Chelsea striker Diego Costa on Monday was charged with violent conduct by the English FA for his altercation(s) with Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny in the first half of Chelsea’s 2-0 win against the Gunners on Saturday. Apparently, referee Mike Dean did not see the Brazilian-born Spain international twice hit Koscielny in the face and then chest-bump him to the ground, prior to goading Gabriel Paulista, the Frenchman’s partner in central defense, into receiving a red card in the 45th minute of the contentious encounter at Stamford Bridge.
If found guilty, Costa is looking at a three-game ban. As for Gabriel, the Arsenal defender has already received a three-game ban for his straight red card but he has also received an additional improper conduct charge for the manner in which he responded to being sent off, which could lead to further suspensions. In addition, the FA also charged Chelsea and Arsenal with failing to control their players during Saturday’s game.
For its part, Arsenal on Monday already said it would appeal Gabriel’s “wrongful dismissal” as well as the ensuing three-game ban.
In any event, those are the facts we’re dealing with here, folks. Next, Off The Post will do his best to put on his neutral hat to assess what was really an unfortunate display from both teams -- indeed, there’s an awful lot of blame to go around for what happened Saturday.
For starters, Arsenal’s decision to appeal Gabriel’s red card is puzzling, because after the game, coach Arsene Wenger conceded that Gabriel was foolish to get involved with the Chelsea striker, who is notorious for riling up opposing players, in the first place: “We warn them not to get involved, and I don’t understand Gabriel because he usually looks a calm boy,” the Frenchman said. “For me, it’s not difficult to stay calm. I don’t believe it is. You have to be above [anything that is said]. That’s part of the game. For me, to be professional is to deal with that.”
First of all, admitting that Gabriel was wrong to react hardly supports the club’s decision to appeal his red card and suspension. Though Gabriel certainly didn’t get sent-off by himself, he didn’t get sent-off for not doing anything, either, and his behavior afterwards was bad enough to suggest that a three-game ban is plenty, as four or five Arsenal players were forced to restrain the Brazilian defender from going after Costa and possibly turning the whole episode into a mass brawl.
Now, Wenger saying that he never loses his cool when provoked is both laughable and ridiculous, especially when you consider that some 12 months ago, he tried to push Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho to the ground after the Portuguese (rightly) complained about the Frenchman stepping into his technical area, which of course is not allowed. Wenger, you’ll recall, was neither sent-off, suspended, nor fined for that incident. Indeed, the bad blood between the pair is nothing new.
In his press conference, Mourinho predictably stood by his player when questioned about Diego Costa’s behavior, saying: "He played like he has to play. And that's why you have full stadiums, you sell to televisions around the world for millions and millions, because the game has to be played like that.”
A lot of this is stuff is standard fare from the Portuguese: this is a man’s game, you need to play with a hunger to win, Gabriel was rightly sent-off, etc. -- all fair comments. But he keeps avoiding the question of whether Costa should have been sent off, too, instead using the opportunity to take numerous digs aimed directly at Wenger, including: “My view is this -- and this why I’m proud of my club -- I played against Arsenal maybe 12, 15, 18 times and only once [Wenger] didn’t moan. And that day we lost. We lost the cup [Community Shield], it was not good for us but we behaved in a fantastic way -- no excuses, not crying, not moaning. I have to cope with my defeats; tonight he has to cope with his defeat.”
As if that weren’t enough, the Portuguese digs in further by claiming: "I think Arsenal has the squad to be champions. And every season I feel that. I like every player. I tell you if one of their players is a free agent and they don't want him there, I get every one. I like all of their players." In other words, Arsenal under-achieves under Wenger, and I would could make his team a champion. Classic, brilliant Mourinho, saying exactly what he means without actually saying it.
But let’s get real (which is exactly what a spin-master like Mourinho doesn’t want): As a Chelsea fan, OTP is all for intensity and getting players fired-up for big games so that they outperform, but Mourinho has a real problem on his hands with Diego Costa.
As Monday’s violent conduct charges reveal, Dean, who OTP has always felt is one of the weakest referees in the EPL, missed the entire scene between Mourinho’s first-choice striker and Koscielny. This is a good thing for the league, because it would have been a refereeing travesty of the highest order if Costa had been allowed to stay on the field for all the things he is guilty of, including: smacking Koscielny across the face, grabbing him by the throat, and maybe even the chest bump (at which point Koscielny flops over). Wenger is right: the Brazilian should have been sent-off at least twice.
Of course, that doesn’t excuse Gabriel for taking the bait, but it does excuse Dean, at least. However -- and Wenger also rightly pointed this out -- it doesn’t excuse Dean’s linesmen or the fourth official for completely missing each of the three red card-worthy incidents. Between the four them, surely someone must have seen one of these, right?
Well, maybe not.
Regardless, you can bet that Costa will now be banned for at least three games and maybe more -- especially if the FA deems each offense to be a separate violent conduct charge.
As far as OTP is concerned, Chelsea fans should be happy not to see Costa for a while. Sure, his behavior was deplorable and all, but the former Atletico Madrid man also played pretty poorly, besides -- just as he has all season. This was not the first time Costa has been guilty of heavy touches, poor passes, and almost getting sent-off for generally acting like a wild animal this season. Mourinho really needs to figure out how get him concentrating on his game instead of committing battery all over the field. If he doesn’t, Chelsea is going to find itself playing with ten men a lot more than it already has.
For a manager who understands just how much the ends justifies the means, you can be sure that Mourinho will be working on rectifying that situation behind the scenes, while continuing to defend and praise his top striker in the press. He needs to get Costa on track, because Chelsea is not going to win anything this season if the Brazilian keeps playing so poorly and participating in all this nonsense.