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Why Joe Cole's Red Card Against Arsenal Was Harsh

 Why Joe Cole's Red Card Against Arsenal Was Harsh

Not many seasons ago the tackle which Joe Cole got sent off for yesterday would not have been a red card, it would probably not even been a yellow card. This would have been because his intention was to block the ball rather than tackle the player. The fact he clattered into the player subsequently would have been seen an accidental by-product of an honest attempt to intercept the ball.

Under the letter of the law, Atkinson was right to send Cole off, seeing it as reckless play. While this more protective side of the law has been beefed-up to stop players getting injured, the downside is it punishes players for a crime they didn’t intend to commit. If Cole had gone into that tackle specifically to break the fellas legs, he would have had the same punishment. That does not seem fair.

It also means players are required to walk a very fine line. Cole wanted to put work-rate in, put effort in and so he closed the player down at speed – all things the boss and the fans want to see. His actual crime was merely taking his right foot slightly off the ground as he went in. It’s that which makes the tackle reckless. We know this because five minutes later Gerrard committed a similar foul not long after and wasn’t even booked.

While wanting to protect players from career threatening injuries, we don’t want to neuter the game completely. Tackling must still be allowed and it must be recognized that some tackles, while well-intentioned, go wrong. These are not red card offences in themselves.

It seems wrong that the game was diminished by a sending off for such an offence, not least because we will see many worse tackles this season which will go unpunished because they are less dramatic or done more sneakily.

Cole and Liverpool suffered unduly for something that football relies on, full-bloodied commitment.

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42 Responses to Why Joe Cole's Red Card Against Arsenal Was Harsh

  1. mushr00m says:

    Thank you for demonstrating the attitude that got Aaron Ramsey’ leg broken. And why England can’t win.

  2. Ric says:

    My question is why did Cole go all out on a tackle at that spot on the field? Even if he gets the ball, it probably goes out. Just didn’t make sense.

    • Sir Guy says:

      That was the thing that I noticed…and maybe the ref did, too. What the hell was he thinking? I’m all for work-rate and all that, but a little brain power doesn’t hurt.

  3. Colie says:

    And let’s not mention either Jack Wilshire’s tackle not a few mins earlier where he went straight through Mascherano and was a far worse challenge than Cole’s as had definitely more of a chance of breaking legs…..but hey let’s not argue over such little difference’s, Sky Sports were very quick to point out how similar Kosicelny’s handball and Ngog’s were, yet comparing Cole’s and Wilshire tackle never came to fruition.

    • Darren says:

      There is a major difference between Wilshere’s tackle and Cole’s. Wilshere’s foot never left the ground, Cole’s did. If you want to compare Wilshere’s tackle to a Liverpool’s, then look no further than Gerrard’s tackle from behind on Eboue. That should’ve been a yellow, and wasn’t, and in my opinion, worse than Wilshere’s.
      Not saying Wilshere didn’t deserve the yellow, because he did.

  4. Chris says:

    What a ridiculous statement. You want intent to be the most important thing separating a caution from a sending off? In order for that to work, referees have to be mind readers. Judging intent is incredibly subjective and will lead to more inconsistent decisions by match officials depending on their interpretation.

    Your interpretation of “fairness” is also completely backwards. If the game was officiated the way you want it to be, so that intent trumps all else, what if Cole had in fact broken Koscielny’s leg but was only trying to win the ball? Would it be “fair” to caution him, because he was only trying to win the ball without malice, despite horrendously injuring his opponent?

    The only “fair” and objective way to officiate the game is to punish players harshly for behavior that is likely to cause serious injury. Intent has nothing to do with it. A dangerous tackle is a dangerous tackle, regardless of what the player meant to do.

  5. b says:

    Sorry, this is a weak argument. Intent doesn’t have a lot to do with it when you launch yourself at a guy’s planted leg after the ball is gone. That’s a potential leg breaker, plain and simple. And just because Cole may have intended to get the ball but was too slow to do so is no excuse. Just look at your own picture. He’s got Kolscieny’s plant leg scissored with the ball nowhere near them.

    His actual crime wasn’t slightly taking his leg off the ground. It was a committing a scissor kick tackle on a guy’s planted leg long after the ball was gone.

    Either that’s a red, or there will only be more broken legs this year in the EPL.

    Wilshere’s tackle wasn’t great. but he didn’t get Mascherano anywhere near the shin. Wilshere’s foot was on the ground. Got Masch’s foot. Mascherano only grabbed his shin to try to sell it.

    And Steven “Studs up” Gerrard is never a good comparison for anything where the rules are concerned. He went over the ball and studded Rosicky in the stomach, but Rosicky got the foul called. He could take his shin guard off and beat the keeper in the face with it and still not get a yellow. He’s England’s captain, dontcha know?

