Chelsea coach Antonio Conte had ordered his players not to lose their discipline against Arsenal on Sunday. David Luiz, it seems, did not get the message.
The Brazilian defender was shown a straight red card for a wild tackle on Sead Kolasinac in the tense final minutes of the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge. That is likely to mean that Luiz will miss his side’s next three league games which will include the visit of fellow title-contenders Manchester City.
Luiz could have been sent off earlier when he attempted a dramatic overhead strike on goal only to leave Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny needing treatment. Luiz was booked for that challenge.
His dismissal was the third time in five league games this season that a Chelsea player was sent off, as many as in their previous 73 games. On top of that, Victor Moses was dismissed in the FA Cup Final in May and Pedro was sent off in the pre-season Community Shield match, against Arsenal on both occasions.
The flow of red cards represents a contrast with the discipline that was a key part of Conte’s title-winning side last year following a chaotic 2015-16 campaign, when Jose Mourinho was sacked amid rumours of a rebellion against him by several top players. Last season, no Chelsea player was sent off in the league.
Conte said he would address the need to maintain discipline again with his players. “For sure it’s strange. A strange situation,” he told reporters. “I was a player and it can happen, this type of period and you are not so lucky to receive these red cards.
“I think we have to try to improve all the situations – physical, tactical and we will try to pay more attention in the future.” Conte said he believed referee Michael Oliver should have stopped the game shortly before the foul that earned Luiz his red-card, saying he had been nudged by Alexis Sanchez. “For sure there was a foul,” he said.