Sunday, 28 February 2010

Arsenal win but Ramsey injury dampens mood

That is the sickening image of Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey crumpled on the floor with his leg hanging at an angle it shouldn't following a tackle by Stoke's Ryan Shawcross.

My heart sank when I was watching the game last night immediately after the challenge. I knew it was bad.

Ramsey knew it was bad, the players knew too, as did the referee.

Sky didn't broadcast the footage again, much the same way they didn't with the Eduardo incident against Birmingham.

It was plain for all to see that another talented Arsenal player had been maimed by a awful challenge for which the Stoke player had no chance of winning the ball.

Lets not forget, this is the third challenge which has led to one of our players with a broken limb in just under four seasons.

Sunderland v Arsenal (May 1, 2006) - Dan Smith on Abou Diaby.

Birminham v Arsenal (February 23, 2008) Martin Taylor on Eduardo.

Stoke City v Arsenal (February 27, 2010) - Ryan Shawcross on Aaron Ramsey.

Once is awful, twice is inexcusable but three times to one club is no coincidence.

Arsene Wenger said:

"We've now lost three players, Eduardo, Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby, to horrendous challenges.

"I refuse to believe it's a coincidence. I'm just shocked because that isn't football to me. People have to respect the rules, and respect each other, and the players who don't do that should be punished.

"For a boy of 19 with his talent to be kicked out of the game is beyond words. I can't enjoy the win."

He is quite right of course. This was not a freak occurrence. It has happened before.

I don't believe for one second that any of the three players who went into tackles with our players wanted to break the bones of another professional.

Shawcross can say there was "no malice in the challenge" but he along with Smith and Taylor already had perhaps just only in their subconscious the myth that Arsenal don't like to be kicked; that they crumble with the more physical side of the game.

You don't know whether Kevin Ball, Sunderland caretaker manager, Alex McLeish or Tony Pulis told their players to get stuck into Arsenal.

But their players have made horrendous challenges that have left us without our talented and rising stars for a considerable amount of time.

All three are English as well, with English managers.

Read their comments directly after the games where these incidents took place:

Sunderland's caretaker manager Kevin Ball said:

"Let them say what they want to say.

"Dan Smith is not a dirty player. He's gone for the ball. It wasn't malicious."

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said:
"Martin's distraught about the lad's injury.

"It's certainly not in Martin Taylor's make-up at all to commit a malicious tackle."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis said:
"Ryan Shawcross has no bad blood in him whatsoever. There is no way in a million years he would ever go out to try and hurt someone.

"The lad was heartbroken at what has happened, you could see as he came off the pitch that he was in tears and he feels devastated that Aaron has been so badly injured."

None of their player meant to do it, but in their actions injured another professional leaving them out of the game.

I think that in their subconscious though all three have heard the words of ex-pros, pundits, football columnists and journalists, opposition managers who preach the line that Arsenal can't handle the physical side of the game.

I don't think for a second that any team likes to be kicked. Arsenal are certainly more resilient than they were before the Eduardo tackle.

But still these people trot out the same old line that to win against Arsenal you have to be more physical in your approach.

The manager has already addressed it this season, after the Gallas challenge on Mark Davies.

He said:
"Some people say before the games, 'we know how to play Arsenal. we have to kick them'. Nobody in the whole country is absolutely upset by that.

"I am always absolutely amazed that people get away with that. When we get kicked and lose the game, the question I get from the Press is ’oh, you did not fancy that.’

"Nobody is upset or shocked by it. They find when we are kicked, it is absolutely all right."

Now will there be a backlash this time? I doubt it.

John Cross at the Mirror will no doubt write about it in his website column, but until it is openly talked about on TV, radio and in newspapers, nothing will change.

I wish Aaron Ramsey a speedy recovery. He will be an excellent player for Arsenal as his early form was rightly showing the manager's faith in him.

The match report on yesterday's game seems redundant now. My tweets tell the story of the game as I saw it.

From a Delap throw near to the corner flag, awful defending from Eboue saw him lose Pugh at the far post to allow the Stoke midfielder an easy tap in following Shawcross flick on.

We didn't seem to get going during the first half hour, partly due to Stoke harrying our player and the poor pitch which held the ball up.

But we came back with a goal in the 32nd minute. A Fabregas cross from the right found Bendtner in the penalty area. The striker's looped header went back in the direction it came and straight into the top right hand corner of the Stoke goal.

Game on!

The second half was all us. We had a stupid amount of possession for a visiting team and were making chances.

We should have been awarded a penalty when Ramsey was taken down in the box. Shortly afterwards in the 66th minute, the Welshman is taken out of the game by the Shawcross challenge. Red card for Shawcross.

It took us a while to regain our composure. But Wenger brought on Rosicky, Walcott and Eduardo to help push us over the finishing line with a win.

There was a Fabregas free kick that Campbell couldn't get on the end of and Eduardo was set up by Song but the Croation put his shot just wide.

The goal came from the penalty spot. Bendtner had his shot blocked by the hand of Pugh. Fabregas stepped up and slotted his low penalty into the corner with Sorensen unable to get his left hand to it.

We had our third in the fourth of seven minutes of injury time. Rosicky shot from outside the area, Sorensen parried the ball which Fabregas reacted to first on the left. He squared the ball for Vermaelen to score.

Game over Stoke.

I have to say we showed huge character to come back from that horrific injury and win. Now for the title.

Saturday, 27 February 2010
Premier League

Stoke 1 – 3 Arsenal

(1 – 1 HT)
Pugh 8
Bendtner 32

Fabregas (pen) 90+1

Vermaelen 90+4

29 Sorensen
01 Almunia
04 Huth
03 Sagna
17 Shawcross
05 Vermaelen
25 Faye (Collins 60)
31 Campbell
28 Wilkinson
22 Clichy
06 Whelan
04 Fabregas
14 Pugh
17 Song Billong
18 Whitehead (Lawrence 77)
16 Ramsey (Rosicky 69)
24 Delap
27 Eboue (Walcott 75)
10 Fuller (Sanli 80)
52 Bendtner
11 Sidibe
08 Nasri (Eduardo 83)

27 Begovic
21 Fabianski
22 Collins
18 Silvestre
07 Lawrence
30 Traore
15 Diao
07 Rosicky
20 Sanli
14 Walcott
09 Beattie
09 Eduardo
12 Kitson
12 Vela

Referee: Peter Walton
Attendance: 27,011

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