Tuesday 20 March 2018

If Kompany's red card is upheld, defenders may never tackle again

If Manchester City fail to get Vincent Kompany's red card against Arsenal rescinded by the Football Association this morning, it will send out the message that tackling has gone forever.

In my opinion, there is absolutely no doubt that not only did Kompany win the ball, it was just about the perfect tackle. So I will be flabbergasted if referee Mike Dean decides to stand by his decision to dismiss the City captain following Kompany's challenge on Jack Wilshere at the Emirates.

But his sending off is just the latest controversy surrounding a referee's decision in recent weeks and it is getting to the point where we are close to needing some kind of Monday morning panel of officials and former players to iron out mistakes from the weekend's matches.

I believe that it is an absolute certainty that Kompany will be cleared by the FA, though. His challenge was not two-footed and the ball was won cleanly, so I do not understand how the referee could even contemplate issuing a red card.

It would have been strange to see a yellow card brandished, never mind a red, especially when you compare Kompany's tackle with that which saw Chelsea's Marko Marin receive only a booking for a horrendous foul on Queens Park Rangers midfielder Stephane Mbia earlier this month. In comparison with Kompany's challenge on Wilshere, Marin's was an out-and-out assault, yet he was only booked by the referee.

The problems arise whenever a player goes to ground to make a tackle, but what the lawmakers and referees have to understand is that it is sometimes impossible to avoid sliding into a challenge.

If a defender stretches a leg out instead, that can be dangerous both to the player making the tackle and the one on the receiving end. But if yellow and red cards are brandished for innocuous challenges, the product of the game itself begins to suffer because we all want to see competitive games between two teams of 11 players.

By the letter of the law, you can just about understand Dean's decision to send off Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny yesterday for the foul on Edin Dzeko, which resulted in a City penalty.

But in a perfect world, you would like to think that a booking and a penalty would be sufficient, if only for the sake of the game as a spectacle.

By the time the referee dismissed Kompany, the game had just begun to go out of his control and, having sent off Koscielny, there is always the possibility of the officials making a decision that evens things up a bit.

Dean and City are fortunate, though, in the respect that City still won the game and Kompany's dismissal did not actually prove costly.

That will only be the case if Dean refuses to rescind the card because being without their captain for three games – when other defenders are unavailable and Yaya Toure is away at the Africa Cup of Nations – will hurt City and may well prove to be a significant blow to their title hopes.

That will surely not happen, even though some people have suggested that Kompany has a reputation for sliding into tackles. That is not an opinion that I agree with.

While there was a debate last season following Kompany's red card following a challenge against Nani during an FA Cup tie against Manchester United, my opinion was that was not a tackle worthy of a red card.

But maybe Kompany's latest injustice at the hands of a referee highlights how the game is heading towards a review panel charged with dealing with contentious incidents on a Monday morning after the weekend fixtures.

The stakes are so high nowadays that maybe football needs people to sit down and make the call on big decisions that have been missed or judged incorrectly by officials.

The problem is, where do you stop and start?

Just recently, we have had the Jay Rodriguez diving incident for Southampton at Aston Villa, the Craig Gardner foul on Gareth Bale which led to Bale being booked for diving and Luis Suarez's handled goal at Mansfield.

There are contentious decisions every week, but while the FA has a system whereby retrospective action can be taken if a referee has not seen an incident, players cannot be charged for something that a referee has seen or dealt with at the time.

Incorrectly issued red cards can be overturned if a referee admits to making a mistake, though, and I can see no reason whatsoever that will lead to Dean choosing to uphold Kompany's red card.

But if he does, defenders in the Premier League will wonder whether it will ever be safe to tackle again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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