Late on in Arsenal’s dispiriting defeat by Manchester City on Sunday, referee Mike Dean sent off Vincent Kompany for a dangerous tackle.
It was a straight red and evened up the on-pitch personnel to10 a side, although far too late in proceedings to offer any real hope to the men in red and white.
Kompany had dived in with both feet off the ground and his studs showing as he went for a fifty-fifty ball. Coming rapidly – but fairly – in the opposite direction was the ever-committed Jack Wilshere.
It was an easy decision for Dean to make – a strait red card any day of the week.
And bear in mind this was Dean, under whom Arsenal have an appalling record and who couldn’t stop himself from doing a little jump for joy when the Spuds scored against us last season.
You suspect that if Dean had felt there was even a sliver of opportunity to avoid sending off the City man he would have grabbed it with both hands. But it was so blatant an offence that he had no option.
(Incidentally, I have no quibble with Dean’s earlier red carding of the hapless “Stan” Laurel Koscielny for clinging onto Edin Dzeko’s waist like a drunk tart in a pub trying to hang on to a want-away lover).
Kompany is a defender for whom I have the greatest respect. He is a world class player and, for a centre back, generally conducts himself fairly.
But on this occasion he lunged in in a dangerous manner. The replays clearly showed both feet off the ground and studs showing. We can consider ourselves fortunate that Wilshere was not badly hurt.
I’m not saying Kompany jumped into the tackle intending to injure. But it was reckless and, as we Arsenal fans know only too well, recklessness in the tackle can leave young men’s shins bent mightily out of shape.
You might wish to protest that the City man got the ball, but that’s not the point, either morally or as far as the laws of the game are concerned. The inherent dangers posed by the two-footed dagger jump have rightly led to its being considered a sending-off offence.
So it was disappointing, if not exactly surprising, to hear talk of an appeal against the red card emanating from Middle Eastlands.
But far more shameful, to my mind, were the comments from Alan Hansen. He said that if Kompany’s red card was upheld, the decision would be tantamount to banning tackles from football.
This is such a specious argument I hardly know where to begin. Quite aside from the clear evidence of the replays and the fact that referees are instructed to send off players for diving in with their studs up, Kompany’s actions were not a “tackle” within the laws of the game. They were an example of serious foul play.
I doubt Hansen will be aware of the connection, but when Arsene Wenger spoke with passion after the Eduardo and Ramsey leg breaks about ridding the game of such dangerous challenges, the response of the ignorant was to say “he wants to ban all tackling.”
Wenger very specifically made clear that he believed tackling was a vital part of football. Jumping into players shins and shattering their bones was not.
Hansen should know better than most that a fair, hard tackle can be made without showing the studs or making a two-footed jump.
As an ex centre half you might expect him to look for ways to defend Kompany – but he could have done so by suggesting the lunge was a split second error of judgement and not an act of malice. He did not need to try to whitewash the whole thing. If the tackle had been against Manchester United – against Wayne Rooney perhaps – I doubt we would have heard these comments from Hansen.
Maybe the Scot is feeling his age in the BBC Sports department and is worried about being nudged out by younger pundits who have played the game more recently. A few column inches and a bit of extra coverage probably wouldn’t go amiss for him right now.
But it’s comments like Hansen’s that continue to foster the myth that reckless play is just committed play; comments that more or less ensure that some other professional will end up lying on the pitch with a shattered limb before too long.
To quote Hansen himself: (insert Scottish accent here) “Shocking Alan. That’s simply shocking.”