Football News

Graeme Souness: Kai Havertz “dive” in Arsenal win vs Brentford would have been worthy of blue card

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:42, 11 March 2024

Kai Havertz’s alleged dive in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Brentford at the weekend would have been worth a blue card, according to former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness.

Arsenal went top of the Premier League on Saturday thanks to their dramatic victory in the London derby, coming via a late winner from Havertz. But many Brentford fans believe Havertz shouldn’t have been on the pitch to net the winner.

Having been booked on the stroke of half-time, Havertz went down in the box midway through the second half under challenge from Nathan Collins. The referee ignored the fall and, as usual, it went to VAR though the initial decision was confirmed.

However, replays showed that there was no contact from Collins on Havertz. Had the referee believed it was enough for simulation, Havertz would have been sent off, taking out the possibility of the German scoring the winner.

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Those were the sentiments of Brentford manager Thomas Frank, who didn’t mince his words post-match: “It was a clear, clear dive. That should have caused a red card and he wouldn’t have been able to score the winner. I don’t think Havertz should be on the pitch when he scored.”

After the game, fans questioned why VAR couldn’t get involved to inform the referee of simulation, but they could have only done that if Havertz had won the penalty.

Arsenal remained top of the table after Liverpool and Manchester City played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday, with the Gunners ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s side on goal difference. There may be some Liverpool fans feeling extra hard-done-by by officials this weekend, having seen a late penalty call ignored by the referee and VAR, which would have given them a chance to beat Man City and return to the summit.

But while Brentford and other opposition fans were calling for Havertz to be sent off, Souness believes it was the perfect opportunity for a blue card. The introduction of a blue card has been ruled out by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, which were reported to be trialled in professional football to signify a 10-minute sin bin. According to the reports, the sin bin would be for dissent or tactical fouls, and has been trialled at grassroots level since 2017.

“100 per cent,” Souness told TalkSport when asked if he believed whether a blue card could have been a suitable punishment for Havertz.

“If you ask 100 people what annoys them most in football they’d say it’s diving or pretending they’re injured so we eradicate it in two weeks if we introduce a sin bin.

“What would happen is that a team goes down to 10 men, in some cases concede a goal and then lose the game and so the managers would be after them.

“I was working with Micah Richards on Sky one day and he said that Jack Grealish ‘buys fouls’. I asked him to explain and he said ‘he buys fouls, he goes down when he’s hardly been touched’

“So you’re trying to influence the referee and no matter what way you dress it up, you’re cheating and so in two weekends of the Premier League we eradicate it.”

In this instance, Havertz would have returned to the pitch and still could have scored the winner. However, it also would have given Brentford 10 minutes with a one-man advantage to tried and score against Arsenal, putting pressure on the Gunners.

Arsenal have had two players sent off in the Premier League this season, with Takehiro Tomiyasu seeing red against Crystal Palace in August, and Fabio Vieira ejected against Burnley in November.

Against Crystal Palace, Arsenal played 23 minutes (plus extra-time) with one fewer man and faced seven shots during that time — the same that the Eagles had had in the first 67 minutes of the match. But one only of those shots was on target, with Odsonne Edouard forcing a save from Aaron Rasmdale in the fifth minute of injury time. It was a period that Palace did dominate, as Arsenal sat back to soak up the pressure, which eventually paid off.

It was a similar case against Burnley, though Arsenal were only down to 10 for the final seven minutes plus injury time, with the Clarets out-passing the Gunners in the final stages. But this time, Burnley could only manage two shots, with neither hitting the target.