Referee Andre Marriner, in grey, sends off Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs, left, during their English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge stadium in London Saturday, March 22 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Quick Six: Arsenal’s woes, top three’s goals, and the headlines from this weekend’s PL action

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On a weekend where Chelsea’s rout of Arsenal stole the headlines, Saturday’s result at Stamford Bridge dominates our Quick Six:

1. The most Arsenal thing they could have done

In hindsight, the strangest part of Chelsea’s barrage was its unpredictability. It’s not that we couldn’t foresee Arsenal collapsing in a big game. Gooners have been here before. It’s that nobody was willing to predict it. And yet, as Chelsea scored twice in seven minutes, three times in 17, the feeling was less shock than de ja vu. It wasn’t unpredictable because we couldn’t foresee it. It was unpredictable because we wouldn’t admit it. Arsenal was going to get blown out.

Samuel Eto’o had Arsenal down after five minutes, a lead André Schürrle doubled moments later. When Eden Hazard converted after Andre Marriner’s own headline (more below), Chelsea was up three and a man, an advantage that helped Oscar (two) and Mohamed Salah finish the job. On a day when Arsenal could have pulled within one point of first, the Gunners title hopes died on the wrong end of a 6-0 embarrassment.

(MORE: Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal: Blues hammer Gunners, as bizarre red card ruins Wenger’s big day (video))

And yet nobody’s talking about how impressive Chelsea was. This is how low our regard for Arsenal has fallen. It’s unfair (the team does have 62 points, after all), but it’s reality. Beating Arsenal by six grabs headlines, but it doesn’t change our view of a club. It only reinforces our view of Arsenal.

2. Andre Marriner shows his ‘perceptual expertise’

Let’s not dance around this one. There’s an established realm of psychology that addresses why Andre Marriner might have sent off the wrong man on Saturday. Marriner is white. Both Kieran Gibbs (the man sent off) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the man who should have been sent off) are black. And yes, these things are important.

From the American Psychological Association’s Siri Carpenter, in a feature titled “Why do ‘they all look alike’?”:

People are notoriously awful at recognizing faces from other races. It’s a human foible often explained by the notion that we have more experience looking at members of our own race and thus acquire “perceptual expertise” for characteristics of our own kind.

… [Kent State University’s Daniel Levin, PhD] says, people place inordinate emphasis on race categories–whether someone is white, black or Asian–ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals. In recent research, Levin has shown that people can, in fact, perceive fine differences among faces of people from other races–as long as they’re using those differences to make race classifications.

For example, Levin explains, “When a white person looks at another white person’s nose, they’re likely to think to themselves, ‘That’s John’s nose.’ When they look at a black person’s nose, they’re likely to think, ‘That’s a black nose.'”

(Note: I am not a trained psychologist, so if there are better references for this phenomenon, fire away in the comments.)

Marriner later apologized for his mistake, one that may not be related to race at all. If it is, it’s both explicable (in the psychological sense) and something that should never happened in an environment where everybody wears huge, distinguishing numbers on their backs.

(MORE: Andre Marriner apologizes for error in Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea)

Now if only there was some kind of way officials could look at video footage to confirm …

source: AP3. Chelsea shines light on Arsenal’s Wenger dilemma

Saturday’s rout highlighted the Wenger conundrum. The man has been a huge asset to the club – somebody that defines their modern era. Once Manchester United finishes outside of Champions League, Arsenal will be the only team in the Premier League with top-four finishes in every season since Wenger’s arrival (in 1996). In the plights of the Red Devils, Liverpool, and Tottenham, you can see why Wenger’s success is so admirable.

But he’s not José Mourinho. He’s not Carlo Ancelotti. And he’s being passed by managers like Brendan Rodgers. Whereas the level of competition in the mid-90s meant Wenger’s ability to evaluate talent, instill a consistent style, and manage a squad could carry the Gunners to the top, now he also needs to be a master game manager to win the titles.

He’s just not, part of the reason he can’t beat Mourinho. And whereas we see Brendan Rodgers is making subtle tweaks every week to exploit his competition, Wenger has maintained a more consistent approach, one that leaves his players sitting ducks for the league’s best managers. As the likes of Manuel Pellegrini, Guus Hiddink, and Ancelotti cycle in and out of the league, Arsenal’s plight becomes more pronounced.

If Wegner left, Arsenal’s would be one the most sought after jobs in the world. But they can’t let him go. He’s still too good at what he does, even if that means Arsenal seems to have no chance when in games like Saturday’s.

It’s the conundrum of this era of Arsenal soccer: Appreciate the good; swallow the bad; hope things change in the future.

4. Top three’s outburst underscores the divide

Chelsea wasn’t the only team to get its goals out of its system. Liverpool and Manchester City also blew up. Continuing their pursuits of the league’s goal scoring record, the teams posted six and five (respectively) in their Saturday wins. If Arsenal’s loss didn’t highlight the divide between the top three and the rest of the league, 17 goals from that trio did.

