Lee Mason, a referee Arsenal fans have had little cause to celebrate down the years, was at the centre of things again yesterday afternoon.
Only, this time, he was actually doing Arsenal a favour for a change. At least, that’s the common consensus. Of course, I refer here to his decision not to issue a second yellow card to Francis Coquelin following his utterly heinous fouls on Wilfred Zaha and then James McArthur.
Of course Coquelin was fortunate to avoid being sent for an early bath, particularly having committed two fouls in quick succession, but it seems to me that nobody knows what constitutes a booking these days. Least of all the referees. Or, for that matter, managers.
In my opinion, Lee Mason is to be celebrated, like Michael Oliver at Old Trafford last season, for not bowing to a baying home crowd and exercising restraint. Insert your own joke about a restrained Coq here.
Were Coquelin’s challenges on first Zaha and then McArthur fouls? Yes, of course they were. Worthy of having him sent from the pitch? I don’t think so. I think that if the first one is a yellow card, you might as well ban all contact from the sport. The second one, I admit, I thought he was gone and so did he but I also think we need to get over thinking every foul is a yellow card.
Alan Pardew, the Palace manager said after the game,
“I had a chat with Lee (Mason) in the tunnel at half-time and we agreed that he shouldn’t have been sent off – you don’t want that. But I said ‘that’s his last chance, he can’t afford to make another challenge’ and he did. But (Lee Mason) didn’t make the call. He should have been sent off.”
Is Pardew really saying that Coquelin should not have been allowed to make another tackle? That would clearly be ridiculous, you can’t play in the defensive midfield position and not be allowed to tackle. Or did he just mean foul? At this point in the game, Coquelin had committed just two fouls. Are three fouls now enough to get you sent off? Whatever the context?
Don’t get me wrong, if Coquelin had made two, or even four (his total yesterday), genuinely dirty tackles and remained on the pitch, I wouldn’t bother defending him, but it seems to me that perspective is needed.
Last season, Jack Wilshere had his ankle ligaments seriously damaged by a tackle from Manchester United’s Paddy McNair. Not only did McNair not get booked, we didn’t even get a free kick.
In the same season, during a game at Chelsea, Alexis Sanchez was very lucky to avoid a broken leg after a ridiculous tackle from Gary Cahill. Cahill was booked, but it is widely acknowledged the player should have seen red for that tackle.
To book Coquelin for his tackle on McArthur would have been an excessive punishment for a tackle which was a genuine attempt to win the ball and hurt precisely nobody. Besides which, who remembers Mikel Arteta picking up a straight red after Marouane Chamakh ran over his leg on the halfway line at Palace two seasons back?
What goes around…