Tom Bennett picks out the key talking points from the weekend’s refereeing performances in his latest column . . .
Saturday was peak Mike Dean
Chelsea v Arsenal
Ref: Mike Dean
Every now and then, a refereeing performance overshadows an entire weekend of football. And all too often, it seems to be Mike Dean who provides those performances.
Being the most recognisable official in the game is only a good thing if it’s because you’re the best – nobody really wants to be talking about the ref after a game between two of the biggest clubs in the country. Unfortunately, with Dean, it seems to be because he loves being the centre of attention.
His schoolmasterly, condescending style of officiating can often rub players and supporters up the wrong way, but on Saturday afternoon, he took it to a whole new level. Garth Crooks had an almost-meltdown about the performance, Arsene Wenger was as angry as he’s looked since that bottle of water took a hilarious pounding at the Emirates back in 2010, and the Arsenal fans were apoplectic.
The weird world of Diego Costa
There were some mitigating factors for Dean, however. Not least the cynical, sneaky and manipulative performance by Chelsea’s Brazilian-turned-Spanish front-man. Nothing seems to please Costa more than winding up his opponents under the nose of the officials, but it is so cool and calculated that his offences often go unnoticed. That was certainly true on Saturday, when Costa should have been shown a red for his second swipe to the face of Laurent Koscielny, but at the very least should have been given a second yellow for his scratches or pushes, or even for his harassing of the match official.
Naïve Arsenal are their worst enemy
But the Gunners have little other cause for complaint. Costa may be intensely irritating, with the sort of win-at-all-costs mindset that has made all of Jose Mourinho’s sides unlovable, but that doesn’t excuse the behaviour of the north London visitors. Gabriel completely lost the plot, and did nothing to hide his behaviour from Dean. His swipe at Costa’s face was arguably worth a red on its own, but his behaviour afterwards sealed his fate.
The Santi Cazorla sending off was even more straightforward for Dean. The first yellow was needless and petty, but the second was completely reckless and was almost pleading for a second card. The Spaniard let his side down.
Not all one-way traffic
The Gunners were up in arms about their treatment at the hands of Dean in this game, but it could have been much worse.
On another afternoon, Chelsea could have been awarded two penalties. The Costa claim in the second half was 50-50 – with Dean presumably opting against it for fear of causing spontaneous combustion in the away end – but, on second viewing, Gabriel was extremely fortunate to get away with his ‘challenge’ on Eden Hazard in the first half.
Grade: D. Dean had a shocker at the Bridge and failed to keep control in the game’s big flashpoint.
Marriner is bailed out
Stoke v Leicester
Ref: Andre Marriner
The assistant referee came to the rescue for Andre Marriner in this encounter, spotting that Marko Arnautovic had bundled over Danny Drinkwater for a pretty clear foul that was (just) inside the box.
Stoke were furious about the decision, but more because of what it meant in the context of the game than about the legitimacy of Marriner’s call.
The Potters had more cause for complaint when Jon Walters was held back in his attempt to get around Wes Morgan (which is no mean feat at the best of times!), and you can understand why Mark Hughes was more than a little ticked off when Leicester went straight up the other end and scored.
Hughes, after the match, said: “we’re not going to hide behind decisions”. But that is exactly what he seemed to be doing, using a refereeing performance that was hardly poor to avoid talking about his side’s thoroughly disappointing start to the season.
Grade: B. The vilifying of Marriner by the Potters’ manager and fans was uncalled for. He had a reasonable afternoon at the Britannia.
Mirallas has a moment of madness
Swansea v Everton
Ref: Stuart Attwell
There was only one moment of contention in the game at the Liberty, and ref Stuart Attwell came to the right conclusion… thanks to plenty of help from assistant ref Adrian Holmes.
Kevin Mirallas went over the top of the ball and down the shins of Modou Barrow. Some fans may complain that it’s harsh, but these sort of tackles are being outlawed for a reason: they have the potential to break bones.
Grade: A. Attwell got the big call spot on, helped by the fact that Mirallas committed the foul right in front of his linesman.
Kaboul is nobody’s friend
Bournemouth v Sunderland
Ref: Kevin Friend
Younes Kaboul was a very good defender a few years back – one of the league’s best at his peak – but this current version of Kaboul is not good enough even for lowly Sunderland. A combination of injuries, fitness problems and a poor attitude have reduced his powers dramatically, and he was a walking red card throughout the defeat to Bournemouth.
Both of the yellows he received were fully justified, with his lack of pace being horribly exposed. The only surprise is that Friend left him on the pitch for so long.
Grade: B. Kaboul made Friend’s afternoon very straightforward with his two fouls, and the official kept the game flowing well for the rest of the 90.
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