The first half sending off of Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker against Chelsea at the Emirates stadium dominated the back pages of British newspapers on Monday morning.

Mertesacker’s wild lunge on Chelsea striker Diego Costa in the 18th minute of the London derby was enough for the referee Mark Clattenburg to send off the former German International. Mertesacker slid across Costa in a desperate attempt to stop him from racing through on goal after being fed in by the effervescent Willian.

While most pundits feel that Mertesacker’s sending off was deserved, others felt that Costa’s theatrical fall after being challenged ultimately influenced the decision of the referee. So was Per Mertesacker’s tackle on Diego Costa actually a red card offence? See for yourself below.

View 1: Mertesacker did not warrant a red card for his tackle on Costa

In the aftermath of Arsenal’s damaging defeat to Chelsea on Sunday night, some pundits felt that Per Mertesacker did not deserve to be given the marching orders for his tackle on Diego Costa. Slow motion replays clearly show that the German International made minimal contact (is any at all) with Costa’s trailing leg.

In fact, Arsene Wenger came out and indirectly blamed Diego Costa’s histrionics for getting Mertesacker sent off. “Costa has got two of our players sent off in the last two games against Chelsea,” said Wenger (via BBC). “The referee was very quick to take the red card out.”

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Another point in the German defender’s favour is the relative positioning of fellow center back Laurent Koscielny when the tackle on Costa was made. The Chelsea striker was tackled about 30 yards from goal in the left channel of the football pitch with Koscielny darting across through the center to cut his path to goal. Some pundits argued that Koscielny would have been able to get to Costa and thwart his attempt at giving Chelsea the lead.

The graphic below illustrates the relative positioning of the French center back with the respect to the location of the tackle.

football formations

View 2: Mertesacker deserved to be sent off for his tackle on Costa

According to FIFA’s Laws of the Game, “Referees should consider the following circumstances when deciding whether to send off a player for denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity:

  • the distance between the offence and the goal
  • the likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball
  • the direction of the play
  • the location and number of defenders
  • the offence which denies an opponent an obvious goalscoring opportunity may be an offence that incurs a direct free kick or an indirect free kick.”

The decision taken by the referee Mark Clattenburg lies in coherence with the set of official rules that govern the sport. It is highly unlikely that the covering defender – Laurent Koscielny – would have been unable to reach Costa before he raced through on goal and got his shot away.

Keeping in mind the above clauses, the FIFA Laws of the Game clearly indictate that Clattenburg’s decision to send Mertesacker off for denying Costa an obvious goal scoring opportunity was the right one. Pundits on the other side of the divide point to the “minimal” contact between the two players and Costa’s “shameful” antics that got the German defender sent off. However, Mertesacker’s unquestionable “intent” of fouling Costa, apart from the actual contact that was made between the two, was enough to warrant a sending off.

So do you think Mertesacker deserved to see red for his tackle on Diego Costa? Have your say in THT’s poll below.

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