter the name of the player or size of the club, and do so with transparency - or one would assume this to be the case.
By reviewing each of Milan’s awarded penalties, there is variety. Some clear cut handballs, obstruction or contact on the player in the box. Yes, the total penalties could come off skewed and show favouritism towards Milan, but they do create a good amount of chances and with that, probability and luck in receiving a penalty increases.
Would the conversation be different if Milan were not in the league position they are? Or, if it was a smaller club with the most? Hard to say.