By Tony Attwood
On 20 October 1990 Arsenal beat Man U 1-0 at Old Trafford. In the second half, Anders Limpar (who scored the goal) tangled with Irwin. Winterburn then got embroiled with Irwin, and there was what the BBC used to call a bit of argy bargy but which now some call a melee – a bit of pushing and shoving between 21 of the 22 players which lasted well under half a minute. Limpar and Winterburn were booked – no one was sent off.
Both sides punished their players afterwards, and Arsenal fined George Graham. The FA then fined each club £50,000, and removed two points from Arsenal’s tally, and one from Man U’s for the season. Given that Arsenal were chasing the championship, that mattered.
But those events look like child’s play compared to what happened between Chelsea and Tottenham last night, although I am not holding my breath to see if either club have points deducted. These punishments are handed out to Arsenal, not to Chelsea, not to Tottenham. Fair play between clubs is never part of the deal.
So awful was yesterday’s game that the Telegraph this morning calls is a “filthy climax” to the season and Matt Law writing in the paper, is one of many newspaper correspondents who notes that Diego Costa was gouged in the eye by Mousa Dembele.
Whereas in the Arsenal Man U game there were two bookings, here Tottenham alone had nine booked, and will get… a fine. Dembele is expected by many to three-match retrospective ban for his eye gouge.
Law calls what happened at the end of the game “a riot”. Every paper notes that Fabregas was stamped on by Lamela in the game, then at the end had a go at Danny Rose, who reacted and knocked the Chelsea manager to the ground.
Chelsea’s assistant, Steve Holland, had to be held back. Diego Costa went for Tottenham’s reserve keeper Michel Vorm and appeared to try and bite him.
Mauricio Pochettino twice got involved and then when asked if he and his players had gone too far, (this is the media talking to Tottenham remember – everything is always genteel in terms of the media reporting of that club) Pochettino said, “Maybe yes…. there is emotion, we are human. It is a pleasure to play in this intensity.”
Dele Alli has already been banned retrospectively for punching West Bromwich Albion’s Claudio Yacob so there is previous (which was the reason given for Arsenal’s two point deduction – the club had had a bit of an affray with Norwich earlier in the season.)
But here it was different. As the Telegraph commentary on the match says, “By the end, Spurs were taking out anyone in blue…”
Other papers reflect on the match in the same way. In the Guardian there is the comment that “Dembélé made it all the way to stoppage time before he was booked might be the greatest miracle of all. In the dying moments of the first half, after Danny Rose slid in late on Willian in front of the Spurs dug-out, players and coaches from both sides came together in a mêlée that distracted the officials sufficiently for the Belgian to push his nails into one of Diego Costa’s eyes and down his face and emerge unnoticed and unpunished.”
They also noted Kyle Walker push Pedro to the floor and then kick him in the shin. Érik Lamela’s two-footed foul on Cesc Fàbregas… The list goes on and on and on and on.
The Daily Mail is quite clear in saying that, “Tottenham’s Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Kyle Walker should all have been dismissed in title-deciding draw with Chelsea.” Indeed they run a whole series of headlines today about the game above Graham Poll’s review.
- The Spurs players completely lost their discipline at Stamford Bridge
- Kyle Walker was given too many chances by referee Mark Clattenburg
- Moussa Dembele’s eye gouge on Diego Costa was a clear red card
- Mauricio Pochettino only added to the tensions between the players
- Eric Dier should have been dismissed for a second nasty challenge
“The Spurs players completely lost their discipline, and although a few Chelsea players did nothing to discourage it, they were largely blameless.
“Even so, after a tumultuous game with 12 yellow cards, the referee should review his performance to see if his approach contributed to the mayhem….Walker was a man on a mission and for Clattenburg to give him three or four chances was ill-advised.”
Of course what should really happen is that PGMO should review his performance, and then review their own performance, agree they are not fit for purpose and wind themselves up. But of course not – that would be too good for the game.
The ex-ref Poll is also critical of Mauricio Pochettino coming onto the field of play, saying that this “fanned the flames as players raced into the melee.” (Melee indeed is the word of the moment.)
Poll also returns to the issue of the FA getting involved. “The worst clash saw Dembele poke Diego Costa in the eye, trying to gouge the striker, another case for the FA, although it happened right under the nose of the assistant referee Simon Beck.”
It is, of course, a chance for the FA to show what their standards are like. They will know that they have deducted two points from Arsenal for an incident that was nothing remotely so bad as this affair, and we will know that this will show us quite clearly whether the bizarre antics of the PGMO, which works hand-in-hand with the Premier League, is now extended to influencing the FA in order to protect the extraordinary antics of their referees.
Everyone will know that a fine for Tottenham at a time when the clubs are getting a TV deal that delivers unimaginable amounts of cash, will be meaningless. Only a deduction of points hurts, and if that does not occur – as it did in the case of a far smaller incident with Arsenal – that is the green light.
A green light not only for players to do as they wish, but for clubs to do as they wish as they become ever more desperate to try and win a trophy, and for the PGMO to continuing doing as they wish.
As we have seen, corruption is everywhere. I am not holding my breath for change at this late stage.
- Media changes its tune over Liverpool, football drugs, the police and social media. Whatever next?
- One player in, three to leave, one coaching deal. All Arsenal’s summer transfers
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
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