Initially I had no intention of writing the review. Not because I was fuming at the result (I was, though), but because the game was lost courtesy of a highly incompetent Dean. Why write about something so trivial and done to death already? I mean, how many times can we say Mike Dean was horrible?
After giving it some consideration, I decided to go ahead and write the review. After all, despite Arsene being almost exclusively asked about the referee’s performance in the presser, there were some other talking points.
The first half
It was a game with little between the two sides. Chelsea dominated a bit more, but it looked as though we allowed them. Knowing for them a win was a must, we had the luxury of sitting back and playing on the counter.
Wenger seems to have picked his team with exactly this point in mind. And it worked. Walcott looked lively, we tried to get the ball to him as quickly as possible, all the while remaining cautious at the back. We didn’t leave space for Chelsea to exploit, Gabriel and Koscielny snuffed out any danger emanating from Costa and Bellerin pocketed Hazard. The stage was set for us to win the game in the second half. But for one thing.
Gabriel’s sending off
After another lost battle in the box, Costa twice used his hands on Koscielny’s face. Deeming it not enough, the Spaniard then pushed Kos to the ground. Inside I was gleeful. I thought “This is it. We got under the fucker’s skin, he committed a blatant act of unsporting behavior. No way he’s staying on the field after that.”
All of this was based on the assumption the referee, Mike Dean, will follow the rules and send Costa off. A brave assumption, as it turned out. Dean only flashed Costa a yellow, while showing Gabriel a booking too, for standing up for Koscielny.
It seemed the incident has run its course, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Costa immediately got into Gabriel’s ear, the Brazilian flicked a foot at the aggressor and got a straight red from the ref. The ref who didn’t even see the incident and seemed to have given in to Chelsea players’ demands.
Now, after some thinking, Gabriel did exactly the thing Arsene warned about: he reacted. He was stupid to do that, however, the simple fact remains Costa should have left the field before Gabriel flicked his foot.
I also didn’t like no one from our players talked Gabriel down and got him away from Costa. The red might have been avoided if someone did. However, none of Cazorla (our captain), Monreal, Koscielny or even Cech calmed down Gabriel. It hints at the lack of leadership and it’s not the first time I level this accusation at our players. Perhaps the situation would have been avoided had Mertesacker been on the pitch, or even Arteta, but neither of them were and Gabriel saw red.
Both were shit goals, to be honest with you. First was from a free-kick, one which was wrongly given by Dean, the other was from a heavily deflected shot in the 92nd minute. After we went down to 9 men, that is.
Oh, by the way, about Cazorla’s sending-off. It was every bit as absurd as Gabriel’s (I kid, I kid, nothing gets more absurd than that). It was absurd enough, though. Santi is not a malicious player, certainly far less than Costa or Ivanovic. He got the first booking for a tactical foul and the second for going for the ball and mistiming his tackle a bit. However, I was not surprised to see the Spaniard sent off for the only two fouls he committed all day. By that point, I was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt Mike Dean was an incompetent prick. On a side note, are there any Fabregas lovers left after yesterday? Asking for a friend. You see, Cesc did everything in his power to get Gabriel and Cazorla sent off.
Back to Cheslea and after seeing their almighty struggles against 10 men yesterday, I’m convinced the Blues are going nowhere this season. They were far from their best yesterday, but think it is clear for anyone with a working brain and a pair of eyes attached to it. They dominated territory and possession, sure, but Cech was hardly troubled. If it takes you an undeserved free-kick and a wild deflection to score twice versus ten men, you’ve got problems.
For us, it’s recuperation. The players shouldn’t beat themselves up for the loss, the game was ruined by the referee. Our only concern will be bouncing back midweek against Tottenham, something we’ll have to do without Gabriel, Cazorla and Coquelin. Coq sustained a minor knee injury close to the half-time mark.
It’s also worth considering whether we should give a rest to Sanchez and Ozil. The latter to avoid a burnout and a subsequent injury, the former seems way off his best. Alexis was yet again sloppy in possession, overcooking a lot of situations, spurned a brilliant chance to equalise, his cutting inside has become too predictable and easy to defend against and, finally, he didn’t help us defend after we went down a man. Here’s hoping a bit of R&R will help him get his mojo back.
However, I’m more interested in what FA should, and must, do. First off, they should impose a ban on Costa, maybe even fine him. The man was at his dirtiest yet again and he will do it again next week and the next and the next. He deserved a red for the push alone, however, I counted at least four other separate, and bookable, offenses: a push and a hit on Koscielny, a dive and a flick at Oxlade-Chamberlain. Not all of these are red-card punishable, but the cumulative effect could have seen him sent off three times yesterday.
The FA should also contemplate what they with Dean, or, how I will call him from now on, the inept twat. In his usual “By The Numbers” section, @7amkickoff focuses solely on how Arsenal play when the inept twat is the referee and the numbers look grim. Check it out. However, even the highly below-par performance yesterday should give FA food for thought.
Last, but not least, I believe Gabriel doesn’t deserve a three-match ban. One game maybe, purely because he retaliated, but three is harsh, especially if we take into context what Costa did and the fact he stayed on the pitch despite that.
Luckily, there was a silver lining to our loss yesterday, one that considerably cheered me up: City lost at home to West Ham. That means we slip to fifth, but we are still only 5 points behind City, which is a lot better than 8. So kudos to the Hammers.
Right, that’s it for now. Back with a preview of our now absolutely crucial midweek game.
P.S. Bravo to Koscielny and Chambers, by the way. Koscielny handled Costa’s disgraceful behavior with the professionalism which wasn’t lauded enough afterwards and Chambers put in a massive second half in defence. The own goal wasn’t his fault in the slightest.