Granit Xhaka saw red for Switzerland on Tuesday in their World Cup qualifying clash against Portugal, his seventh dismissal since 2014.
The Swiss mate a late, lunging tackle on Joao Mario to receive a second yellow card and once again draw attention to his disciplinary record, which is fast earning him a reputation as something of a loose cannon.
The issue was raised at Arsene Wenger’s pre-Southampton press conference on Friday and the boss admitted that the discipline of every member of his playing squad was a matter of concern.
He said: “We have a concern about the discipline of every player. I believe that the results are linked with discipline. If you have no discipline it is very difficult to make results.”
An interesting thing to say, given that Arsenal’s success in Wenger’s early years was built on, reputationally at least, a streak of brutish nastiness led by Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit.
Many observers and, indeed, fans have been pretty sanguine about Xhaka’s record, in the belief that a return to our nastier past may in fact help us when the annual February/March collapse rears its ugly head.
And perhaps it will. Perhaps the way to finally rid ourselves of the perennial bottlers tag is to get nasty, go toe-to-toe with the West Broms and Stokes of this world and roll up our sleeves when things get tricky.
But is a team’s disciplinary record linked to its success? A quick look at the raw statistics throws up a few eye-catching results though, it must be noted, it is difficult to infer a causal link based solely on these statistics.
Arsenal’s Premier League cards record (according to http://www.premierleague.com)
1997/98: 70 yellow 3 red. (1st and FA Cup).
1998/99: 62 yellow 7 red. (2nd)
1999/2000: 66 yellow 5 red. (2nd and UEFA Cup runner-up).
2000/01: 46 yellow 3 red. (2nd and FA Cup runner-up).
2001/02: 71 yellow 6 red. (1st and FA Cup winner).
2002/03: 55 yellow 3 red. (2nd and FA Cup).
2003/04: 51 yellow 3 red. (1st).
2004/05: 45 yellow 1 red. (2nd and FA Cup).
2005/06: 54 yellow 2 red. (4th and Champions League runner-up).
2006/07: 59 yellow 3 red. (4th and League Cup runner-up).
2007/08: 55 yellow 3 red. (3rd).
2008/09: 58 yellow 3 red. (4th).
2009/10: 56 yellow 1 red. (3rd).
2010/11: 65 yellow 6 red. (4th and League Cup runner-up).
2011/12: 64 yellow 4 red. (3rd).
2012/13: 42 yellow 5 red. (4th).
2013/14: 53 yellow 4 red.(4th and FA Cup).
2014/15: 68 yellow 2 red. (3rd and FA Cup).
2015/16: 40 yellow 4 red. (2nd).
2016/17: 6 yellow 0 red. (to date)
In Arsenal’s two most ill-disciplined seasons under Wenger (2001/02 and 1997/98), they scored league and cup doubles.
In their third and fourth most card-hungry seasons (2010/11 and 1999/2000) they missed out on winning the league, but made cup finals on both occasions, albeit falling short at the final hurdle.
Finally, in their fifth most ill-disciplined season, and the only other occasion in which they have reached 70 total cards in the Premier League (2014/15) they won the FA Cup.
By comparison, across their five most timid seasons (2015/16, 2004/05, 2012/13, 2000/01, and 2003/04) they picked up a league title, and FA Cup, and a runners-up medal in the same competition.
Again, it’s very difficult simply to say that accumulating cards is a sure-fire way to success, but it does make for a correlation worthy of note.
It may simply be that Arsenal just had better players in the seasons in which they were relatively badly behaved, or perhaps they were just fortunate in other circumstances in those bad seasons; competitors failed to perform, or injury problems for key rivals.
You can draw a million conclusions from statistics, and that is both their beauty and their folly, but I try to keep my perspective as balanced as possible.
If nothing else, a return to slightly more aggressive times could help rid us of the soft-touch tag that really plagued as in the early years at Emirates Stadium, when Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis would delight in kicking us all over the park, home and away.
Perhaps a little touch of Granit, with the measured support of others, will make teams think twice about trying to bully us, and it may be that the psychological impact is great enough to have an impact all on its own.
If teams and players fear Xhaka and a less-susceptible Arsenal side, perhaps they won’t be so quick to resort to the roughhouse tactics which have so hindered us in the past.
Only time will tell, but what truly is important is that Granit, or any other player for that matter, falls into the trap of self-fulfilling prophecy and goes out of their way to clatter someone simply because they have a reputation as a nutcase to uphold.
A little ill-discipline may win us games, a lot of ill-discipline may leave us with holes in the playing squad at key times in crucial matches.