David Luiz, the rejected appeal, and time waiting for no man

Morning all. It’s Friday. The same as every other day. I hope you and yours are doing ok wherever you are.

Let’s start with the least surprising news of the week, as Arsenal’s appeal over David Luiz’s red card was rejected yesterday by the FA. In the morning, Mikel Arteta sounded kinda confident it would be successful, but come the afternoon the news dropped and the club released a statement which said:

We have worked really hard to overturn David Luiz’s red card. We presented our case to the FA but are disappointed that our appeal has been unsuccessful.

We accept the FA’s decision and continue our preparations for Saturday’s match against Aston Villa.

Barely a few minutes later, the FA released their judgement on another appeal, this time from Southampton for the red card issued to Jan Bednarek. He too was sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity, but his dismissal was overturned. I guess the lesson is if you do go down to 10 men, make sure you lose 9-0 because then you get the sympathy decision.

I’m not here to espouse any kind of conspiracy against Arsenal or anything like that, but you can’t help but laugh when you see that kind of thing. Laugh and consider how viable it would be to dose the coffee with industrial strength laxatives next time the FA’s disciplinary committee meet to decide anything.

So, it means that we’ll go to Villa Park without Luiz, and it gives Arteta a chance to bring Gabriel back into the team. As I wrote yesterday, there’s an inherent risk in playing the senior Brazilian – you don’t know when it’s going to go wrong, but there’s a crushing inevitability about the fact that it will at some point. I still maintain his sending off on Tuesday night was ridiculously harsh, but it was interesting to hear the manager talk about discipline – or lack of it – in his press conference.

He points, fairly enough I think, to the Nicolas Pepe at Leeds and Granit Xhaka v Burnley incidents as the only real moments of indiscipline, but four times this season we’ve gone a man down in the Premier League. From those games we’ve taken just two points, and in two of them – Burnley at home and Wolves this week – I’m absolutely certain we’d have won if we’d played the entire 90 minutes with the full complement of players. Add those six points to what we’ve got now, even with that terrible run we went through, and the table looks much healthier.

Arteta says:

What is clear is that when you have five red cards in this period, you are going to lose a lot of points. If we would have some of those points, we would be in a completely different position in the table, that’s for sure. There are no teams with five reds up there at the top, it doesn’t happen.

So, it’s an issue for the manager to sort out, and harsh as it might sound, the absence of Luiz could be seen as one quick way of improving things. He has 3 of the 9 red cards picked up under Arteta since he took over. In the season and a half that he has been an Arsenal player, he has conceded six penalties – all of them in the Premier League (that’s one every 8 games, more or less).

However much you might like the guy, however much you feel he might bring to the team in terms of experience, and however you want to analyse the incidents which led to those concessions/red cards, that’s not something you can ignore if you’re a manager. Twice, perhaps three times at a push, you could possibly argue it’s unfortunate, but if a striker missed six penalties in a row you wouldn’t let him take the next one, would you?

He’s always been a bit of a scattergun player, was it Gary Neville who – somewhat snidely – suggested he was like someone being controlled on a Playstation by a kid just mashing the buttons? Even so, his record for penalties and so on was nowhere near as bad. To me it suggests a physical issue. A player who is almost 34, in the September/October of his career, getting exposed because his legs aren’t what they were. On his day, still a fine player, but the gap between those days and the off-days grows shorter and shorter.

Time waits for no man, regardless of how storied his career, how fluffy his hair, how much positivity he brings to the training ground. I think Gabriel still has some developing to do, and it’s fair to point out that he too was a red card recipient this season, but he should be part of the future. We have Pablo Mari ready to come back in too, and when those two guys are available, Luiz is cover for Rob Holding on the right. Beyond that, it’s very difficult to make a case for him to start because when the next costly moment happens, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

Right, I’ll leave it there for now. We have an early kick-off at Aston Villa tomorrow so I’ll preview the game then. Patreon members will get a Villa preview podcast later on this afternoon/evening, but for now I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast, chatting about Wolves, Pepe, red cards, and lots more with @charles_watts. Enjoy.

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