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.
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.