It was always going to be a difficult return to the Premiership for Joey Barton. But to come on with three minutes remaining, and trailing a rampant Arsenal side three-nil, made it all the more difficult.
After being released early from a six-month prison sentence for assault and affray, and facing FA disciplinary charges over a charge of violent conduct on former team-mate Ousmane Dabo, Barton had a point to prove on his return to the big stage.
Within a minute of stepping onto the pitch, Barton let fly with a tackle on Arsenal's Samir Nasri.
The tackle itself was fine, but Barton wanted to send a message by driving his arm into the Arsenal players thigh as he went through.
He followed that up with an ultra-sarcastic smirk. Commentator Steve Banyard remarked on the incident:
"That’s not the way to endear himself back. And a smile, a sarcastic smile like that, is frankly out of order."
Nasri followed up a few seconds later by clipping Barton's heels behind play and sending him sprawling to the turf.
Samir Nasri received a yellow card for the incident at the next break in play, from match referee Rob Styles.
That was it, the whole incident in its entirety.
Neither of the two incidents would be classed as "violent conduct" in my opinion.
Both players have been around long enough to take the incidents for what they were.
Nasri would have taken Barton's aggressive tackle as exactly that, a statement of a man with something to prove and maybe a slight chip on his shoulder.
And I'm sure Joey has had worse things happen to him both on and off the pitch. He is a big enough boy to realise if you are going to dish it out, you have to take a little back.
It always seems though, as if these things HAVE to get blown way out of proportion.
Kevin Keegan, a manager that I personally have a lot of time for, made this statement after the game:
"Joey came on, got a good tackle in on Nasri. Then the guy sliced him down. That's what happened and that's what I saw, which is what I was upset about. I know the referee didn't see it but the linesman did and it should have been a red card."
Now, Barton's tackle wasn't terrible, but he could have executed the same tackle without the use of the arm.
His intent was fairly obvious.
Nasri clipped Barton's heels as he was running, not "sliced him down" as Kev would have us believe.
To say that the incident warranted a red card is laughable and even a little embarrassing. It was a professional foul and got exactly what it deserved, a yellow card.
Surprisingly, for a manager who "doesn't see" a lot of controversial incidents involving Arsenal Football Club, Arsene Wenger had this take on it:
"I was not surprised by the reaction of the fans—I have been involved in the game long enough not to be surprised by anything. Nasri clipped Barton and there was a little incident between them, but he was booked and rightly so."
And that's where it should be left. Two professional footballer having a bit of a niggle at each other. Nothing "violent", just a bit of handbags at ten paces.
Joey Barton is always going to be over-scrutinised, probably for the rest of his career, with every challenge he makes.
No need for all of the post match finger pointing and King Kev telling Nasri to "behave, son".
No need to have an argument with Nasri and Gallas, and be separated by your assistant.
The post match shenanigans put a negative end to what was a brilliant Arsenal performance at the Emirates.
There are far worse incidents in football that maybe should be closely scrutinised.
This was not one of them...
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