There’s no doubt that the Premier League season is heating up. The last few weeks have been extremely entertaining. And, for the casual observer, it’s wonderful to see the Big Four teams getting beat. But there were two incidents on Saturday that I found deplorable. The first was Javier Mascherano’s horror tackle on Portsmouth’s Tal Ben Haim. The second was Samir Nasri’s deliberate kick at Hull City’s Richard Garcia.
If you watch the Nasri incident again, you can see the Frenchman deliberately and maliciously kick the back of Garcia’s ankle behind the back of referee Steve Bennett. Arsenal had already won the free kick, so there was no need for Nasri to kick out the way he did. It’s bad enough to get kicked in the ankle, but when someone does it behind you without you even seeing it coming, you can imagine how painful that must have been for Garcia.
Nasri deserved a straight red for the incident. But because the Arsenal player did it behind the back of Bennett and the two assistant referees didn’t see the incident in the crowded area, Bennett ended up giving a yellow card to both Nasri and Steven Hunt. It was bad enough that Nasri got off lightly with just a yellow, but there was no way that Hunt deserved that card. After Nasri fouled Garcia, Hunt took matters into his own hands and pushed Nasri, as Nick Barmby did and a melee then ensued.
Nasri has gone way down in my estimation based on this one horrible decision. But I’m also disappointed with how a prominent Arsenal blog (NSFW) saw the incident, which is one of the reasons why I don’t typically enjoy club blogs in general because they often put blinders on and are very biased in favor of their club. This is how ArseBlogger described the incident:
“Samir Nasri, for reasons best known to himself, bumped into a Hull player and gave him a little kick on the foot while the ref’s back was turned. It was a bit sly, I have to say, and there really wasn’t any need for it. Especially as the Hull player wasn’t that little knacker Steven Hunt. But you know, f**k them. A little bit of aggro is no bad thing and it’s nice to see the lads sticking up for each other.”
“Little kick on the foot”? “Sticking up for each other?” Give me a break. Watch this video (around the 1 minute 30 second mark) and see for yourself:
In the other deplorable incident from Saturday, what was Javier Mascherano thinking? He maliciously went in hard with a tackle with Portsmouth’s Tal Ben Haim and ended up raising his studs and kneeing Ben Haim in between the legs. Not only could that one tackle have ended Ben Haim’s career (luckily it didn’t), but Mascherano injured himself in the reckless tackle.
To make matters worse, co-commentator Nigel Winterburn was awful in his judgement of what happened about whether Mascherano deliberately set out to hurt Ben Haim. As he hemmed and hawed about the incident (“his studs are showing, but I don’t know”), Winterburn sounded incredibly shocked when Mascherano received the straight red. In my book, it was a red card immediately after I saw the incident. And the TV replays solidified my assertion. It was only until the beginning of the second half where Winterburn changed his tune and indicated that maybe Mascherano didn’t go for the ball after all. But even then, Winterburn again hemmed and hawed.
Here’s the video of the incident from the first half:
Fortunately in the Liverpool game, the referee made the correct decision and Mascherano now faces a three match ban. Nasri deserves the same punishment too. While Saturday was a wonderful day of football, it’s a shame that the actions of two Premier League footballers showed the negative side of the game.