COMMENT: Remind me again, which team needs protecting, Burnley or Arsenal?

Sean Dyche, as you might expect, wasn't getting drawn into the furore surrounding his 'physical' Burnley team.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 7:42 pm
Granit Xhaka is sent off after this incident with Ashley Westwood

There has been much gnashing of teeth nationwide in the early stages of the season, with the Clarets singled out for criticism amid the new 'lighter touch' refereeing protocol intended to make the game more free-flowing.

Jurgen Klopp came out after his side's 2-0 win over Burnley at Anfield and said: “I am not 100 per cent sure if we are going in the right direction with these decisions, if we go 10-15 years back.

“It is too dangerous – it is just hard. The rules are how they are but you cannot defend these situations.

“We have to stick to protecting the players. We cannot deny that. If people say, ‘That’s a challenge, I love watching that’, then watch wrestling!”

While after the 1-1 draw with Leeds at Turf Moor, Marcelo Bielsa was asked if he feared for his players' safety: "No, I thought it was a very heated game but not any more than that."

However, things hit fever pitch at Everton on Monday night, with challenges from Josh Brownhill and James Tarkowski on Richarlison coming in for heated debate.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said of Tarkowski's tackle on the Brazilian, for which referee Martin Atkinson didn't even award a free kick: “This one I don’t think has a place in football. If it had been given red I don’t think you could have complained if you were Burnley. I don’t think we would have complained. It’s the one by Tarkowski on Richarlison.

“I think it’s reckless. I think he knows he’s going to do him. I think he knows his follow-through is going to hurt him, or could hurt him. I think it does endanger him and I think Tarkowski there goes to do him – as in, leave one on him.

“That, to me, tonight, not being a yellow card just made me think a little bit. Let’s not get carried away – the refereeing has been brilliant, I’ve loved it, I’m with Sean Dyche in that the game is in a better place. But that challenge cannot be encouraged by not being booked.”

Dyche simply said at his pre-Arsenal press conference: "I think you get put in a box very quickly in life, me, the team, the club.

"There is a lot of positives as well that come our way, not just negatives.

"I have no problem with people’s view and I never have. Everyone has a view on every single moment. You just get used to it."

But there is a growing agenda, underlined by an inflammatory, and inaccurate, article on www.football.london on Thursday, stating: "Premier League referees must stiffen their stance on Burnley's tackles before an injury occurs to one of the Arsenal players.

"If we want to avoid similar situations to Eduardo, Aaron Ramsey or Abou Diaby who all received horrible injuries due to the disgraceful challenges inflicted upon them, then Burnley must be regulated."

Now, Burnley can stand behind the fact they are currently on a Premier League record run of 97 games without a red card, and finished second behind Liverpool in the fairplay league last season.

But that sort of statement, from an 'Arsenal Fan Brand Writer', is so hypocritical, it's beyond belief.

While Burnley's last dismissal came in January 2019, since Mikel Arteta's appointment at the Emirates in December that year, the Gunners have had NINE red cards - two for dangerous play, one for a head butt, and one for Granit Xhaka grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat in the Clarets' 1-0 win there last December.

So tell me, who needs protecting from who?

Arsenal, even while enjoying great success under Arsene Wenger - which you'd have to be in your twenties to remember now - were no angels.

Indeed, as Sir Alex Ferguson said in 2019: “His boys are not the lilywhites portrayed by some. For instance, How many players have they had sent off this season?”

Arsenal's next red card will be their 100th in the Premier League, with their 99 dismissals the most in the league's history.

Put it this way, Patrick Vieira has more red cards than Burnley's entire collection of seven in their eighth season and counting at this level.

So don't give me this nonsense about the Clarets being bullies, I think the Gunners are more than capable of looking after themselves.