By Tony Attwood
Seeing a club lose their third player to a red card this season it was hard not to think that had it happened last season or the season before it would have been Arsenal who would have had at least one man sent off in this match, not Chelsea. To lose one player in the first five matches might be a misfortune. To lose three seems rather careless.
Last season they had no red cards, and as the game progressed I think Arsenal began to realise what Chelsea had already come to realise, this season is, at least in its early stages, a bit different from all that has gone before.
The PL is not completely reformed in refereeing terms, of course, and I have no real stats on the issue, but I fancy it is a trifle different. That David Luiz got a straight red suggested (I’ll put it no more strongly than that) that referees really are trying to ready themselves for video evidence being used in the PL, as it already is in Germany.
Before the match the media were full of just how many games against Chelsea, Arsenal had played without winning. There was no mention of how many of those they had played while having a man wrongly sent off. They won’t revisit that of course, but there seems to be a connection.
Put another way, Chelsea have had five red cards in their last eight domestic matches – a figure that takes into account the cards against Pedro and Victor Moses at Tottenham’s home ground (aka Wembley). Last time around it took Chelsea 73 games to reach that total. From 73 down to eight. Is something going on?
Of course few people other than some Arsenal supporters have actually bothered to contemplate the statistics of refereeing decisions, and the Chelsea manager, a Mr Conte, seemed not quite to be getting it when he said the club need “to be more lucky with the refereeing decisions”. Or maybe he was getting it, and “lucky” is a code word for something else. You never quite know when the gang on the other side is the PGMO.
But certainly we saw far less of the sort of shenanigans that got Gabriel wrongly deported from the pitch, so maybe the message is getting through step by step. And by and large the right player was sent off this time.
And, away from the carding of players, and the gradual awakening of referees from their 15 year slumber, there was another issue to consider: Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey.
I’ve not kept any statistical analysis but I suspect the “wrongness” of using each of those two players, and of using both players together has been the centre of more comments to this site than anything else, other than the wrongness of having Mr Wenger as a manager.
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The statistics of the players’ activity shows exactly why we should have those two on the pitch, and my own view of the game (which is far less to be valued than the stats) makes me think that this is exactly the midfield combination that we need. I have heard one “analysis” (I use the word in its broadest sense) which speaks of the two exerting a “stranglehold on midfield which had not been in the prematch script”.
Well, actually it has been in the script of those of us who managed to take note of what those guys were doing at the end of last season and have started to pull together this time around.
And speaking of funny quotes, here’s another one: “There were times when Chelsea were crying out for the brawn of Diego Costa just to bully the Arsenal rearguard into submission.” That rather omits the reality of the number of red cards Chelsea have been picking up, as opposed to the number they have been imposing on Arsenal. With the new improved refereeing system he wouldn’t have lasted the first half. Maybe not the first five minutes.
Which is also not to say that everything is now plain sailing, and that we are going to charge up the league, while the dirty buggers are finally punished after years of getting away with it. But two things are to be noticed.
First, we started this game without Alexis and Ozil, and Alexis. Second, although it is more than likely that Danny Welbeck is going to miss a few games, we have more than enough players in the squad to cover this event – even allowing for the desire to find a more or less different team to play the League Cup game in midweek.
Mr Wenger said at the end, “With the attitude and determination, it was vital for us to come out with a solid performance. We did that.” I would agree.
Just one other Sunday evening thought: our old chum Rosie (aka Arry Redknapp) has got the sack. However during the summer the owners allowed the old scalawag the chance to bring in a grand total of 15 new players. But did they think that the ragamuffin could actually turn 15 newcomers into a team in a matter of seven or so games?
The stupidity of owners is, in my view, impossible to over-estimate. I am hardly a supporter of Arry the Red, but with him you know what you get (apart from the dog). A lot of wheeler dealer mucking around, which inevitably results in a period where everyone has to get to know each other. One can argue that you have to be pretty dumb to bring in Arry in the first place, but to do that and let him in turn bring in 15 players and then sack him soon after, is surely dumber.
One wonders if Paul Suen Cho Hung and his Virgin Islands registered company TTA which owns Birmingham, quite understands the essence of English footie. Or come to that the essence of Harry the Red.
- Chelsea v Arsenal: the supporters and the team; the injuries and the discipline.
- Arsenal v Cologne: what did they think of the fiasco in Germany?
- Will the referee’s change of style seen in the Cup Final continue on Sunday