  6. Jacob says:

    Yeah it was a bit harsh but I really think it was just a gut reaction the ref had to Cole playing at Chelsea. I mean can you really blame him? I completely understand his logic.

    • equals42 says:

      I’d love to see a Paul Scholes version. You could pick nearly any game. Almost every player out there gets a bit out of control sometimes. I really don’t think Cole was malicious. It was still a very dangerous play and merited the red.

      • David the Yank says:

        We are humans so we love to infer intent. So we try to think of words like malicious etc. But there is no intent in the laws. It is only reckless or with excessive force. Excessive force is defined in the laws as “in danger of injuring the opponent” while using far more force than necessary. No intent required. Joe Cole is a terrific player; we would all want him as a teammate. But equals42 is correct; he did injure the opponent, and the doctors ran out thinking the leg was broken. Obvious red card.

    • vinnie says:

      i’d cheer on any players, even chelsea players, who do that to ronaldo :P

      seriously, i for one wants 3 points and a good game by cole, and always bemoan about our bad lucks last season but come on, it was unlucky and stupid, arsenal were strong favourites to win; at least it wasn’t a losing start, 1 player suspended for 3 games rather than injured for 3 months. Even Woy wasn’t complainig, the club didn’t even appeal at all

      lets get it over with and look forward to the long season ahead

  7. Terry says:

    “it punishes players for a crime they didn’t intend to commit”

    Sorry John, we’re not neanderthals now. We live in the 21st century, not the middle of the last century. Anytime you start an argument “Not many seasons ago…” you make yourself out to be an old fuddy duddy. Keep up with the rest of us, will ya? I’ll get off yer lawn now.

    • Dave C says:

      Also, the argument that “it punishes players for a crime they didn’t intend to commit” is dumb. In law, there are a whole bunch of crimes you can be charged with despite a lack of intent – usually arising from negligence. And in the case of football, “negligent” is a perfect way to describe a reckless tackle such as Joe Coles, regardless of his underlying intent.

  8. Guitarearl says:

    We already see intent being disregarded in the case of last man tackling. Any player preventing a player from a sure goal-scoring opportunity is sent off. If that player had full intent to play the ball, missed, and due to said action dropped a player, he would be straight red gone.

    I wouldn’t say Koscielny was in a dangerous position on the pitch. He was along the touch, not in any position that would threaten goal. Would you say that a tackle with that kind of force was unnecessary given the circumstance?

    All I’m saying is that Cole should have known that a failed tackle could cost him and his team, and maybe he should have allowed Koscielny to play the meager ball that was in the works. The risk wasn’t nearly worth the reward.

  9. Gaz Hunt says:

    I understand people wanting play to be fair but you have to understand that you take a lot of the fun out of the game if everyone is expected to play the ticki tacka football associated with the Spanish National Team.

    Look at some matches from the First Division in the 70s and 80s. Those players went flying in. No cards and the players got back up and got on with it.

    Again, I understand the need to not hurt players but maybe we gone a bit soft? For every hard tackle that shouldn’t have been (and I concede that there are some that go too far) there are five players rolling around on the ground for no apparent reason.

    • Sir Guy says:

      “….there are five players rolling around on the ground for no apparent reason.”

      Let’s see, Didier and who else? ;-)

    • mushr00m says:

      You mean, the team that just won the World Cup? You’re right, it would be absolutely horrifying for the Premier League to degenerate to that level.
      If its players flying in that you want, then myabe you should American football. You’ll get your fill in that. Though, I can’t help but point out that Cole’s tackle would have been illegal in American football as well, and probably would have started a brawl to boot.

      • Gaz Hunt says:

        I guess it’s a matter of preference. I’m not saying any of you are wrong but you have to allow me my preference and opinion too.

        Yes, it would be horrifying for the PL to degenerate to the level of the World Cup. I’d fall asleep every weekend – teams going out with the intent of keeping the ball and not conceding is boring. In my opinion, the PL is regarded as the “best” league in the world because of the tendency of teams to go out there with nothing but attack on their mind.

        And yes, I would prefer a game with crunching tackles and “getting stuck in”. We’re watching ‘effing football – it is a contact sport.

        You suggest I go watch American Football (yuck) – I suggest that maybe you go watch a nice, non-contact, skill-based game of tennis. :)

        • mushr00m says:

          I must say it was enjoyable watching England kick the ball up the field against Germany then get scored upon. Wow, this comment says more about the problems of the national team than the initial post.

          And funny, I thought the difference between rugby and soccer was the outlawing of running with the ball, and hacking. What was that line about hiring a few frenchmen?

  10. Your Mom says:

    I’d like to know when you spoke with Joe Cole in order to properly determine his intent, and why you believed him.

  11. hank says:

    I feel sorry for Cole, because it was an honest attempt to win the ball, but it was also a dangerous tackle that could cause serious injury, and the red car was justified.

