Joey Barton is to the Premier League what Sean Avery is to the NHL — a pesky provocateur.
So in the aftermath of Saturday’s melee between Barton’s Newcastle United side and Arsenal at St. James’ Park, it’s easy to say Barton had it coming.
But now Arsenal is paying a stiff price for going after Barton during Saturday’s season-opening 0-0 draw.
What started with Barton accusing Arsenal’s Gervinho of diving to draw a penalty quickly got out of hand when the Gunners striker slapped his accuser, drawing a red card.
Earlier in the match, Arsenal’s Alex Song stomped on Barton’s ankle, although it was not caught by the referee at the time.
Both Arsenal players have been suspended for three matches and both teams have been fined £25,000 by the Football Association for failing to control their players during the match.
After the match, Barton took to Twitter to defend his (admittedly embellished) actions against assailants from the media saying, “What do people want me to do, stand and trade blows with Gervinho. If u raise ur hands to players faces, u should beoff. Ref got it right...”
Barton isn’t shy about voicing his opinion on Twitter and with the media — a habit that has often drawn the ire of the press and public alike. But the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel says Barton’s odd-ball character and Twitter are a perfect match and any action from the Football Association to muzzle Barton would only aide his image.
“Stifling freedom of expression in football is what gets us here in the first place because it is the endless platitudes that give Barton his anti-hero appeal and make his views compelling. He removes the banalities, the anodyne observations and statements of the obvious and spits out what he thinks, raw.”
Song and Gervinho will miss a pair of critical early season matches against Liverpool and defending league champions Manchester United.
It’s been a rough start to the season for the Gunners who just lost midfielder and captain Cesc Fabregas to Champions League winners Barcelona.