Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin’s day ended with a concussion on Saturday, suffered in the collision with Marcos Alonso as the left wing-back headed Chelsea into the lead on 13 minutes. Bellerin had been left woefully exposed by the rest of his defence on the play, losing two headers in quick succession to Diego Costa, who hit the bar, and then Alonso on the rebound. Running in with a head start, Alonso got well above his fellow Spaniard, who was poleaxed by the Chelsea man’s right forearm in the process.
Many cried foul, though most pundits did not. Wenger of course claimed that it was foul; Conte of course claimed that it wasn’t, at least not in England, whatever that means.
“In England, in this league, this is always a goal. There was a ball, there was a contest, and Alonso jumped more than Bellerin and scored the goal.”
“To hear this in England I am surprised. In Italy? Maybe! This is the correct decision. We can see a lot of these situations in England. It’s normal. If we were in other countries maybe we could have a conversation, but here I don’t think it’s right to talk about this.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
Personally, I don’t think it was a foul just an unfortunate and unlucky collision on a 50-50 ball — Alonso doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary with his arms or any of his body on his jump. There was a ball to be won and both players went for it. Since headers are not outlawed (yet) in the game, things like this (or even worse, like the Ryan Mason incident recently — Mason’s out of hospital now, by the way, so great news there!) will happen.
But I can see why it could be called a foul (Alonso steams in; akin to winning the ball by going through a player on the tackle) though it was unlikely to be ever called a foul by a referee who was (correctly) positioned behind the play (he would never see Alonso’s arms unless they were extended to his side, which they weren’t).
As far as Alonso himself is concerned, he didn’t think it was anything beyond a jump ball.
“I jumped a bit higher and got to the ball first, I didn’t even see him coming so I don’t think it’s a free-kick. I feel sorry for him, he’s a good friend but I didn’t see him. I hope he’s okay.”
-Marcos Alonso; source: Chelsea FC
It is of course possible to commit a foul without seeing the other player, and intent doesn’t always matter. But injury also doesn’t automatically mean foul.
In any case, Bellerin emerged from the dressing room at half-time — credit to Arsenal medical staff for following concussion protocol and taking him out immediately after the collision — but it remains to be seen how quickly he’ll be able to recover from the concussion. The FA’s protocol calls for at least six days of monitoring and limited activity.