CURLY-HAIRED midfielder Marouane Fellaini hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week as the latest instalment of his running battle with lumbering galoot Ryan Shawcross resulted in him being retrospectively banned by the FA and thus ruling him out of the festive programme.
Opposition sides have come to target the Belgian as a loose cannon pretty much since he docked in England back in 2008 when he coincidentally made his debut at Stoke.
Blue anoraks will recall his mindless red card against Bolton which ruled him out for three games in 2010 after he volleyed Paul Robinson. This season similar hatchet men such as McAuley and Caldwell have succeeded in getting tight, blocking his runs and generally waiting for him to implode. There was a similar incident last season between Fellaini and Shawcross in the game at Goodison when horns were locked following a set-piece skirmish.
Basically, this was an accident waiting to happen.
Granted, Stoke and Shawcross in particular serve up some truly shocking anti-football antics and will take the physical side of things to the limit, but how Fellaini retaliated was simply irresponsible. When he loses his head his game deteriorates and he fails to do the things which have established him this season as our key man.
At least there was no hint of a conspiracy theory or T-shirt protest as Fellaini was rightfully nuked and rebuked by Moyes post-match.
Now attention turns to a tricky-looking trip to the East End to face ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce’s West Ham at the Boleyn Ground. The Britannia bore draw will serve as a good warm-up for what we can expect there, given the similar approach in playing style deployed by the ex-Bolton boss.
Like Stoke, the Hammers play a territory-based game with an over-reliance on set-pieces and getting the ball ‘in the mixer’ at the earliest opportunity.
With Mirallas out injured we now look very short on firepower and incision as we approach a quickfire run of fixtures.
The only game we've had to play without both Belgian players was the insipid Norwich contest last month which was perhaps our worst display of the season after the Stoke game.
Osman, Naismith and Piennar can all fit into Fellaini’s role but I'd like to see Barkley given an opportunity to show what he can do.