England’s Football Association (FA) is investigating a yellow card awarded to an Arsenal player following reports of suspicious betting activity by bookmakers.
That’s according to a report by The Athletic, which understands the FA is examining whether spot-fixing might have occurred during a game played earlier in the season.
“Spot-fixing” is a type of match-fixing that has arisen because gamblers can now bet on the minutiae of a game, rather than the outright result, the number of cards or corners in a game, for example.
Critics of “spot betting” say it encourages corruption because it makes it easier for individual athletes to manipulate games. Spot-fixing is incredibly rare in the English Premier League because of the amount of money players are paid. However, there have been several incidents alleged to have ocurred in Indian and Pakistani cricket.
Xhaka Vs. Leeds
Immediately after Arsenal’s December 18 game against Leeds, several gamblers took to Twitter to highlight an unusual amount of money had been placed via Betfair on Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka getting booked. They noted that more than $50,000 was matched on the betting exchange, which dropped the odds from 9/4 to 4/5.
Then, with Arsenal leading 4-1 in the 85th minute, Xhaka appeared to time-waste inexplicably over a free kick. With the clock ticking down, the player took around 25 seconds to take the kick, despite having options to make a simple pass.
The incident jarred with many at the time because it looked odd, and there is no tactical reason for a player to waste time when his team has a dominant three-goal lead at 85 minutes.
While its objectively suspicious, it has not been confirmed that this is the incident under investigation. Even if it is, there is no suggestion that Xhaka has engaged in attempted match-fixing.
The player is infamous for picking up cards and the incident, preceded by a surge in betting, may well be an innocent coincidence.
Xhaka is currently sidelined after picking up a two-game suspension for a red card Arsenal’s Carabao Cup first-leg tie with Liverpool. That was for denying Liverpool’s Diego Jota a clear goal-scoring opportunity when he brought him down in the 24th minute.
Despite having to play the rest of the game with 10 men, Arsenal scraped a 0-0 draw against the 2019-20 EPL champions with a resolute defensive display.
The two teams meet on Thursday to decide the fixture.
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