So Gary Cahill is appealing against the red card awarded for his foul on Marouane Chamakh.
Good. I’m delighted. Bring it on.
By appealing, Cahill leaves open the option of having his three-match ban for a straight red extended by the FA committee that hears his appeal. And make no mistake – he deserves to have the ban extended.
If you’re in any doubt, take another look at the challenge (you can view it on arsenalist.com). Cahill comes in late and from behind on Chamakh, who has just executed a sweet back-heel into the path of Arshavin.
Watching it live (and from high up in the West Stand) I thought the red card was harsh and, at first glance of the replay, you’re tempted to agree. One of the reasons it doesn’t look so bad is that Chamakh just gets up and gets on with things without any histrionics (Eboue, please take note). Chamakh’s not badly hurt – so it should be a yellow card at most, right?
Wrong. Take another look. Cahill dives in with both feet off the ground, which is a definition of recklessness. His left foot takes Chamakh’s left ankle, his right foot takes Chamakh’s right ankle. Neither foot gets within nodding distance of the ball.
By a small miracle of timing both Chamakh’s feet are off the ground at the moment of impact. Now play back the tackle in your mind and imagine what the outcome would have been if either one of our Number 29’s feet had been planted at the moment of impact: with Cahill’s flying, uncontrolled lunge, Chamakh would surely have had ligament damage at the very least and possibly even a broken ankle. We would have lost him for several weeks or several months, at a time when we are also missing Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner.
That he was not seriously injured was a pure fluke. Cahill’s challenge was dangerous and stupid and the instant red card proffered by Stuart Atwell was a rare instance of good refereeing by the ‘up and coming top ref in England’ in a game in which he was generally out of his depth.
He correctly adjudged that he should punish the intent, not the outcome. By doing so he may just save some other professional from having his leg snapped by the likes of Cahill later on in the season.
I don’t need to remind anyone of the horrors our players have faced in recent seasons from wild, uncontrolled challenges by brutish defenders. Cahill’s was a collector’s item of the species and three games on the sidelines is the least he deserves.
Following on from the Joe Cole dismissal in our first game of the season, the Cahill red card gives some hope that referees have discussed how to protect creative players and have agreed among themselves to act quickly and decisively if they see reckless lunges like Cahill’s. Quite how Atwell managed not to dismiss Robinson for his even more dangerous challenge on Abou Diaby a short while afterwards will, however, remain one of the great mysteries of football.
When Cahill gets to stand before the FA, let’s just hope they have the intelligence to study the video properly and the balls to act accordingly.