There are always interesting subplots to every game – an altercation between players or an interesting back-heel or a wonderful thru ball. Not surprisingly, the Arsenal win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park came with one such incident.
Francis Coquelin was replaced by Arsene Wenger just after the hour. That was not the interesting part. It was the fact that he avoided a second booking for a foul on James McArthur. For some, it was a decision that could have been a lot worse for the Gunners. Wenger immediately hauled him off the pitch and blamed the local fans for his decision.
The Eagles are considered to be one of the noisiest fans around the country. The decibel levels generally go up, irrespective of the state of the match – whether the home side is winning, losing or playing bad. Wenger felt that his midfielder could become a victim of the mob mentality of the Palace fans.
“I felt that he was not fortunate,” Wenger said. “I would like to see all that again, but in the end the pressure created by the crowd was so big that I took him off after 60 minutes.”
Interestingly, looking from the other end of the action, the Palace manager Alan Pardew claimed that the referee Lee Mason had lacked the “bravery” to send off the Arsenal midfielder even earlier.
And, refuting the claims of Wenger, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry indicated that Coquelin was lucky not to be sent off during the match. For a player who was already on a yellow card, the way Coquelin thrust himself into the game was slightly perplexing.
Henry believes that the player should learn to be smarter and understand the situation than just run around. He may have a point here because in a fast pace game, it is vital for the players to stay up and make on-the-run decisions.
So, which side of the coin did Coquelin end up? Was he fortunate not to have received a second yellow? Or was Wenger right in saying that the local fans riled him up and could have got him sent off?
It’s hard not to be judgmental around situations like this but it looks like Coquelin got a very lucky let-off from referee Lee Mason. Do you agree or do you think Wenger was right?