It was a combination of coincidence and competition. All three happened to click on the same day. All three happened to play teams playing like relegation battlers. Fulham and Cardiff City are in the drop, while Arsenal plays like it is in very specific situations. Combine those factors with teams hitting their strides as they pursue first place and you get a series of embarrassing results.

(MORE: Liverpool’s six-spot in Wales | City posts five on Fulham)

It was good for the highlight reels, with hat tricks from Luis Suárez and Yaya Touré boosting each stars prodigious totals (Suárez is up to a league-leading 28; Touré leads midfielders with 16). For the losers, however, it was only good for demoralization. Fulham and Cardiff still sit in the league’s bottom two, while Arsenal look destined for another fourth place finish.

5. Wayne Rooney’s First should have been WORTH two

Part of me wants to say “Poor Adrian,” but most of me wants to thank him. Wayne Rooney’s goal from just inside West Ham’s half left the Hammers’ keeper on his back and United up at Upton Park.

source: Getty Images6. Eriksen, Sigurdsson stop Tottenham’s fall

For all the issues Tim Sherwood has managing Spurs, motivating his players isn’t one of them. Even when they’ve looked aimless tactically, the players have put in the work, an effort that paid off in Sunday’s last hour at White Hart Lane. After falling behind two within 30 minutes, Tottenham got two goals and an assist from Christian Eriksen, with the Danish international assisting on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s stoppage time winner.

(MORE: Tottenham 3-2 Southampton: Sigurdsson puts icing on three-goal comeback after Eriksen double)

Mistakes by Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren helped, but on a weekend where we saw leads snowball, Tottenham’s resolve deserves some credit. While we (read: I) mocked the idea that something would carry over from Spurs’ loss at Benfica, Sherwood was proven correct. The same fight that pulled Tottenham within one goal of extra time in Lisbon brought them all the way back in North London.

If returning to Europa is a goal, the win moved Spurs a step closer, mostly by throwing a major wrench into one of their pursuers’ chase. More readily, it stopped the four-game slide that had begun to send their season into chaos. Instead of trying to manage a sinking ship, the team can get back to seeing who will be part of next year’s crew.

Report: Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Antonio Conte agree truce

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates victory with Diego Costa after the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Chelsea at Riverside Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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The feud is over. For now.

[ MORE: New rules stop Costa move

After Diego Costa was left out of Chelsea’s traveling squad for the win at Leicester City last weekend, he has been training on his own amid reports of a back injury which his manager Antonio Conte

It seems very likely that this situation was about much more than a back injury as Costa and Conte reportedly had a bust-up on the training ground, while links surrounding a big-money move to China continue as Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, was seen visiting owners of Chinese Super League clubs last week.

A report in The Times states that Costa and Conte have decided to put their differences aside and the Spanish international is back in contention to start against Hull City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

It was also stated that although everyone is buddy-buddy for now, Costa could still leave in the summer as his volatile nature is far from impressing Conte who continues to stamp his authority not only on the players but the entire club.

It’s clear Conte is boss but he can’t have Costa undermining him as seems to have been the case over the past week and it was also the case earlier on in the season when Conte demanded Costa remained on the pitch.

That said, Costa’s importance to Chelsea can’t be understated as he is the join-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 14 goals and he’s added another five assists this season. With reports linking Chelsea with a summer move for Alvaro Morata, it appears Conte is already trying to plan for life without Costa.

Can the Blues win the PL title this season without Costa’s goal and presence up top? Despite a seven-point lead, probably not. That’s why Conte calling a truce in his instance makes sense.

That said, he now has six months or so to line up a long-term replacement for Costa.

The cracks have been papered over for now. But how long will it be until two fiery characters collide once again?

Lionel Messi discusses his Barcelona future

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 11:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the Copa del Rey round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on January 11, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has addressed speculation linking him with a move away from the only club he has ever known.

[ MORE: Who are title favorites? ]

Messi, 29, has been at Barcelona since the age of 13 and the Argentine superstar has won every possible trophy with the Catalan giants, plus has been crowned the World Player of the Year on five occasions.

Time for a new challenge?

Reports had suggested that Barcelona have wanted to start talks over a new contract with Messi for quite some time but with just 18 months left on his current deal, Messi and his representatives are yet to hold talks.

“I have always said that Barcelona has given me everything and I am here for as long as they want me to be,” Messi said in Coach magazine.

Hmm.

Messi also spoke about his former manager and mentor, Pep Guardiola, and his challenging start to life in the Premier League as manager of Manchester City.

“It is a very competitive league, last season showed that, so it makes it very difficult to predict,” Messi added. “Of course Pep is a very successful coach, he will be adjusting to the league, but I am sure that he will be successful.”

Will Messi be part of Pep’s success at City?

It is obvious Barca will want him to stay but if a huge offer comes in for Messi from Man City this summer, or others in the Premier League, then surely he will think twice about it.

If Pep can coax Messi to join him at City, who can clearly afford him, then it would be another glittering star in their attacking line. That said, if Guardiola is going to be successful then he’ll have to add plenty more quality in defense as City currently sit 10 points off leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go in the PL season.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.