Shawcross Breaks Ramsey’s Leg

3 players in 4 years, 3 different tackles, 3 different reasons, all the same result, all the same culprit.

Dan Smith from Sunderland was the first break an Arsenal player’s leg in the modern era when he did Abou Diaby in the 90th minute of a match that Arsenal was winning 3-0. Dan Smith’s tackle was, at the least, reckless and many would even say malicious. Smith was given a yellow card by Dermott Gallagher for his work and after, Sunderland’s manager said:

Yes, it isn’t an injury you want to see happen to a player. But he went for the ball and the player passed it quicker than Dan could get there. In my opinion, I felt Dan Smith did go for the ball and the lad knocked it away and he accidentally caught him.

This is a criticism you will see repeated as we go on; Arsenal are just too quick and besides which, the other guy just went for the ball, it’s hardly even a foul they will say, much less a yellow card.

Dan Smith played the next day while Diaby was out for 6 months and has never fully recovered. Many people point to his trail of niggling injuries in the aftermath as evidence that the player’s career was essentially cut short  by a reckless challenge in the dying minutes of a meaningless game.

At the time, Wenger decried the tackle saying that the referee was the only person who didn’t see the tackle as a red card. He’d be wrong about that last bit, by the way.

That injury was followed by a horrific challenge by “Tiny” Taylor on Eduardo in the opening minutes of a relatively important League match. That match is the starkest in my memory where the manager came out before the match and admitted that teams kick Arsenal and that they wanted to emulate the Bolton’s and Blackburn’s who “get up Arsenal’s noses” by playing them rough. After the match, Alex McLeish was quick to defend his player saying:

Martin is absolutely gutted. Eduardo was just too quick for him. I didn’t think it was malicious. He has come down on his ankle with studs and his standing foot is in the turf, and that can make the injury much worse. People in the game know Martin, and I’m sure he will get their support because he’s hurting. Martin would always go for the ball honestly.

A new wrinkle is added to the story; we kick because we have to, Arsenal are just too quick, and now they are just honest lads, they don’t mean to end a player’s career.

The other bit of follow-up that happened across the country was this pervasive notion by several managers that Taylor’s tackle wasn’t even a foul with Steve Bruce issuing the definitive statement on the incident for many:

Martin Taylor is the biggest, gentlest man, there will be nobody more upset and sickened than him, there is not a bad bone in his body. He would never, ever do anything malicious. He has mis-timed the tackle, and I’ve seen it. Some would say it is not even a yellow card.

Eduardo has still not really recovered from Taylor’s tackle, still suffering small injuries and setbacks and despite it being two years on is only sporadically able to feature for Arsenal.

And today we have this horrific tragedy to the third Arsenal player in 4 years as Ryan Shawcross had come in recklessly and simply done the 19 year old Welshman. Shawcross left the pitch in tears, no doubt upset about what he had done and much like the person who recklessly drinks and drives only to find out he has harmed someone I’m sure he has true regret. Regret’s the least we can expect from him, he’s a human being after all and not a monster like Joey Barton.

Tony Pulis takes a familiar line in defense of his player, immediately after the match, saying:

It is a bad challenge but I know Shawcross, I signed him as a 19-year-old. He has got no bad blood in him whatsoever and there is no way in a million years he would ever go out to hurt anybody. I really mean that.Everyone else at this football club sends their condolences on the incident, we wish him well for a speedy recovery and as a fellow Welshman I am devastated. But Ryan has come off the pitch broken-hearted, met his mum straightaway and gone straight home.

Maybe in a sense we’re seeing a change, 5 years ago the challenge wasn’t a yellow, 3 years ago it wasn’t a red, and now, it’s finally a bad challenge. But frustratingly, the familiar old ghosts are there; Shawcross is a good lad, let’s not get too down on him.

And here’s the thing: I don’t. I don’t blame him, just like I didn’t blame Taylor, ultimately. Sure, the individual shoulders some blame, he doesn’t have to go in high and hard in a 50-50, or worse, studs up, like Taylor did. I blame the footballing establishment which refuses to join the 21st century.

I blame the writers who pen articles with titles like “Taylor backed to recover from Eduardo tackle.” I blame the knucklehead fans who glorify “full-blooded” football over 21st century ball movement and goal-scoring. I blame the managers who take English kids and turn them into talentless leg-breaking hacks. How many injuries would it take before Ryan Shawcross made the Spanish national team?

But I lay ultimate blame for this third broken leg for an Arsenal youngster in four years on the FA and their inability to create competent match officials who referee the game the same for everyone. I say it’s incompetence because, like Wenger, the other opinion, corruption, is almost unthinkable.

I have been on about this last problem all year as teams come out and tell the world that they are going to foul Arsenal, proceed to foul them all over the pitch, and then call Arsenal for small fouls when they try to kick back.  The City match away was the worst example up till this point, with Adebayor barely adjudged to have put a foot wrong during the match despite the match official seen on video watching as he scraped his studs down Robin van Persie’s face.

Today’s match, though, is where this philosophy reached its zenith. Song was pulled and punched in the back of the head for shielding Delap from the ball, and it was Song who got a yellow card — he’ll reportedly serve a 2 match ban for that being his 10th yellow. When the score was tied, Stoke committed as clear a penalty on Aaron Ramsey as I have seen all season; it was a no-call that I think changed the game. Had Arsenal gone up 2-1 at that point (which they deserved) it would have opened the game up a bit and might have prevented the type of challenge that Shawcross felt he needed to commit in order to keep their share of the points. But Shawcross did go for the ball, full blooded. No doubt goaded on by his manager at half-time to “get stuck in.”  But also given free reign by the match official, Peter Walton, after he saw his teammates kick and cheat their was into the game.