  12. Yespage says:

    It looked bad and the ref has to call it as he sees it. A tackle that has put Stoke City’s Jones on to the Injured list had some similarities, in that it was the byproduct of the tackle, not the initial tackle itself that caused the injury.

    Cole slid in and put the Arsenal player at risk. It was by no means an intent to injure, but an injury was quite possible. The Stoke City incident didn’t even get a card, where as Cole got a red. A red does seem harsh, as it was a poor tackle decision that probably should have had a yellow instead. As noted, it wasn’t the initial tackle, but the trailing leg that trapped the Arsenal player’s foot.

    Ultimately, the red card didn’t cause Liverpool to lose the three points. A poorly played ball by Reina, who up to that point was playing in his typical great fashion, cost Liverpool their three points. I don’t fault the red car decision as the foul was dangerous, the ref can’t watch replays, there was certainly an opportunity for injury via a dangerous tackle. Too bad Stoke didn’t get a likewise decision. Could have helped them.

    All in all, I was very pleased with Liverpool’s performance.

  13. tonyspeed says:

    why didn’t cole try to pull out after the ball was long gone? do you think he didn’t know the arsenal player’s leg was between his? why did his thighs continue to constrict on his leg? why did joe cole decide to look the other way rather than at the player he knew he was sliding into?

    don’t be naive or ignorant. joe cole knew what he was doing.

  14. dv says:

    this is one of the most appallingly dumb articles i’ve ever seen written. epl news is known to be dumb, but this sets new standards.

  15. Phil McThomas says:

    I don’t understand why managers or players want to make an argument in favor of more injured players.

    Cole’s tackle was dangerous. We need fewer dangerous tackles, not more.

    It’s possible to have passion and commitment without these sort of dangerous tackles.

    • Phenoum says:

      This is EXACTLY the sentiment that this article should have been written with. I’m GLAD that the first weekend of the new season begins with a referee looking to reduce injury-producing tackles and set a precident. Next time Arsenal meet’s Stoke we might make it out of the game w/o a broken leg – maybe even without an injury!

  16. Carolyn says:

    The reason Cole got sent off was because he went into the tackle with his feet off the ground, missed the ball and went into the player and caught him in a scissor-like tackle. Anytime you leave your feet off the ground like that and make contact with the player rather than the ball you’ll be sent off. So it was a good decision by the ref. The problem I have is the inconsistency of the referees in the EPL. Another referee might have only given a yellow card. The FA definitely needs to prepare their referees properly to ensure they all interpret the rules in the same way.

  17. Eagle Eye says:

    mmhhh Harsh I don’t think so. He went in with both legs… Definitely not the way he expected to start his career in his new club.

    @ http://soccer.mynucleus.org

  18. David the Yank says:

    Television commentary does a humongous disservice to those who try to watch and understand the game. How Ekoku is still employed, for example, is completely beyond me. (More on that below).

    For example, EVERY SINGLE WEEK you will hear ex-players, ex-coaches in the commentary booth saying “That is not a foul. HE GOT THE BALL”. While many (a majority?) of soccer supporters, and even players believe that getting the ball first while tackling immediately negates the possibility of a foul, they simply have not read the Laws and could not be more wrong. If you (defender) come through your tackle with careless, reckless, or excessive force, and knock the defender, even if you ‘get the ball’, it is a foul, a yellow card, or a red card depending on the extent of the foul. Read the laws. There is no absolution for ‘getting the ball’.

    With Ekoku, not only does he constantly go on and on about “getting the ball” [wrong], but it took him 5 minutes into the season this weekend to start complaining about referees correctly applying the offside Law. He said (I paraphrase), “why don’t they just blow the whistle right away when a man is 5+ yards offside?” Well, Efan, they don’t blow for that nor raise the flag BECAUSE IT IS NOT A FOUL to be 5 yards offside. You have to be in an offside position and then either play (touch) the ball or prevent/distract your opponent from doing so. Otherwise, as Mexico showed in the terrific goal they scored against Spain, a man can be 10 yards beyond the defense, but if he doesn’t touch the ball, the linesman simply cannot raise the flag, and his teammate (in that case Hernandez) can run from an onside position to score.

    So was Cole’s a red card? Certainly, to any referee it was excessive force, and he needs to go. Liverpool have accepted the ruling and now will not appeal. (Had they done so, everywhere-Joey would have been banned for a 4th match, too, against a little team from Manchester.)

    • Giovanni Dos Equis says:

      The Refs need to have some feeling for the game.
      Not follow everything by the letter of the ridiculous FIFA law.

