Arsenal pair escape bans, as Gunners brace for City collision
Referee Andre Marriner, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all let off after red card chaos
THE FA has announced that neither Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nor Kieran Gibbs will serve any ban following the shambolic refereeing mix-up at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
In one of the most extraordinary incidents in Premier League history, ref Andre Marriner showed Gibbs a straight red card after a goal-line handball that he had nothing to do with him. It was Gibb's Arsenal teammate, Oxlade-Chamberlain, who leapt to his left to push an Eden Hazard shot round the post with his hand, and he admitted as much to Marriner as the over-zealous official reached for his pocket.
Now the FA has said that Marriner was wrong to show even a red card because the handball had not prevented either a goal as Eden Hazard's shot was off target. As the BBC reports, Fifa rules state that a player should be booked for deliberately handling the ball, but he should be dismissed only when it is clear it was "unacceptable and unfair intervention that prevented a goal being scored".
But despite the catalogue of errors, Marriner will not be publicly censured for his error and the 43-year-old referee has been confirmed as the match official for Saturday's clash between Newcastle and Southampton. There had been speculation that Marriner might be stood down by the FA given the media exposure created by his gaffe but the BBC says the FA believes he "should be given the chance to get over his mistake immediately".
The FA decision not to punish either of their players will be welcomed by Arsenal who face a test of character tonight at home to Swansea. Amid claims that manager Arsene Wenger held "crisis talks" with the squad on Sunday morning, the players know that a response is required against Swansea if the Gunners are to have any chance of challenging for the title.
"We have to take it on the chin because it is unacceptable to lose another big game like this," admitted midfielder Mikel Arteta, one of the players singled out for criticism following the 6-0 mauling by Chelsea. "I promise everyone that we have that hunger to put it right. On Tuesday, we have an opportunity again at home and we just need to bounce back."
According to the Daily Star, the first casualty of the Saturday's dismal display will be goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who'll make way for Lukasz Fabianski, while Olivier Giroud is expected to be replaced by Yaya Sanogo up front. Centre-back Laurent Koscielny is out with a calf strain, yet another addition to Arsenal's lengthening injury list.
Worryingly for Arsenal fans, however, Wenger continues to talk like a manager in denial rather than one who knows that his squad needs rebuilding. "We just came out of two convincing results at Bayern Munich and at Tottenham with a very solid defensive performance, so you have to think that was an accident," said the Frenchman, choosing to overlook similar drubbings against Manchester City and Liverpool.
Likening the Chelsea result to a car crash, Wenger continued: "How do you deal with the accident? You repair them, you repair the damage and you go for the next one... an accident has happened - that doesn't mean that you are not a good driver."
Wenger will probably be able to steer his side past Swansea on Tuesday but it's Manchester City on Saturday that looms large in the rear view mirror, and Arsenal fans are already bracing themselves for the impact.