Feb 282010

Stoke 1 (Pugh 8) Arsenal 3 (Bendtner 32, Fabregas pen 89, Vermaelen 90)

It should have been such a sweet day. Chelsea went down at home to Man City, getting two men sent off in the process, and we put to bed one of the tougher games we have remaining to close to gap at the top to three points.

But unfortunately, all that pales into insignificance when you consider Aaron Ramsey’s horrific injury. Almost exactly two years since Eduardo had his leg shattered by Martin Taylor, the images of Ramsey’s lower leg hanging limply and facing in the wrong direction brought an unpleasant sense of deja vu, and will live long in the memory. As fans, it is sickening to see the career of such a young talent being threatened by such an awful incident, so it is hard to imagine what was going through the minds of the players in the aftermath. They train alongside Ramsey every day, they see his ability unfurling before them, and in a split second they see it potentially taken away. It is to their immense credit that they were able to go on and win the game.

I’ve seen Shawcross’ challenge, and the pictures are grotesque, and for that reason I won’t be posting them here. If you really want to view the damage, there are plenty of places you can go. But I will say this – although it was a really poor challenge, and worthy of the red card it duly received, it was not, in my opinion, up there with the similar incidents of the past few years.

Two years ago, Martin Taylor did not set out to break Eduardo’s leg. But it was apparent from the type of tackle that it was an ‘enforcer challenge’, the sort that lets opponents know you are there. It is a favoured tactic of those teams who claim Arsenal ‘do not like it up them’ or ‘can be bullied’. Broken legs and serious injuries are a natural consequence of such a tackle being put in week after week, and those promoting this as the way to beat Arsenal should take a long hard look at themselves. Fuller’s comments prior to this match, and the FA Cup tie, that they intended to bully and kick Arsenal now seem somewhat foolish and expose the exact issue. The likes of Mark Lawrenson, forever amused when we get chopped down, should also feel contrite this morning.

Two years before Eduardo, Dan Smith shattered Diaby’s ankle with a challenge that was no less than assault. There was intent to injure on that occasion, and frankly he should have been banned for a very long time.

But yesterday’s incident was not along those lines. There was no clear intent to foul or injure from Shawcross, it was just a hard tackle – a hard tackle that was badly mistimed and over the top on to a standing leg. It deserved the red card, but it does not warrant demonisation of the player.

However, the lack of intent does not mean Shawcross should be painted as a victim. Already the usual lines are being trotted out – ‘he is devastated’, ‘he is not that kind of player’, and we’re expected to have sympathy for him. Sorry, but no. As a analogy, consider this: if you are in a hurry one day, and drive carelessly through a village, hitting and injuring a child, are you a victim, no matter how much care you normally take behind the wheel? Of course not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the player is absolutely broken. He should be, and in a way I do feel sorry for him – going back to the analogy, it would feel incredibly unfair if you see reckless drivers getting away with it time and time again, yet the first time you make a mistake there are horrendous consequences. Shawcross is in that position – he will inevitably feel dreadful for the consequences of his tackle, and that feeling will live with him for a while.

But that does not make him a victim. That position goes to a nineteen year old on the brink of establishing himself at a top club having already done so for his country, who has had his career put on the line in an instant. Even if he comes back, it will put his development back by at least a year, at a crucial stage in his footballing education.

Wenger was understandably upset after the match:

“I’m not very happy with the tackle. I just want to say we know what we are expecting, a battle everywhere, but we have now lost three players – (Abou) Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey today, a boy of 19 years old – on horrendous tackles.

“It’s always coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence when you are hit as many times as we do.”

He is right – this has happened too many times, and it is certainly not a coincidence. Frankly, anyone who thinks there is no connection between us being seen as a team you can bully and kick, and the number of impact injuries we’ve suffered in recent years, is a fool. The cause and effect is plain to see. But clubs aren’t going to cease with the tactic – technically inferior teams are always looking for a way to put us off our game, which is understandable. So the referees need to throw away this notion that you should not caution people in the early stages, and clamp down on challenges designed only to bully. If enforcer tackles are made in the first minute, react to it the same way you do in the 90th, and get the cards out. It is the only way to stop it.

The other bone of contention, as with Taylor, is the length of suspension that the perpetrator receives, as opposed to the period the victim is out of the game. I have long been an advocate of a sliding scale, where three matches are given for simple red card challenges, raising your hands etc, but much stiffer penalties when intent is there. It may be subjective, but the governing bodies already have to judge intent when a flailing arm catches an opponent – I see no reason why they cannot do the same here. And it there is intent, give them six matches instead.

And here’s the important part – ban the ‘tackler’ for six games for a shocking challenge even if the victim escapes unscathed. Too often we are reactionary, and it would be ridiculous to wait for another broken leg before the rule was used. Stamp the problem out.