      I personally do think that it was harsh to give a red for that.
      Ive seen them given and not given for very similar tackles.
      Footy isnt black and white.
      DTL sounds to me like your a ref. But more than likely never played.
      The current offside law is dreadful.
      How can you possibly be in the penalty area maybe to the side of the goal and not be involved in the play. You dont think the defender has taken you into account when deciding on his positioning?

      • David the Yank says:

        Ah, Giovanni, now you have it! Defending is much more difficult these days, because you have to (temporarily) ignore players who are in an offside position, but then you might have to mark them again if they become onside! Much more difficult than 20 years ago. But defending has gotten so strong that they had to do something to make it easier for the attacking team. And that’s what the new offside law does.

        P.S. When I ref I am a very liberal ref. That is, I like to allow a reasonable amount of contact. BUT a leg-breaking tackle or one that has the potential to break a leg, and this one most certainly did, needs to be dealt with harshly. You can play hard without breaking legs!

    • Tom Hingley says:

      David, I haven’t heard what Ekoku said, but I think you may be misinterpreting what he was trying to say.

      It has turned into a major annoyance of mine that linesmen won’t put their flags up until an offside player actually latches onto the ball, as opposed to as soon as it is obvious the ball is intended for that player.

      I realise that the distinction may not be the most obvious to compute in ones head, but flags are now put up noticeably later – causing fans in the ground to crap themselves thinking the linesman has missed it.

      Perhaps that is what Ekoku is referring to?

      • David the Yank says:

        Hi, Giovanni & Tom. Yes, I am a licensed ref. But I play all the time. And far far far more than I ref. Currently I play 2-3 90-minute full 11v11 matches every single week, here in NYC, with others my age and up to 10 yrs younger. I played 75 matches last season, so believe me, I know all about the feel of the game.

        First, Tom, yes, you have a point. The linesmen ARE instructed to flag if it is obvious that no teammate can or will get to the ball. But did you see the Mexico v Spain match last week? (Ball played to striker’s feet; he ignores ball, Hernandez races up and scores.) That is exactly the type of play that is now allowed due to the offside law change, and allows for what we all want: MORE GOAL SCORING!! I think fans in the ground crap themselves because they are used to the rule that they grew up with when we were kids. But the law has been changed, massively for the better, and to make it far harder to DEFEND now. Offside traps are 10x more difficult than they were when we were kids, because there can always be another runner racing forward and then your trap fails.

        Giovanni, I agree that the WAY they re-wrote the rule makes it much more difficult for people to understand what “involved in” the play means. But they should just re-write to remove “involved in” and say, you are offside if you were in an offside position when the ball was played AND THEN if you touch the ball or prevent the opponent from doing so. That’s it. That’s the whole law. It’s not more complex than that. But involved in does not mean standing to the right of the keeper or to the left of the defender. Unless you impede his ability to play the ball. Yes, that means you can have 1, 2, 3, sometimes on free kicks you will see 4 attacking players in a blatantly offside position, BUT THERE IS NO FLAG because they are not offside. Trust me, from playing, this is an excellent rule, that means defenders have to DEFEND, not just play offside traps. Happy to discuss further, but the law change was terrific. (I think it could be liberalized more to open up scoring. i.e. I would vote to allow players who start in an offside position to ‘reset’ by coming back onside for the ball by the time they play it. i.e. I would say to be offside you had to be in an offside position BOTH when the ball was played AND when you received it. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

        • Sir Guy says:

          David, as a former coach and ref I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. Well done.

          The rule obviously still creates some confusion/misunderstanding, but certainly no one would want to go back to the old interpretation.

        • Giovanni Dos Equis says:

          David,

          I agree with most youve said there, still think the offside law is ridiculous. Its called incorrectly so often, even at the highest level.
          I also think FIFA is ruining football.
          Too many silly yellow cards, ejections, way to much diving and rolling around. There has to be some allowance for tackling in football and that means sometimes a missed timed tackle without the intension of breaking someones leg.
          The games is always more enjoyable when the ref is more lenient.

  19. Fee says:

    Cole was committed, fair enough, trying to make a good impression etc… But what he actually forgot was the is a terrible tackler at the best of times and flying through the air like that in that corner of the pitch. In the words of Carlo Ancelloti, “he’s not very intelligent”.

    He could have gotten a yellow, easy but the challenge was right on edge. I was actually flabbergasted by the fact that Gerrard escape even a booking for his challenge on Eboue (ok it was Eboue and he goes all classical theatre when there is contact) but he slid in from behind on took him out. Letter of the law, straight red, but not even a booking!!

  20. UpTheBlues says:

    We told you Joe was past it ;).

  21. Matt says:

    Cards come and go as do the arguments. But the picture you’ve included demonstrates why I thought this red was harsh. Cole’s eyes were on and followed the ball. It was silliness to go so hard into the block and try and keep momentum, but his intent – the key to the color, yes? – was not to harm. Red was harsh.

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