In Saturday’s match against Southampton, Marko Arnautovic looked over at Jack Stephens, who had the ball, and then ran over at him in a rage, his elbow already drawn high as he approached, and then blindsided Stephens with a brutal elbow to the face and neck. This was not a football play. This was not a shoulder to shoulder challenge. This was not a tackle or an aerial duel. There was no sporting justification for his actions. Arnautovic simply assaulted a man.
If he had done this at a bar after a few drinks he would have been arrested and probably jailed. But because this happened on the field of sport, he will probably just get a three match ban, and will be back doing this sort of thing in a month.
Arnautovic has prior in this regard as well. During a match against Arsenal, Arnautovic shoved Mathieu Debuchy while the Arsenal man was still in the air, sending him careening into the advertising hoardings and dislocating his shoulder. Debuchy wasn’t even on the pitch when Arnautovic attacked him. No foul was called. Debuchy missed 14 games that season from that injury.
Perhaps because of his own aggressive nature, Arnautovic wears a target on his back. Two Arsenal defenders have clobbered him with hard fouls after that Debuchy incident: Gabriel and Holding. Holding even knocked him out of the game for a few weeks. And in the match against Southampton on Saturday, Marko was elbowed in the head just a few minutes before he retaliated.
Football is meant to be a contact sport but it’s not supposed to be a sport where one player hunts down another and blind-side elbows him in the head. When Marko Arnautovic is on the pitch he transforms the game from football to pugilism. Even former referee Keith Hackett is calling for a 5 match ban. So if the Football Association wants to keep football as football they need to punish players like Marko Arnautovic harshly.