Referee Mike Dean did nothing to assuage the North London conspiracy theorists, who see way beyond mere coincidence in Arsenal’s bleak record when this particular veteran official mans the middle.
According to (admittedly unverified independently) reports, Arsenal’s record now stands at a rather inglorious 1-9-6 (W-L-T) since the 2009-10 season in contests with Dean in charge.
That wouldn’t be such a big, hairy, scary and telling number if we were speaking of Crystal Palace or Sunderland or some other bedraggled side from the relegation brigade. But this is Arsenal, a club that fights for top-four stuff each year.
The Daily Mail’s enlightening report on all this from a few months back made the comparison between Arsenal’s meager mark and the far better records for Manchester United and Chelsea with Dean in charge.
But it’s not just the raw data that is rubbing Gunners supporters so, well, “raw” tonight. All but one of the big refereeing decisions from Monday’s heavy-weather clash with Chelsea went the way of the Blues. (Stating the presumed obvious here, Dean was in charge of Monday’s derby.)
There was Jon Obi Mikel’s awful challenge on Mike Arteta, a real potential leg breaker there. It certainly looked red card-worthy, a sentiment agreed upon by members of NBC’s broadcast team. (Considering Mikel’s good work on Gunners playmaker Mesut Ozil, the dour match may have looked quite a bit different had Chelsea’s defensive midfielder been sent off 10 minutes prior to intermission.)
Minutes later came the home team’s penalty appeal as Willian tripped Theo Walcott inside the 18. U.S. international goalkeeper Tim Howard – who no longer has that vaguely menacing beard to potentially distract his view – was guesting once again for NBCSN, and he said he would have pointed to the spot, no doubt.
Later a dangerously high challenge from Branislav Ivanovic on Ozil nearly put things into “full-on” donnybrook alert. That one drew no booking, either.