Martin Keown had returned to Arsenal just the previous season when I headed to Highbury as a young boy to watch our boys take on QPR on New Years eve, 1994. The rough looking defender was taken off early after taking a knock and was replaced by Glen Helder. I remember cheering at Keown's substitution, as he was a player I thought didn't fit into that Arsenal team. Even at twelves years old I had already evaluated that he lacked the natural ability that we were supposed to be looking for and his aggressive nature turned me off.
Little did I know how important the not-quite-Giroud-looking Englishman would become for my club. He wasn't always a starter in Arsenal's back line, with the likes of Adams, Bould and Linighan having their best years, but his time would come in the late 90's and early 2000's. His figure on the field was one of physical dominance, fearless aggression and intense passion for the game and his teammates.
While much can be said about Mike Dean's incompetence and blatant misunderstanding of the game of Football, as well as Diego Costa's apparent invincibility within the Premier League, both can deflect from our own short fallings. Gabriel fell into Costa's trap. It's as simple as that. But what the Brazilian was doing was respectable - standing up for his teammate, Laurent Koscielny after the Frenchman was mauled by Costa just minutes earlier. You can't tell me nobody saw Costa with his hands (and elbows) all over Kos. Where were the Arsenal players running over to boss Costa around and let him know that won't be tolerated? I'd like to think Gabriel was politely telling Costa to get fucked, and I appreciate that.
In a game where you can't rely on the referee to manage a game correctly, you've got to have those players that will take it upon themselves to ensure the opponent doesn't get away with shit like this. His antagonistic antics have polluted the Premier League for a full season now so for Mike Dean to get duped like he did for the Gabriel red card is shocking. Francis Coquelin has the potential to be that player for us - big, rugged and always in the center of everything. He's a nice looking lad, but I don't know that I'd want to get on his bad side. From what I could tell he was the only player making an effort to remove Gabriel from the danger zone after he received the initial yellow card, he was just too late.
Were Arsenal unlucky due to horrendous officiating against Chelsea? Abso-fucking-lutely. We looked at least on par with the reigning champions, but when Gabriel was sent off it was essentially game over. However, other teams of lower quality have managed to keep Costa quiet, so why couldn't Arsenal? We simply allowed the man to do whatever he wanted and had too much trust in Dean to take care of the situation. When the referee loses the plot it's time for the players to step up and protect themselves and each other from the type of situations that continued all game long. We looked like a deer in headlights at points - Costa literally dictating to the ref when to blow his whistle and when to get his cards out while our boys looked on in horror.
I enjoy the attractive, technical style of football as much as the next guy but in games like the one we played on Saturday you need to be a little Brian Clough and typewriter about ya. I don't believe that Arsenal are the sort of team that gets walked all over these days, but we're just not equipped to deal with the sort of situation that was put in front of us against Chelsea.
Simply put, we could have won that match. We didn't because we allowed Costa to get on over us. We didn't because Mike Dean was born. While I don't have any faith in the FA to punish Dean for such an incredibly poor performance, I do think it's just a matter of time before they catch onto Costa's antics and eventually punish him. But it's all too late for Arsenal fans.
A lovely trip to the rancid smelling end of North London this Wednesday should distract from this past weekends events. The
Come On You Gunners!