Mike Dean 2-0 Arsenal
Disgusting. This was the word Arsene Wenger used to describe Mike Dean’s decision not to send off Diego Costa on Saturday. Few will disagree.
With the game deadlocked at 0-0 and heading towards the half time break, the actions of the referee were to prove pivotal in deciding the outcome of this match. As a cross came into the Arsenal box Costa pushed both hands into Koscielny’s face before swinging his arm towards the defender, once again making contact with his face. A red card offence. Koscielny immediately went to confront Costa who barged the Frenchman to the floor. A second red card offence. At this point Gabriel intervened pulling Costa away. Mike Dean somehow reached the decision that both Costa and Gabriel should receive yellow cards. Had the referee sent off Costa at this stage, the events that followed would not have happened.
Even as Mike Dean was in the process of issuing the yellow cards, Costa continued to bait Gabriel, smacking him on the back, to which the Arsenal defender responded in kind, and continuing the verbal abuse. Having already failed to issue the correct punishment, Dean failed again here. The role of the referee is to manage the game and restore control when it is threatening to descend into anarchy. As Costa and Gabriel continued to exchange verbals, Dean should have stepped in, pulled them to one side and called the captains over too. He could have then explained to all present that they should cut out the nonsense, get to half time and calm down, if they ignored this then he would have been within his rights to send both players off. Yet the referee just stood and watched as the confrontation escalated, allowing Costa to stand behind Gabriel, knowing full well what was likely to happy. A silly little flick from Gabriel could have easily been ignored by the referee, but instead he took the opportunity to send off the defender and ruin the game. The fact that Costa went unpunished for a similar flick on Oxlade-Chamberlain towards the end of the game, only served to highlight the referee’s incompetence.
This was a disastrous performance from Mike Dean, a referee who is supposed to have experience of overseeing big games in which tempers often get flared. With eleven minutes left and the game threatening to break out into a contest, the referee decided to ruin it again, this time sending off Cazorla for a second bookable offence. A more sensible referee would have issued a final warning here rather than send off a player for the only two fouls he committed all game. The fact a player such as Branislav Ivanovic was allowed to commit three fouls before receiving a yellow card highlighted the inconsistency in Dean’s decisions.
Arsenal were more than capable to leaving Stamford Bridge with at least a point on Saturday. Chelsea may have had more of the possession and performed better than their recent offerings, but ultimately Cech was not exactly over worked. Even with a man advantage and then two man advantage, Chelsea offered very little, simply passing the ball amongst themselves and failing open up the Arsenal defence. It was therefore a source of great frustration that the opening goal should be gifted to the home side. Once again Mike Dean didn’t cover himself glory, ridiculously awarding a free kick for an imaginary foul against Ramsey, when the Welshman had cleanly won the ball.
Despite the bad decision from the referee, Arsenal must defend better. They were caught out from a corner against Dinamo Zagreb and fell asleep at a set piece again. The delivery from Fabregas was a good one, but Zuma should not have been allowed the space to run in and head home from close range. Replays showed Monreal had been marking the Chelsea defender, only to needlessly get sucked into the pack, drifting away from him as the delivery came in. Had Arsenal managed to keep the score at 0-0 going into the final 20 minutes, Chelsea would have become frustrated, needing to send more players forward and therefore the opportunity to hit them on the counter attack would have increased the more time ticked on.
Unfortunately the Gunners weren’t able to do this and from the moment they had taken the lead, Chelsea knew they just needed to maintain possession and kill the game. The second Arsenal sending off came at a time when the Gunners were threatening to build some pressure on the Chelsea goal, and only served to kill the game further. The fact the second goal of the match arrived via a cruel deflection off Callum Chambers, only served to put the cherry on the cake of a miserable week for Arsenal.
The Gunners now have to pick themselves up quickly for a North London derby in the League Cup. Despite the result against Chelsea, they can actually take pride in their performance. The result was extremely frustrating because they were more than a match for Chelsea, it was simply a case of the referee deciding the game. There have long been calls for Arsenal players to stand up for themselves when the opposition attempt to bully them. When they finally did, they were punished and the perpetrator walked away scot free. Despite the repercussions, the Gunners should continue to stand up for themselves and wise up to the dark arts employed by the likes of Costa. As they walked off at half time on Saturday, Arsenal players should have confronted Costa in an attempt to make him lash out and get himself sent off too. Unfortunately too many Arsenal players are just too nice. Football is a battle and Mike Dean has shown that the aggressor quite often reaps the rewards of weak refereeing.