It’s very difficult to make a judgment on Arsenal following the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea. While the Gunners suffered from poor officiating in midweek in Zagreb, it was obviously a poor performance and I’m sure most fans, like myself, were frustrated at the efforts of the players that evening. But I can’t bring myself to be annoyed at Arsenal for the way the team played at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
With game poised at 0-0 just before half time, Arsenal had looked relatively comfortable. Chelsea were better than they had been all season, which wasn’t hard, but the Gunners had them at arms’ length meaning Petr Cech hadn’t really been tested during the opening half. Then Diego Costa and Mike Dean contrived to ruin the match.
Costa had already dived early in the match and tried to get Francis Coquelin booked before he attempted to rip Laurent Koscielny’s face off with repeated swipes and swings at the Frenchman when Koscielny was marking Costa in the box. When the ball didn’t reach the Spaniard, he bumped Koscielny over when the Frenchman had done absolutely nothing to react to actions that should have seen the Chelsea frontman sent off.
Gabriel, taking exception to Costa’s actions, told him what he thought of the situation and had his neck scratched by Costa. Enter Mike Dean who, along with his officials, had already failed to spot the multiple offences against Koscielny and he decided that booking Gabriel and Costa was the best course of action. His management of the situation was poor as Gabriel, rising to the bait of Costa’s antics, shouldn’t have reacted at all, and shouldn’t have given the referee the option of pulling out a card, irrespective of how minimal his retaliation was. Of course, when Gabriel did make a tiny flick of his foot towards Costa, the striker acted as if Gabriel had insulted his mother, sister and home city and shot his pet.
The fact the officials could spot the flick from Gabriel and not the assaults on Koscielny is baffling, along with the fact such an action was deemed violent conduct at all. A sensible referee would try and diffuse the situation, get the captains together and prevent the situation escalating. Mike Dean, however, isn’t a sensible referee. He is an official who seems desperate to make the match about him. Having seen some complete scummery from Costa, he still decided that in the whole incident, Arsenal should end with a man less on the pitch. As an experienced referee, Dean should know what Diego Costa does, yet he still fell for his cheating.
That wasn’t the last of the controversy involving Dean and Costa as the striker dived in the second half to try and win a penalty against Hector Bellerin and then kicked out at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a worse manner than Gabriel did in the first half. These obviously happened with Costa on a yellow card, and still Dean did nothing.
With Diego Costa, Gabriel was naive for getting involved in the way he did, but I don’t mind him wanting to stand up for his centre-back partner when he’s been assaulted. When we moan about Costa, I don’t buy the argument that we’d love him in our team because of the aggression he brings. I wouldn’t want him near the football club I support because he isn’t aggressive, he’s a cowardly cheat who is an embarrassment to the game. As that is the case, working under a manager such as Mourinho is where he belongs.
If the FA have any balls, Diego Costa should get a three-match ban. The evidence is clear. They also need to make sure referees are strong enough to to deal with such cheating. On that basis, Mike Dean should also get a few weeks off for such an embarrassing performance. Those actions would send a message out that such behaviour and poor officiating won’t be accepted, because as an Arsenal fan, it feels like Diego Costa was rewarded for being a massive arse.
After what happened in the first half, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Arsenal finished with nine men. There can’t really be any complaints about Cazorla’s two yellow cards, but it wasn’t consistent with his other decisions during the game.
The game was in the balance before the red card, but from that point onwards, any positive result would have been phenomenal for Arsenal. There was frustration at conceding from a set-piece (especially when it wasn’t a foul from Aaron Ramsey that led to the award of the free-kick), and then Alexis should have equalised, growing the concerns about his form this season, but I couldn’t bring myself to be massively annoyed about those things. It always felt like Arsenal were up against it because of the officiating and Mike Dean buying Costa’s antics.
It’s two defeats in a week for Arsenal, but both have come with mitigating circumstances. I hope the team don’t read too much into the Chelsea defeat as that was farcical through the performances of aforementioned individuals. Arsene Wenger now has to pick the morale up and pick a strong team in midweek because if there’s one thing that can instantly improve the mood around the club, it’s a North London derby win at White Hart Lane.