Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was angry with Diego Costa in the aftermath of his club’s home loss to Chelsea at the weekend and claimed that the striker had ‘cost’ his side for the second match in a row.
Per Mertesacker, Arsenal’s central defender, was sent off by Mark Clattenburg after he attempted to to get a foot on the ball when Costa broke free of the Arsenal defence. There was some debate about whether or not Mertesacker actually touched the Brazilian born Spanish international, however, and Wenger declared the red card to be ‘harsh’.
Wenger said, “Costa has got two of our players sent off in the last two games against Chelsea. Is the decision right or wrong? I don’t know. That is a fact, without accusing him of anything”.
The other red card Wenger was referring to came in the match between the two clubs at Stamford Bridge when Costa’s behaviour provoked Arsenal’s defender Gabriel into reacting and getting himself sent off. His red card was later rescinded and Costa himself was given a ban by the Football Association.
The red card issued to Mertesacker yesterday was the seventh that the Gunners have been shown against Chelsea and is the most red cards the North London club have received against any one team. It was also the third that they have received this season as Santi Cazorla was also dismissed in the match at Stamford Bridge.
Wenger was quick to ask questions of Mark Clattenburg’s keenness to show his player the red card, saying, “I don’t know whether Costa was offside or not or whether Per Mertesacker touched him or not. It was a decision we had to take on the chin and I thought we did that. The referee was very quick to take the red card out. We coped with the decision well and should have had a draw at least. We had the chances. Mentally we were focused. Sometimes when you lose you can still say ‘well done’ to the players”.
The Arsenal manager also felt that Diego Costa made the most of the challenge, adding, “That is the game of the striker. Diego Costa is good at that”.
Chelsea’s interim manager, Guus Hiddink, didn’t quite see it the same way as his French counterpart. He said, “There was no doubt. It was a great ball through and Diego could run straight at Petr Cech but he was tripped. That is obvious”.
Whilst the defeat saw Arsenal miss out on the chance to go clear at the top of the Premier League and remain level on points with Manchester City, the three points for Chelsea saw them climb to 13th place in the league. It meant that questions were inevitably asked about whether the club could still finish in the top four despite the fact that they are still 14 points behind Tottenham Hotspur who remain in fourth place.
John Terry, Chelsea’s captain, said he felt that a fourth placed finish was still ‘do-able’, whilst Dutchman Hiddink said, “When the captain says that then I will follow the captain. It is a gap and the Premier League is competitive with all teams whether you are down at the bottom or higher in the rankings. If the captain says ‘yes’ we will follow the captain”.
Chelsea remain unbeaten in all competitions since the owner, Roman Abramovich, decided to sack the previous manager Jose Mourinho. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ led the club to its worst start to a top-flight season since the late 1960s and was sacked in December after he oversaw a 2-1 home loss to high-flying Leicester City.