The Premier League is one of the most-watched and most-loved sporting leagues in the world.
From the biggest and best players and clubs, to the most shocking and controversial moments, every year there is something new conjured up to keep us fans watching with bated breath.
As one of the most competitive and exciting decades in years finally comes to an end, we look back on some of the most controversial moments of the 2010’s.
Vincent Kompany escapes red vs Liverpool (2019)
The title race of 2018/2019 will live long in the memory of almost every Premier League fan.
Liverpool and Manchester City fought perhaps the closest title race the league has ever seen, with both pushing the other on to heights and standards never-before witnessed.
In the end, the victor was decided by a single point, with Manchester City’s 98 points seeing them retain their Premier League title, whilst Liverpool became the highest points-scoring runners up with an astonishing 97.
Things could have been so different however.
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When a rampant Liverpool visited the Etihad in January, City’s captain Vincent Kompany escaped what looked a certain red card, after hammering Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah with a controversial last-man challenge.
Replays showed the Belgian to be both high and late with his challenge, with both feet also being off the ground, but the decision to award only a yellow card stood – to the disbelief and fury of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, and fans of the Reds all around the world.
City eventually managed to escape the game with perhaps the most important three points in Premier League history, clinging on to the final whistle to see out a nervy 2-1 win.
Alan Pardew headbutts David Meyler (2014)
Whilst increasingly-rare in the modern game, fights between players always grab the headlines, and have provided some of the most memorable and shocking moments.
A fight between a manager and a player however? That’s a little rarer.
In March of 2014, Newcastle claimed a vital 4-1 win over rivals Hull at their KC Stadium, but the game is remembered more for something that happened of the field in the second half.
As Hull’s David Meyler chased a ball that was running harmlessly out of play, he collided with Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, who took the contact extremely poorly and squared up to the Irish midfielder.
Replays clearly showed Pardew leading into the contact with his head, and screaming obscenities in the face of Meyler, who also shoved the manager back in return.
Pardew was eventually hit with a £100,000 fine, and a seven-match managerial ban – the longest and most severe punishment ever handed out to a manager in the Football Association’s history.
Luis Suarez bites Branislav Ivanovic (2013)
One of the kings of controversy, wherever he has been in his career, Luis Suarez makes his first – but not his last! – appearance on our list of controversial moments.
In a 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Liverpool at Anfield in April 2013, the Liverpool striker was involved in an incident with Chelsea defender Ivanovic as the two contested a corner.
Ivanovic complained to referee Kevin Friend that his Uruguayan opponent had bitten him, and even showed teeth marks on his arm and neck as proof.
With the marks and replays there as clear proof of what had happened, Suarez was hit with a 10-game ban by the FA for his actions, and received widespread criticism within the sport.
Perhaps even more shockingly, this was also not the first time in his career that he had been punished for biting.
Suarez also received a seven-game ban in 2010 for biting PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal whilst playing for his former club Ajax.
Kieran Gibbs sent off in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (2014)
One of the most baffling moments in Premier League history for all of those involved, Kieran Gibbs’ red card against Chelsea was certainly not referee Andre Marriner’s finest moment.
The game in question will be long-remember for a number of reasons in truth – with Arsenal also taking a 6-0 hammering off long-time rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – but it was the red card that stands out most.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did his best impression of future-teammate Petr Cech to tip a goal-bound shot around the post, leading to a penalty being awarded.
Marriner, however, correctly awarded a penalty to the Blues, but then proceeded to send of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s teammate Kieran Gibbs in his place.
Both players immediately protested the decision, with Oxlade-Chamberlain even being seen to tell the referee that it was he who had handled the ball, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
Referee Marriner and fourth official Anthony Taylor both later apologised for the incident, and both have continued to referee in the Premier League since.
Granit Xhaka swears at his own fans (2019)
One a little more fresh in the memory, Arsenal-captain Granit Xhaka’s reaction to being booed off the field this season will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
After a game fraught with controversy from the first minute, Xhaka was substituted by manager Unai Emery after his side had surrendered a two goal lead to Crystal Palace, with the game tied at 2-2.
Instead of running of the pitch however, Xhaka sauntered his way to the touchline much to his own fans irking – who made their feelings known by resoundingly booing the Swiss international.
Xhaka responded in kind, with the onlooking cameras clearly capturing the captain telling his own fans to ‘f*** o**’, before ripping the shirt from his back and storming down the tunnel.
Whether the incident is too large to come back from for Xhaka remains to be seen.
