Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher believes Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka would have had nothing to complain about had he be sent-off for a second bookable offence against Newcastle United.
The Gunners, who face Villarreal in the second-leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final on Thursday evening, got back to winning ways against the Magpies on Sunday afternoon, running out 2-0 winners at St James’ Park.
Goals either side of half time from Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed all three points for Mikel Arteta’s side, meaning they secured their first win since the European Super League debacle unfolded a fortnight ago.
Things, however, could have been different for Arsenal had referee Mike Dean sent Xhaka off for a second yellow card just ten minutes into the second half, after he launched an elbow into the chest of Sean Longstaff.
The Switzerland international, who was continuing to operate at left-back, stepped across the Newcastle midfielder, with the ball already gone, in an attempt to stop him from helping the home side launch a counter-attack.
Dean did spot the incident, awarding Steve Bruce’s side a free-kick, but he refused to reach for his pocket to brand Xhaka with a second yellow, a decision that Gallagher felt Xhaka could have had no complaints about had he been dismissed.
Gallagher told Sky Sports: “I thought it was a body check. I saw that he had already had a yellow card for a hack at Allan Saint-Maximin earlier in the game and I see this and think the referee [Mike Dean] has got a decision to make – does he give him a last warning, does he give him a second yellow card and send him off?
“He chose the former, but had he chosen the latter, Xhaka could not have complained.”
Xhaka’s near-miss from being shown a red card was not the only key talking point that emerged in the second half, with Newcastle centre-back Fabian Schar being sent-off late on for cleaning out Gabriel Martinelli from behind.
As the Brazilian received Thomas Partey’s pass into feet, he was wiped out by Schar, who was shown a straight red card.
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Although Dean made the decision because he had let with his studs showing, Gallagher felt the Newcastle man was “unlucky.”
“It was a little bit unlucky,” added the former Premier League whistle-blower. “I can understand Mike Dean, he has pointed that he has gone through with his studs, but when you look, I do not think the studs actually made contact forcefully.
“I think he has caught him on the boot, it is not as if it was the Achilles and he was a little bit unlucky, but what I would say is Mike Dean has a far, far better view where he was than I have.”