But, as I’ve said, I don’t believe Shawcross had any intent to hurt Ramsey, and for that reason I wouldn’t go beyond the three matches. Taylor would have received more for his challenge, while Dan Smith would be looking at a very lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Before I move away from the subject, I want to touch of the behaviour of two parties. The first came from the Stoke players, particularly Glenn Whelan, who showed a great deal of class in looking after Ramsey in the seconds that followed his injury. Some players would protest the red card, some would go to their distraught teammate, but he recognised the gravity of the situation and went straight to the stricken player. For that, he deserves a lot of credit.

The same cannot be said of a portion of the Stoke support. While many generously applauded Ramsey off, probably feeling for him as a human being, not a rival footballer, there were some who thought it appropriate to sing ‘You’ve only got one leg’ as the poor kid was whisked away towards an ambulance. Others abused him with hand signals and jeers. Frankly, the actions of that minority were utterly disgusting, and I hope there were instances where right-minded Stoke supporters took it on themselves to let their idiotic colleagues know exactly how out of line they were. Absolutely horrendous.

I suppose I should mention the actual football. We were poor in the early stages, conceding another goal to Delap’s long throws, Pugh tapping in at the far post after Vermaelen had played him onside. But after a decent fightback, we equalised with exactly the sort of goal you would expect us to concede – an early cross from Cesc, and Bendtner rose between defenders to loop a perfect header in the corner. Game on.

In the second half, Eboue showed us good and bad, a piledriver effort being the positive, a woeful dive the negative, and Eduardo missed a great chance late on. We should have had three penalties – one tug on Ramsey, the one the was given for Pugh’s handball, and a further one for a blatant shove on Bendtner.

The middle of the trio was awarded, and Cesc buried it, dedicating the goal to Ramsey with three poignant taps of his ankle. And minutes later, Rosicky had a powerful shot saved, before Cesc squared it to Vermaelen to seal the victory. The celebrations that followed showed just how important the three points were.

From a purely football point of view, it was fantastic. One of the three remaining tough games (the other two being City at home and Spurs away) has been cast aside, questions answered in the process. Even the doubters are beginning to believe, and the pundits are seeing us as the team on the rise.

But while that is great, all of our thoughts today are for a young footballer whose livelihood is in jeopardy. Get well soon, Aaron Ramsey.

  23 Responses to “Ramsey’s injury overshadows the match, and brings sections of the press into the spotlight”

  1. Why is not more being made of the Stoke ‘fans’ chanting en masse and at length ‘He’s only got one leg’? It was not a minority. I was there, sitting near the dividing line, and I have never been so disgusted. Their club should be docked points.

  2. Most commentators says Shawcross didn’t mean it and he felt sorry afterwards. Well, it’s OK then, or – is it? I don’t think it is. We all know Stoke tactics (and B/ham, Hull, etc.) as they talk out loud about it. This is the result. Is it acceptable – no, it isn’t. Let us say it out loud. How many of our players need to get career-threatening injuries before something is done about it. I reckon harsher penalties is the only way to protect players. Whether intended or not. if you cause a serioud injury to another, you should be banned for as long as it takes for injured to recover. That would be fair and make certain players of our certain football clubs to think twice before lounging their vicious tackles.

  3. You feel he showed class? The courts are full of mummies boys who are as hard as nails when their dishing it out – only to stand in front of the magistrate with tears in their eyes. A prime example would be John Terry, who cried in court.
    Shawcross would have shown more class in my book if he’d walked off without the tears. He wanted to show us all what a tough guy he is but ended up breaking a man’s leg and showing us what a fucking wanker he is.

  4. johnny hoy, I didn’t say Shawcross showed class – I said Glenn Whelan showed class.

  5. agree on the tackle, a bad mistimed hack, not more than a three match ban deserved, it was nowhere near as bad as a taylor or a smith straight legged job

  6. Bob – it was a minority. A significant minority, but a minority none the less. There were far more Stoke fans applauding Ramsey.

    I just hope that anyone sat next to a “fan” who was chanting that turned around and told that person that they were a disgrace, and were embarrased that supporting their club meant being compared with idiots like that.

    However, I do believe that there would be a “hardcore” set of “fans” that would have chanted that at any football stadium – unfortunately football does attract that set of “fans”. And if anyone was to think that there was not one person in the Arsenal seats (I wont use the word fan) who would chant the same if the positions were reversed would have to be considered niave.

  7. Nice article of faith in humanity. I wud prefer shawcross to be banned for the entire period that RAMSEY is out and to top off pay his “fine” of $$$$ to the RAmsey trust fund. Only then these toughies wud be paying the price.
    GOONER since 1968

  8. I completely agree with the suggestion that offenders of such bad tackles should be out for as long as it takes their victims to recover I don’t care if it was malicious or not,giving a player just a 3 match ban after causing another player such pain and the possibility of not being able to play for over 12months as in the case of diaby,eduardo and now ramsey is cheeky and a slap in the face, in that case players should go around breaking opponents legs come back after 3 games and then life goes on,please enough is enough something must be done now to stop this madness

  9. I completely agree with the suggestion that offenders of such bad tackles should be out for as long as it takes their victims to recover I don’t care if it was malicious or not,giving a player just a 3 match ban after causing another player such pain and the possibility of not being able to play for over 12months as in the case of diaby,eduardo and now ramsey is cheeky and a slap in the face, in that case players should go around breaking opponents legs come back after 3 games and then life goes on,please enough is enough something must be done now to stop this madness

  10. Pete, excellent post, and very level headed given the circumstances…

    I agree that the three match ban shouldnt be extended, although I definitely understand Wenger’s petitioning. When he sends a team out on a weekly basis that gets kicked and fouled persistently (and I would like to point out, not just in the Premier League), protection has to be high on the agenda.

