Birmingham 2 (McFadden 28, pen 90) Arsenal 2 (Walcott 50, 55)
There is only one place to start, and that it with Martin Taylor, a man who, according to manager Alex McLeish, ‘doesn’t have it in his make up to produce a malicious tackle‘, and ‘didn’t think he’d made a lot of contact‘ with Eduardo’s leg.
I beg to differ.
Watching it live, I wondered how dirty the challenge really was, as the Arsenal players didn’t seem to get overly angry. But within seconds, the reality was clear – one glance at Eduardo’s leg and there was only one focus of their worry. You only had to see the look on Adebayor or Fabregas’ face to see how shocked they were. By the time they’d stopped frantically beckoning for Gary Lewin, Taylor was down the tunnel.
The above image shows how indefensible the tackle is – over the top with only one possible outcome. If you want to see the end result, and I warn you in the strongest sense that you should only click this link if you have a particularly strong stomach, then look here – again thanks to Gunnerblog for the link.
Those who have seen the full extent of the injury now understand what I mean when I say his career is under threat.
Credit to the Birmingham fans at this point – at some clubs chants would’ve broken out against Arsenal and Eduardo, but they kept a respectful atmosphere, and then warmly applauded as the Croatian was stretchered to hospital.
For the rest of the first half, I found myself not caring about the match itself, a feeling that seemed to be present in the players too. Flamini conceded a soft free kick that McFadden superbly buried. Some say Almunia should’ve saved it, but to be honest he did well to get near it.
Our attacks were aimless, and understandably there was no bite or energy in the display. Half time was desperately needed. Whatever Wenger said during the break (and one suspects that it was along the lines of ‘win the match and then worry about him‘), it worked, with some sustained pressure forcing Taylor (the excellent keeper, rather than the dismissed and disgraced centre back) into good saves from Cesc and Hleb. Finally, Adebayor jumped above him, and Walcott prodded in the loose ball.
Theo is a man who relies entirely on confidence at this early stage of his career. Against Slavia earlier this season, he terrorised them after scoring his first goal, and today was the same, as he gave Murphy a torrid second half, after looking poor in the first. He also scored what should’ve been the winner, picking the ball up midway through the half, skipping past a couple of defenders and ignoring Bendtner’s excellent run to comprehensively bury the ball with his left foot. In the first half, he wouldn’t have taken the chance on.
At this point, a rousing rendition of ‘We’re gonna win for Eduardo’ went up around the stadium – wonderful stuff, but unfortunately, they were wrong.
Chances were made and missed for the rest of the half, with Adebayor particularly culpable. In a way, I’m glad his run of scoring in consecutive matches in now over, as he seemed obsessed with equalling Alan Smith’s record of eight league matches, consistently refusing to pass, most glaringly when Bendtner would’ve had a simple tap in to seal the match.
And for that, we were made to pay, but also thanks to an appalling refereeing decision. Clichy controlled the ball in the area, didn’t spot Parnaby, and took the time to look around for options. Suddenly aware of the winger’s presence, he made a last ditch tackle, and successfully got the ball, but Mike Dean pointed to the spot, and the points were shared.
But there was still time for one act of stupidity. Furious at the penalty, Gallas watched it from the Birmingham half, seemingly protesting. What if Almunia had saved it? The captain then got himself booked putting his studs through the advertising hoardings, before sullenly sitting on the pitch long after the other players had gone down the tunnel.
To me, he was being utterly stupid, and giving everyone a chance to claim that we’re imploding. There are more positive ways of channelling anger, and with his frustrated kick on Nani last week fresh in the memory, he is certainly not leading by example at the moment. As barely the only player in the squad with the experience of winning the Premiership, he needs to inspire. Sort it out William.
But back to Martin Taylor, who will now serve what is, in the context of things, a laughable three match suspension, while Eduardo suffers on the sidelines. Similar to when Dan Smith destroyed Abou Diaby’s ankle a couple of years ago, Wenger is understandably furious.
Eduardo’s season is over, his Euro 2008 dreams are over, and it seems likely his 2008 football days are over. And that’s being optimistic. His injury is up there with some of the worst we’ve seen, along with David Busst or more recently, Alan Smith. The former never came back, the latter took a year and a half and is not the player he was.
Martin Taylor, meanwhile, will be eligible to play two games in March.
It has irked me for a long time that dangerous tackles and violent conduct all receive the same mandatory three match ban. Pushing someone lightly in the face gets the same punishment as potentially ending another professional’s career. It must be looked at.
Because in cases like this, Taylor should be banned for a lot more than a pathetic three matches. It was a disgraceful challenge, and I only hope that Alex McLeish has more class than to defend his player once he’s seen the replays. It is utterly indefensible.
Eduardo, get well soon. Nothing else matters today.