On Saturday afternoon, one of the most hotly debated talking points of the season took place during Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. However, for some reason, Sky Sports didn’t talk about it.
Twelve minutes into Chelsea’s clash with Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, Premier League fans around the world watched on as a Marcus Alonso header rattled the back of the net, while an unconscious Hector Bellerin fell from the air and crashed to the ground.
The moment was shown again and again – multiple angles at various speeds with every single one clearly showing the worrying consequences that the impact had had on the Arsenal right back. But Sky Sports refused to acknowledge it.
They spoke about poor defending, about an excellent cross and a fantastic finish. They spoke about the significance of the goal in the game and about whether or not Arsenal could recover. But for some reason, they didn’t speak about the troubling images of Bellerin lying lifeless on the ground.
On social media, a massive debate kicked off as fans of both teams and even neutrals debated whether or not the goal should have been ruled out until finally, five minutes later, Gary Neville acknowledged the incident.
Alonso’s elbow had careened through the air and smashed into Bellerin’s jaw with such force that the Spaniard immediately lost consciousness, went limp, and dropped like a lifeless corpse that had just been discarded. But when Neville finally decided to acknowledge it, he bizarrely described the contact as ‘a little bit of a crack in the face’.
At half time, the moment was briefly touched upon by Sky’s panel of pundits that included the hard man Graeme Souness and the consistently weak, Theirry Henry. The former Arsenal man stated that Alonso’s challenge was fair while sheepishly looking at Souness for approval. Sky’s resident hard man nodded in agreement and that was that. If an Arsenal legend said it was fair then it must have been. Subject closed.
Alonso’s challenge was not fair. It was dangerous, it was careless and his elbow had absolutely no business being in that position at that height.
Those who have defended it have claimed that the Chelsea man had every right to raise his elbow as it’s ‘only natural’ to do so in order to gather momentum in making a leap. This is partly true. Raising one’s elbows in order to take off from the surface is indeed natural but at full height, there is simply no reason for them to still be raised.
In the above image one can see the instant before Bellerin was knocked out cold. For the record, Alonso’s elbow made clear contact with Bellerin’s face before his own head made contact with the ball. In FIFA’s specific definitions of the various types of fouls in football, they state that, in making a challenge, should someone ‘make contact with the player before touching the ball,’ an offence has occurred.
This is black and white. There are various definitions of a foul which are open to interpretation. For example, the rules also state that, should a player ‘charge an opponent in a careless or reckless manner’, an offence has occurred. Alonso’s elbow-led leap did both, but some will still debate this point.
Whether Alonso’s elbow made contact with Bellerin’s head before he touched the ball, is not open to debate. It is factually what happened and therefore, according to the rule book, the challenge was a stone cold foul.
On Tuesday morning, the news emerged that, having suffered a concussion at the hands of Marcus Alonso, Hector Bellerin will not be allowed return to training until Friday as he awaits the results of an MRI scan.
Whether you accept that Alonso’s challenge was a foul or not is one thing. It is no doubt a contentious issue with both sides seemingly absolute in their belief that it was one or the other. However, when such a severe incident takes place on the pitch, when millions of viewers watch on as a player is helplessly knocked into an unconscious state, the very least we should expect is for our pundits to talk about it. The fact that Sky Sports didn’t is simply beyond belief.