Arsenal’s heavy defeat to Chelsea on Saturday morning was somewhat overshadowed by referee Andre Marriner’s bizarre decision to send off Kieran Gibbs rather than Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.
The incident occurred in the 17th minute, when a rampaging Chelsea looked to add another goal to their already impressive early tally through Eden Hazard’s close-range shot. Chamberlain’s hand touched the ball round the post, even though the shot was actually going wide, and this immediately saw Marriner point to the spot.
Marriner then proceeded to get out a red card, but rather than showing it to Chamberlain, he headed over to Kieran Gibbs and sent the full-back off instead.
Chamberlain even tried to inform Marriner of his error. However, the deed was already done, and Gibbs went off to have an early bath, while Hazard then duly dispatched the spot-kick to hand Chelsea a 3-0 lead. The Blues then sauntered to am easy 6-0 triumph. Brazilian midfielder Oscar grabbed two more goals, while Mohamed Salah also added to Hazard, Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schurrle’s earlier strikes.
After the game Marriner apologised for his mistake courtesy of the referees’ body, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited. They released a statement that read, “Incidents of mistaken identity are very rare and are often the result of a number of different technical factors. Whilst this was a difficult decision, Andre is disappointed that he failed to identify the correct player. He expressed his disappointment to Arsenal when he was made aware of the issue.”
Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s manager, said after the game that the referee hadn’t seen the incident. “The ball went out and I think it’s Chamberlain who touched the ball,” he noted. “I don’t know who gave the indication to the referee that it was handball because he has certainly not seen it.”
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho also added, “It’s the kind of situation where if you have a TV, the fourth official could see it was not Gibbs. Unfortunately the wrong boy came off.”
Marriner’s gaffe has somewhat overshadowed what was another abject performance from the Gunners against one of their main rivals. This embarrassing capitulation comes after they were dismissed 6-3 away at Manchester City and 5-1 at Liverpool, and while Wenger, who celebrated his 1000th game in control of the Gunners at Stamford Bridge, seems to always set up his team in the perfect manner to beat opposition in the lower half of the table, he still can’t quite master how to defeat the Premier League’s best sides.
Of course, Wenger is rightly renowned as one of the best managers to ever grace the top flight of the English game but Arsenal appear to have stagnated under him. Even though they are red-hot favourites to land this year’s FA Cup some Gunners fans believe that in order for Arsenal to claim either the Champions League or Premier League, another manager must be brought in to build on the Frenchman’s team and philosophy. And after yesterday’s performance, it’s hard to disagree with them.