When the FA allow teams to simply kick technically proficient sides like Arsenal off the pitch there are consequences. Let’s hope today’s consequence isn’t the end of 19 year old Aaron Ramsey’s bright career.

Liveblogging Ball Wipers v. Arsenal

Morning all, how about them Chelsea fans eh? For the first 30 minutes or so they booed Wayne Bridge every time he touched the ball and I really cvouldn’t understand what it was that made him the pantomime villian. Until I realized that every one of those people booing Wayne Bridge were doing so because they actually thought he had done some wrong: after all, they would let John Terry diddle their wives in a heartbeat. I mean, how dare Wayne Bridge rebuke what is clearly an honor in the hearts of the Chelsea supporters?

It’s the only thing that makes sense.

My favorite moment of the match, though, was when Wayne Bridge refused to shake John Terry’s hand. I know it’s not the sporting thing to do, but then it’s not very sporting to bone your teammate and best friend’s girlfriend. I don’t know why more folks don’t refuse to shake his hand, you could always make the excuse that you were afraid of STDs.

How ironic is is that it was Wayne Bridge’s clearance and John Terry’s shockingly poor form at center back for Chelsea which saw Manciti equalize? I mentioned that I felt like Chelsea were “clearly struggling”  during the Inter match and watching them again I’d like to reiterate that assertion. Now, without Cech back there to save them, they are looking like a very average defensive team, who lack a real midfield (what does Ballack DO?), and who rely entirely on magic from Drogba to put teams to the sword. Moreover, they are an extremely indisciplined side and now that they’ve been exposed as a bunch of cheats, led by the cheater-in-chief, they managed to lose two men to red cards. I can only hope more referees see them in this new light, though I highly doubt it.

Anyway, this isn’t a Chelsea, City, Bridge, Terry blog, is it? Arsenal have a real chance to make up 3 points when they take on Stoke in the Potteries in just a little bit and we’re going to have a little liveblog covering the match.

For those of you who have used this coveritlive.com software before you’ll know that the actual liveblog doesn’t start until I authorize it and that will be happening around 9am local time. Another bit you should know is that I either have to authorize individual comments or I have to give each person  free reign to comment. I’m not quite sure how to handle that last bit yet because there’s also a problem with time delay; the matches in the States are time delayed by a few minutes so, if I authorize my British readers to comment they will let the cat out of the bag on any big moments in the match.

Basically, if I don’t authorize you to comment freely don’t take it personally.

Anyway, to get into the liveblog click here. Start time is 9am PST and the earlier you get in the earlier I can authorize you to comment, or not authorize you as the case may be!

See you there…

Guest columnist Grimbo: A one man show.

That one man can make a difference is not only a statement from the blindingly awesome series ‘Knight Rider’ it also seems to be the difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’ in this, the weirdest of seasons since Blackburn won the Premiership in ’95. I’ve been having….erm, ‘discussions’ with Gooner buddies about our lack of luck with the squad this year, specifically having RVP out from that pointless challenge in the pointless Italy friendly last year at a time when the man was reveling in a new position, scoring from ridiculous angles and providing a ton of assists as well.

Having RVP up front was a stroke of genius as in the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 (whatever) having a player that is lethal with his back to goal is invaluable… having the crap luck to have lost him made me wonder what it would be like if ManIOU or Chel$ski lost their main front men, which is something I touched on in the post ‘oversimplifying Arsenal’s issues’. What would happen if Shrek and Drog’bah’ had gotten wiped instead of RVP?

Martin Tyler at Skysports (their resident stat man) was asked what the league would look like if those two divers were out of the picture, well actually what the table would look like if each teams top scorer was removed, and low and behold I’ll give you three guesses who would be on top.

If only RVP had caught a cold prior to the Italy friendly and missed the plane. If only Looney had tripped during filming of the latest Shrek movie and Drog’bah’ had been offered a lucrative job as a WWE wrestler for his ability to fake injury and generally act like a c**t, things might have been very different in the league.

What is interesting is just how decisive their goals have been as opposed to our top scorer Cesc. They have been the single deciding factors in a number of games, literally carrying their teams on occasion with the goals they’ve provided, whereas Fabregas’ goals have generally sealed the points but not won them outright. This of course is not to take away from Cesc’s obvious influence on the game and his assists that do win games, but it is interesting to note none the less.

I sincerely hope this post doesn’t bring out the ‘why didn’t we buy in Jan’ crowd because that argument is to me, old and busted. Let’s say the above scenario did happen and Rooney & Drogba were out injured instead of RVP, I’d bet my left testicle that Red Nose and the Russians would not have dipped into the market either, they would have used their fall back cover regardless and made do. To round up this point, who would we have bought anyway? David Villa will never come to Arsenal because he’d want Ronaldo levels of pay…oh, and he likes Spain, a lot. Chamakh? Well if you ask me he’s no better then Bendtner, and doesn’t even have Bendy’s experience of the English game – so lets just can that argument shall we? We know that whoever would come in would most likely make way for RVP when he’s back, and this would also be a factor, no player (unless they’re going to Citeh for $$$$) wants to be considered cover and/or a benchwarmer.

Loosing van Persie when we did sucked, plain and simple, but we’ve done well without him and you never know; his comeback might make a vital difference if he can heal before the end of the season. By then everyone will have gotten ‘used’ to how we play without him, and that’s a very different proposition as how the squad plays when when he’s fit.

Let the fighting commence…