Three match ban isn’t enough for Fabregas (and why Mourinho deserves a ban as well)

By Tim Todd

Arsenal play West Brom on the final day of the season and just in case Gooners were hoping for an easy day, out Albion showed that they take these “meaningless” games seriously as they beat champions Chelsea 3-0. The result of the match wasn’t the main talking point, however. The main talking point was a Cesc Fabregas red card.

The match shouldn’t have been a powder keg, Albion is safe from relegation and Chelsea are champions, but whenever two teams with a history of strong arm tactics get together, the result often resembles an MMA match.

Which is exactly how it all started. You may have forgotten how dirty Diego Costa is. His injury over the last few weeks meant that Costa was out for much of Chelsea’ final run to the championship. But Diego Costa returned against Albion and reminded everyone what Diego Costa is all about. In the 30th minute he got tangled up with Gareth McAuley and appeared to put his hands around the defender’s throat. Referee Mike Jones didn’t see the incident but the sideline official did and waved a flag.

Mike Jones pulled the two apart and took Costa aside. There was real animosity there and things threatened to boil over, but Jones did well to calm things down and showed leniency in giving Costa a yellow. I have to think that if Jones had the benefit of video replay and he saw Costa put his arms on McAuley’s throat he would have shown the Brazilian a straight red.

But then came the most bizarre moment of the season — Cesc Fabregas kicked a ball into the crowd of players and directly at Mike Jones. The ball hit Chris Brunt in the head but given the trajectory and speed of the ball, it would have hit referee Jones in the face had Brunt’s melon not been in the way.

This was no accident. Fabregas has the most accurate free kicks in the League, 96/115 or 85% accuracy. He also has amassed the most number of accurate corners with 60. In a dead ball situation there is no better player in the League than Cesc Fabregas. From 25 yards, with the ball at his feet, Cesc Fabregas could hit a dime. Cesc Fabregas is the most talented ball-striker in the League. The argument that this was an accident is absurd. Fabregas hit the ball into a crowd of players surrounding the referee. It looks to me like he was trying to hit the referee.

Jones marched over and showed Fabregas a straight red card. Fabregas refused to leave the pitch and continued to plead his case, a case which looked a lot like a kid saying “whoopsie!” when he gets caught throwing rocks at another kid. Jones wasn’t buying it. There were 350 degrees in a circle around him where he could have kicked that ball and not hit another player. Instead he kicked it directly at the crowd of players around the referee.

This was an act of bullying and needs to be punished more severely than just a regular red card. From the moment that Costa put his hands on McAuley’s neck to the moment that Fabregas kicked the ball at the referee the Chelsea players’ aim was to bully and intimidate the referee and the Albion players.

Chelsea take their lead  in this regard from manager Jose Mourinho. Mourinho has already been fined £25,000 this year for claiming that there is a referee “Campaign against Chelsea.” That follows on comments last year after Ramires committed a two-footed tackle on El Ahmadi where Mourinho was fined £8000 for walking on the pitch, intimidating the referees, and saying after the match that it was the referee’s fault that Ramires was so frustrated he needed to try to break a man’s leg. And after Diego Costa stamped on two players at Liverpool, Mourinho claimed there is a campaign on television against Chelsea.

And who can forget the image of 10 Chelsea players surrounding the referee in their Champions League match against PSG earlier this year? It was a scene that reminds me of Iwo Jima or the Last Supper, except instead of something wonderful, it’s one of the most ignoble moments in sport this season.  

Chelsea players surround the referee

Image linked from Daily Mail, not hosted at this site

So, it’s no surprise that after the match Jose Mourinho again blamed the referee, Mike Jones, for Fabregas kicking the ball at the referee.

For me a top referee, a big personality in control of the game goes there has two or three words and it is done. It was nothing special. One of the top referees would resolved the problem with words.

‘Jones gave the red card which I disagree completely with, but he is the referee.’

For me, a top manager, a big personality in control of a huge club, goes into the dressing room and has a few words with his players. It’s nothing special. One of the top managers would resolve this disgraceful conduct of his players with words.

But Mourinho does exactly the opposite. He encourages this behavior by consistently blaming the referees for his team’s indiscipline. And in so doing he is bringing the game into disrepute.

As they say in management, the fish rots from the head. It’s time for the Football Association to slap Chelsea, Mourinho, and Fabregas with a meaningful punishment and show that they won’t allow this intimidating, bullying, and violent behavior to continue.


Addendum to the Billy Wright post

I was contacted by Hayley Wright, the video blogger for Arseblog and Billy’s granddaughter, regarding Les Crang’s Rogues Gallery piece on Billy Wright. She is a lovely person and only wanted to make one correction and offer some other facts about her grandfather that we might find interesting. I publish them here without any further comment.  You can follow Hayley on twitter @HayleyWright


Just one factual error:

- In the 1962-63 season, Arsenal reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, not fourth.

