FA need to throw book at Wenger, Liverpool hopes over: Four talking points from weekend Premier League action
Runway leaders Chelsea strengthened their stranglehold on the Premier League title race as the 22nd round of matches were played - but that was only part of the narrative amid a record-breaking weekend.
Why the FA have to throw the book at Wenger
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been more than a little keen to highlight on what he perceives to be the ‘special’ treatment handed out to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger by the Football Association’s disciplinary committee down the years - and now we are about to be presented with the ultimate test of his theory.
Much to Mourinho’s chagrin, Wenger’s position as the elder statesman of the Premier League has earned him a respect that tends to go in his favour when he clashes with match officials or offers up some feisty opinions in a press conference.
While the United boss has been persistently in hot water with the FA when he offers up a devious comment or two to the media, Wenger has avoided the touchline bans and hefty fines that have been a consistent part of Mourinho’s time in the English game.
Wenger has shoved rival managers on the touchline - most famously Mourinho back in 2014 - and has persistently questioned refereeing decisions in a manner that could have led to FA fines and bans, but touchline bans rarely come his way.
Bizarrely, Wenger escaped punishment for shoving the fourth official in his side’s game against Stoke last month, yet his two hefty shoves on official Anthony Taylor during his side’s heated 2-1 win against Burnley on Sunday cannot be ignored.
While his swift post-match apology for his actions was delivered with a little more sincerity that we might have expected from Mourinho following a game loaded with contentious decisions, his words should not dilute the scale of the crime he will now be charged with.
This time Wenger cannot be treated differently than the rest. He should face a touchline ban and a hefty one at that.
West Ham bad boy Paulo Di Canio was given an 11-match ban for his infamous shove on referee Paul Alcock in September 1998 and while a similar punishment for Wenger may be a little excessive, anything less than a touchline ban that would condemn him to the stands for most of February would seem lenient.
Even if Wenger’s track record of indiscretions is modest compared to Mourinho’s stunning crime sheet, this is the moment for the FA to confirm the Arsenal boss is not above the law by handing him a fitting punishment.
BREAKING NEWS: Mourinho charged with disorderly conduct due to the actions of Wenger in the Arsenal - Burnley matchpic.twitter.com/U2aTspDbIx— @ManUtd_HQ (@ManUtd_HQ) January 22, 2017
All over for Liverpool?
Liverpool hopes of winning the Premier League title were ended by their shock 3-2 home defeat against Swansea on Saturday.
That’s the verdict of Liverpool and Ireland goal scoring great John Aldridge, who encouraged Reds boss Jurgen Klopp to change his approach to his upcoming fixtures after Chelsea pulled ten points clear of his side.
“Liverpool’s challenge for the Premier League title is over after Swansea’s 3-2 win at Anfield and now boss Jurgen Klopp faces a challenge to keep the club’s season on track,” Aldridge told sundayworld.com.
“It was back to the Liverpool of last season as the visitors soaked up all the pressure at Anfield and took the chances that were served up by some woeful defending.
“I already suspected they were too far behind leaders Chelsea to mount a serious challenge for the title after last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United, but this defeat kills off the title dream once and for all.
“It’s not just the fact they lost to a side that started the day at the bottom of the Premier League table that convinces me the game is up for Liverpool in the title race.”
Aldridge went on to suggest Wednesday night’s EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Southampton is pivotal to Liverpool’s season, as Klopp’s side look to turn around a 1-0 first leg deficit to secure a place in the Wembley final.
He also urged Klopp to play a full-strength side in next weekend’s FA Cup fifth round clash against Wolves, as he believes Liverpool now need to realign their ambitions with their title challenge over.
Of course, Klopp may beg to differ with Aldridge’s judgement, but it’s hard to believe stuttering Liverpool can now overtake a Chelsea side a full ten points ahead of them in the Premier League standings.
Ref justice will have to stop
Why did referee Andre Marriner not award a penalty to Manchester City after Raheem Sterling was pushed in the box by Tottenham’s Kyle Walker as he raced clear on goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium?
In what should have been the most clear-cut penalty decision of this or any other season, Walker got lucky as Marriner inexplicably waved play on after he shoved Sterling just as he was about to fire home City’s decision third goal.
A minute later, Spurs equalised and Pep Guardiola’s ongoing bemusement about what he describes as the unfathomable laws of English football had a new entry to confuse him.
On a weekend when the much-maligned Mike Dean was sent down to the Championship and gave a penalty for an incident that took place outside of the box, refereeing standards in English football are threatening to undermine the sport like never before.
Seamus Coleman should have been flagged for off-side before his winner for Everton and Crystal Palace and Laurent Kosielney was also in an off-side position in the build-up to the incident that handed Arsenal at late penalty to beat Burnley. The list goes on and on and on….
If we made as many mistakes as these officials in our jobs, we would be seeking alternative employment. Maybe the time has come to appreciate that some of the clowns blowing their whistles at the wrong time week after week are not up to the job.
All hail the legend
The plaudits that flowed for Wayne Rooney as he became Manchester United’s all-time record goal scorer with a brilliant effort against Stoke on Saturday were entirely justified - with the legacy he will now leave behind confirming the suspicion that the England skipper is not given all the credit he merits for his remarkable achievements.
A little like Robbie Keane during his goal-laden career, Rooney’s critics have often been more vocal than his admirers, yet history will look kindly on a player who has set records for club and country that may never be challenged.
INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK
Petr Cech (Arsenal)
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Harry Maguire (Hull)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
David Silva (Man City)
Tom Carroll (Swansea)
Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Andy Carroll (West Ham)
Fernando Llorente (Swansea)