While Marouane Fellaini’s headbutting actions last week are utterly indefensible, the bear-hugging attentions he received from Ryan Shawcross all afternoon were clearly a contributory factor. And it is believed in some quarters that an elite group of Premier League referees have decided enough is enough. Some stories this week claimed that refs will finally penalise players for holding, pushing and shirt-grabbing at set-plays. And if the ball is in play, a penalty will be awarded. Of course actions speak louder than words, and penalty box shenanigans will be scrutinised even more closely this weekend, especially at White Hart Lane where Stoke City travel. Ex-ref Graham Poll said this week:
“Ryan Shawcross clearly did not deserve to be butted on Saturday but he should have had a penalty awarded against him for holding Marouane Fellaini.
“While PGMOL chiefs are very happy with officiating so far this season, cautions are down, particularly those for dissent, but the one issue that stands out is holding and blocking at set pieces.
“Go back to Shawcross at the weekend and Fellaini. You could clearly see Shawcross’ arms wrapped around Fellaini, preventing him from jumping for the ball.
“A compilation of examples will be put together and shown to referees to get commitment from them to punish this offence more often and in a consistent way.”
Given greater freedom to use his immense aerial ability free from illegal impediment – once he’s served his ban, of course – Marouane Fellaini should benefit from the issue being put into the spotlight by his actions. Provided referees actually do take action against the shirt-pullers. Watch that penalty box space ...