There may have been a few other things worth mentioning:

- Billy signed Bob Wilson from Wolves in 1963 when Bob was an amateur – you know the rest.
- Billy signed former England player Don Howe from West Bromwich Albion for £40,000 in 1964. Howe played for two more seasons at full-back before retiring and then becoming first-team coach at Highbury. As coach, he was influential in Arsenal winning the European Fairs Cup in 1970 and the League and FA Cup double a year later.
- Most of the 1970/71 Double Winning side made their debuts under Billy.
- Arsenal also won the FA Youth Cup for the first time under Billy. They achieved this in 1966, his final year as manager, having been beaten finalists the previous season.
- Billy was the first manager to install undersoil heating at Highbury in the summer of 1963. It happened after a famously terrible winter when countless matches were postponed all over the country.


Alexis is Arsenal’s Suarez: why you should quit complaining about him losing the ball

By Tim Todd, Sr. Suarez Apologist

There are few constants in the universe, even the ticking over of an atom, which we use to measure time as accurately as humanly possible, is off by one second every 300 million years. But the one thing that I can count on in this random universe is that Arsenal fans will demand that their team do something and then complain when the club does it.

Demand that Arsenal get a defensive midfielder, complain that the defensive midfielder can’t attack. Demand that Arsenal buy expensive super star players, complain when the super star player is “only” an assist master. Demand that Arsenal do better against top 6 clubs, complain that Arsenal only did better on goal difference. Demand that Arsene adds some fresh new playing styles to his tactics, complain when those styles don’t pan out every time. And demand that Arsenal buy Luis Suarez, and complain when we finally get a better, less bitey, less racist, version of him.

Alexis gets a lot of grief for losing the ball too much but I find it hard to fault him for that. In yesterday’s match he lost the ball 6 times in the first half alone and some Arsenal fans were livid. I knew this would happen, that people would complain about him losing the ball. If you remember, that was my main worry about bringing Suarez to Arsenal, that fans would quickly grow tired of his 35% dribbling and profligate shooting percentages. And this summer, when Alexis was essentially the only man on his Chile team in the World Cup, there were a few performances where he had 12 attempted dribbles and something like 10 turnovers. I publicly worried then that fans would turn on him the same way he turns the ball over.

But as much as it’s hip to complain about Alexis losing possession, against United you could see exactly why he turns the ball over so much at Arsenal: he’s attacking the opposition and just like in the World Cup, he’s often isolated by teammates.

The same people who complain about Alexis Sanchez giving the ball up are the ones who wanted Luis Suarez and said that Arsenal would win the League if we had him. Well, you have your Suarez, his name is Alexis. And Alexis in his first season is streets ahead of the uber profligate Suarez in his first season at Liverpool.

Suarez v. Alexis

As you can see, Sanchez in his first season wins the head-to-head stats matchup against Suarez in his first (full) season. In fact, Suarez got a bit of a head start on Sanchez because he got half a season with Liverpool before his first full season so, he had more time to acclimate to the League. And Suarez also didn’t play in a World Cup that summer, and didn’t have tired legs from playing in the Champions League in his first season at Liverpool.

Alexis Sanchez has been magnificent for Arsenal in his first season. He’s not only Arsenal’s most potent direct attacking threat and a player with the individual skill to unlock packed in defenses, he also makes off-the-ball runs behind defenders and has the touch to control and score when Ozil makes that pass.

But even better than all that combined is the fact that Sanchez is the man who changed Arsenal’s playing style. His constant pressing high up the pitch led Arsene Wenger to make that a feature of Arsenal’s defense and his speed and counter-attacking threat mean that with him on the team, Arsenal can sit back and defend when they want.

There has been a lot of talk about perception this last week and whether Arsenal have perceptibly improved this season. The answer is yes, Arsenal have improved and a lot of it is thanks to Sanchez. The improvement is that with Sanchez in the team Arsenal have the freedom to try on many different styles of play. They can sit back and defend and hit teams on the counter like they did against a team like West Ham, serving up Sam Allardyce some of his own bitter medicine. They can play a foot forward style and harry their opposition into making mistakes as they did when they dismantled Liverpool, serving up Brendan Rodgers some of the same bitter medicine he served us last season. And next season, when Arsenal have a player in the deep lying midfield role who can control a game with his passing, like Arteta did for so many seasons before he finally wore down, then Arsenal will have yet another way to play. The old way that Arsenal used to play.

But it won’t just be the same old way, because Arsenal will have Alexis. A non-stop, attacking threat, who can break down opposition defenses with a deft dribble, who scores goals from direct free kicks, who harasses opposition defenders and wins the ball back in terrific positions high up the pitch, and who has an insatiable hunger to win.

So what if he turns the ball over too much for your liking? Get over it. The guy is a superhero.



I was asked to include both Suarez and Sanchez’ stats from when they both played for Barcelona. Amazingly, they are similar again. These two players are even more mirror image than I could have imagined when I first started this article this morning.

suarez-sanchezBut on one side of the mirror you have a biter who commits racisms and on the other side you have a guy who loves dogs.