Sunderland escape points deduction (2014)
One of the lesser-remembered controversial moments from recent years, Sunderland pulled off two great escapes in the 2013/2014 season.
One of these, and the more famous of the two for sure, was their incredible and unlikely survival given their dismal form for large parts of the season.
The other escape however, was from a hefty points deduction that almost certainly would have seen the side relegated to the Championship.
Sunderland were found to have fielded an unregistered and ineligible player – Ji Dong-won – on five occasions across the season.
Despite the severity of this mistake, the North-east club were treated favourably due to a number of mitigating factors, and were only hit with a six-figure fine – peanuts compared to the potential cost of relegation.
Fans of rival clubs were furious at this verdict however, with even former manager Steve Bruce claiming the club should have been in serious trouble for admin error.
Steven Gerrard’s slip vs Chelsea (2014)
2014, the year that so almost was for Liverpool fans, but ended in the most miserable of circumstances.
Manager Brendan Rodgers had transformed the Reds into fearsome title-contenders, a point reinforced by a mid-season 11 game winning-streak which propelled his side to the top of the table.
A blockbuster clash with Chelsea at Anfield followed, in a game which many people viewed as Liverpool’s big chance to show that they were finally ready to win a title again, after their agonising 25-year wait.
After a nervy first 45 minutes however, the game was thrown on it’s head in first-half stoppage time, when Liverpool captain and legend Steven Gerrard slipped on the halfway line, gifting the ball to Chelsea’s Demba Ba.
Ba charged down on the Liverpool goal, and managed to squeeze the ball under Simon Mignolet to give his side the lead.
Despite Liverpool throwing every they had at Chelsea in the second half, Jose Mourinho’s side managed to nick a second goal in the dying minutes of the game, to claim the most-unlikely of three points.
Liverpool and Rodgers however would go on to capitulate in spectacular fashion, eventually losing out on the title to rivals Manchester City by just two points.
Joey Barton and Carlos Tevez clash on the final day (2012)
One of the most iconic days and games in English footballing history, but not the most iconic moment of the game in question – Joey Barton’s red card seemed a clear-cut decision to many at the time.
Whilst there will be few that would argue that Barton didn’t deserve to walk for his altercation with City striker Carlos Tevez, many – including Barton himself – have argued that it was the Argentine who struck first in their clash, and arguably should have also seen red.
Replays after-the-fact did appear to show Tevez catching Barton with an elbow as the two tussled off the ball, but it is hard to see if there was intent in the initial contact.
Barton then responded with a definitely-intentional blow of his own, before attempting to attack anybody and anything that got in his way as he walked from the field.
With the red card playing a crucial part in the near-unbelievable comeback and title-winning goal from Aguero that was to follow however, it’s hard not to think about how things could have gone, were the ref to have viewed the incident a little differently.
John Terry and Anton Ferdinand (2012)
John Terry is another player who has never been far from controversy throughout his whole career, and his 2012 legal dispute with Anton Ferdinand is no different.
Accused of racial abuse by QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, Terry was later cleared by Westminster Magistrates’ Court of the charge, with all appearing to be over regarding the issue.
The FA however decided to charge Terry nonetheless for the incident, fining the Chelsea and England defender £220,000, and handing him a four-match ban.
Terry continued to protest his innocence, whilst Ferdinand refused to drop the allegations against his brother’s International teammate.
An ugly incident all round for all those involved, it did raise the controversial point of the FA charging players for breaches of their terms of conduct, despite the player having been legally cleared elsewhere.
Liverpool support Luis Suarez in Evra racism row (2011)
An incident thrust back into the spotlight this year by Jamie Carragher’s admission that Liverpool made a ‘huge mistake’, the club’s decision to support Luis Suarez in his racism row with Patrice Evra remains one of the most controversial decisions in the league’s history.
Manchester United’s Evra had accused Suarez of racially abusing him during a clash between the two sides earlier in the season.
Despite an ongoing investigation into the incident, and legal involvement from both players, Liverpool opted to support their player before a verdict had been reached, with all players wearing a ‘Suarez’ t-shirt before a game with Wigan in December 2011.
Suarez was later found guilty and given an eight-game ban, a decision which led many to criticise Liverpool for their decision to publicly support their player in such a sensitive and important debate.
Carragher has since apologised to Evra personally, and claimed he wasn’t actually sure who was behind the decision, but regardless of where the choice came from, it was certainly the wrong one with hindsight.