    Like you, I feel sorry for Shawcross, the Kid must be distraught, but not nearly as distraught as Ramsey, and the lack of malice doesnt excuse the lack of technique.

    It is a shame to see the stoke players act with such class, but to be let down by their fans.

  11. A really fair article. Well done.

  12. Alan’s right, it was only a minority of fans behaving so appallingly, so I would hope they were put in their place by the more respectful majority.

    I don’t think you can ban based on extent of injury, because then, by the same token, a player putting in a reckless tackle that somehow doesn’t cause damage would be punished less.

    I think you can only realistically dish out suspensions based on the danger posed by the tackle, and add to it if there was clear intent. Shawcross is undoubtedly guilty of the first point but I feel he is innocent of the second.

  13. Some players like Fuller should be punished for talking threats over the press. Even before the match he was already boastful of brutal force to stop us.

    It’s no difference from Roy Keane threaten to ‘hurt’ Alf Haagland. I cannot believe that the FA is not taking notice of such things.

    We had been absolutely slaughtered by some opponents right under the nose of so-called referees.I think we should take legal actions against the FA and the referee association for condoning such attacks indirectly.

    Enough is enough,sick to see our players’ legs crocked by over the world tackle.

  14. I find it mad how English press are all about how we have to be nice to Shawcross after this, How it was not his fault and how poor shawcross is so upset.
    What about Ramsey? Oh he is not English so who cares right?

  15. So Ryan’s a nice boy and this is out of character for him and his team mates ???

    From the Daily Mail 5/11/2008:

    Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor will be out for three weeks with an ankle injury, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed.
    Adebayor was forced to leave the field after a tackle by Ryan Shawcross in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat away to Stoke City.

    Adebayor’s three-week absence will no doubt compound his fury at what he believed were the strong-arm tactics used against his players at the Britannia Stadium.

    Adebayor sustained his injury in a heavy tackle by Potters defender
    Shawcross, while winger Theo Walcott (shoulder) and right back Bacary Sagna
    (ankle) were also hurt during the clash.
    Wenger insisted he had no qualms about the result, he was incensed at Shawcross’s tackle on Adebayor, Rory Delap’s on Theo Walcott and Andy Griffin’s on Sagna.
    The Frenchman raged: ‘Do you think Delap tried to play the ball when he tackled Walcott? Or that Shawcross tried to play the ball when he tackled Adebayor off the pitch. All the players have been injured deliberately.’

  16. We now wait in anticipation for England,s friendly against Egypt and sincerely pray that the great fat boy doesn,t get injured,imagine the crocodile tears from Manchester if anything happens to him?

  17. I don’t believe Shawcross meant to hurt Ramsey. I do beleive he is upset and regretful.

    The problem is that when teams deliberately go out to “put Arsenal off their game” the approach increases the likelihood of both intentional injuries and unintentional injuries, as in this case.

    It is seen as permissble by the FA and referees. What they ought to realise is that their failure to act actually makes them an accomplice to such injuries (intentional or not) based on the laws of probability.

    The game is called football, people who try to play football should be protected. Those who cannot play football and thus resort to “kickplayer” should be punished severely.

    As an aferthought, if Ramsey had been awarded the stonewall penalty he deserved earlier in the game, this incident would never have happened. But I guess since Eduardo (may have) dived in a game last summer it’s right that Arsenal should be treated forever harshly by referees because it would be so terrible for football if we were seen to get more than a handful of penalties in a season.

  18. If one pointed a gun at another person and the gun misfired, can we say the holder of the gun fired without malice or intent. Will the shooter be let off with just a fine ?
    No ! the shooter goes to jail that’s it. Whenever a person do something that can hurt or maim others he is 100% responsible for the consequences. Shawcross knew it will hurt if his tackle is mistime yet he proceeded with it. Is he not guilty of it ?

  19. Its normally an issue only if it happens to English Idiots…Arsenal play football like its to played 2day and in future with class and humane…. But prison breaks like Fuller and his disciples boost of hard tackles as the way 2 counter. When Arsene calls that “anti football tactics”….The English Press will jump up n down against that. Why? Arsenal not English enough…..

  20. […] the original post here: Ramsey's injury overshadows the match, and brings sections of the … tags: arsenal, down-at-home, escobar, fabregas, makes-the-team, place-him, team, the-team, […]

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  22. I blame the managers who send those teams with the instructions to be very aggressive against arsenal. They are the real guilty ones here.

  23. Great piece. I think you’re spot on.

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