Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have finally found something to agree on. Sort of. Neither of them wants to talk in any further detail about the incidents and fallout from the weekend's derby, for fear of getting suspended by the inconsistent incompetents at English football's governing body.
"If I bring examples, if I go deep and if I bring feelings into the discussion a big suspension will be waiting for me and I don't want that. The team doesn't need that, the team lost an important player for three matches and I don't think they need to lose their manager."
-Jose Mourinho; source: ESPN
"It's better I don't talk too much because there are some things that were really surprising in this game, some incidents were really handled very lightly and not seriously, and it's better I don't talk too much because I'm still angry about it."
"I am in a job where I sometimes have to swallow things that are not right, maybe our opponents do sometimes as well. I just have to focus on the next game."
-Arsene Wenger; source: Guardian
Gabriel's red card may have been hilariously rescinded (more on this later), but of course none of that will change where the three points ended up. Wenger feels the reversal of the red "repaired 5% of the damage" and despite Mourinho's claims about how badly we will miss Costa, Wenger's probably correct in his assessment. Though he was also correct in his post-match assessment that Gabriel should not have retaliated and should not have flicked out at Costa. And we've seen how much The FA cares about that common sense approach*. Apparently, retaliation and kicking out is ok. As long as you don't make contact.
* It will be interesting to see how they rule in Gabriel's other charge, which concerned his behaviour after receiving the red card. With the card rescinded, are his on-pitch antics that followed it forgiven as well? Can they possibly make a decision here that won't look silly?
"We know something which is that retaliation is allowed now. You can do it."
-Jose Mourinho; source: ESPN
Nemanja Matic retaliated and was sent off for violent conduct last season after the dangerous tackle from Ashley Barnes. The FA, considering that potentially career-ending provocation, reduced Matic's ban from three games to two. Gabriel responded with force to a fracas between two other players, got into some verbal afters, kicked out at the one who wasn't his teammate, and got his ban for violent conduct reduced from three games to zero. The ... kicker ... is that apparently the smoking gun in this case was the video that we also ran on Monday, filmed by ESPN Brasil, that shows Gabriel flicking his heel at Costa.
And here we thought this was be the video that actually proved that the red was justified!
In contesting the decision, Arsenal were able to include a piece of video evidence that was previously unseen by most of the world and all UK broadcasters. It's footage from ESPN Brasil that appears to show Gabriel raising his leg but not actually making much contact with Costa.
According to this great article by Gabriel Marcotti, this is the evidence Arsenal used to get Gabriel exonerated, based on the ridiculous technicality that he didn't actually make contact with Costa. Then again, Costa didn't seem to feign contact or injury, he just made sure Mike Dean knew what happened. Dean, mind you, mimicked Gabriel's action, so he either saw it or was told about it by one of his assistants. Regardless, everybody knew what happened, everybody agreed that it was a red card (even Wenger!) — a silly one, but still a red. The FA have destroyed the one thing that everybody agreed on, in the process set a dangerous precedent about just what is allowed on the pitch. Apparently, as long as you don't make contact, you can swing a leg, presumably swing an arm, or a head, or whatever body part as much as you like. Duly noted. Then again, does anyone even expect The FA to apply their own rules consistently?
Marcotti brings up another very interesting point as well, regarding the video evidence itself and how there are absolutely no guidelines regarding them, and about how it's not at all a level playing field when it comes to procuring, submitting, or even creating video evidence. Matches in the Premier League aren't all covered equally. Some have more cameras, some have less. Some have additional cameras from foreign broadcasters, as was the case in Chelsea vs. Arsenal. There are no guidelines preventing teams from following individual players, constantly looking for "evidence". There is no guidance regarding footage acquired from fans and their smartphones, etc. Everything is set up for unfair and inconsistent decisions, which I suppose is par for the course from The FA.
If The FA are going to use post-match video evidence to review incidents and decisions, it needs to be an active rather than a reactive process. They need to be the ones procuring the video footage, combing through it, and handing out fines or suspensions as set out by the laws and regulations. Encouraging teams to complain and go on witch-hunts will only be detrimental to the process.
While we're talking video evidence, let's have another shout for IN-GAME video assistance for referees as well. There's a good chance that if Mike Dean (and his video refereeing team) have access to the same, almost instanteneous video replay technology that we get to witness every day while watching the Premier League on TV (if not something even more robust), the entire Gabriel-Costa incident is avoided. More than likely, a video referee would've correctly awarded a penalty in Chelsea's favor for Gabriel wrestling Hazard to the ground. That alone would've changed the course of the match (including a yellow card given to Gabriel), but let's say that the same Costa-Koscielny incident happens anyway. A video referee would've easily ruled at least a yellow card to be handed out to Costa, if not a red for the flailing arm and chest bump. Or maybe Koscielny would've been pulled up, too, for throwing Costa to the ground in the first place. While Gabriel still could've lost his cool, there's a decent chance the match itself unfolds very differently if either of those two missed calls by Dean aren't missed.
And one more thing. Try this on for size: if Mike Dean hands out a second yellow to Gabriel instead of a straight red (meaning a one-match suspension instead of three), the decision would not have been reviewable. Please, sort yourself out, FA. And quickly.