Archive for March 1st, 2010

Ramsey: It’s easy to see why it happens. It’s not so easy to forgive.

132 comments March 1st, 2010

It’s easy to see how it happens.  You step on to the field, brimming with adrenaline, with the last words of your managers team talk still ringing in your ears.

“Alright lads, listen close.  When you go in, go in hard.  This foreign lot, they don’t like it up ’em.”

It’s the 65th minute and the game is tightly poised at 1-1.  The ball breaks in midfield, and you stride on to it – a rare opportunity to relieve increasing pressure on your goal.  A poor touch carries the ball away, and you’re faced with a choice: admit you’ve conceded possession, or make a lunge for it.  You plump for the latter.  After all, “they don’t like it up ’em”.

Your manager is right.  They don’t like it ‘up em.  Nor raking the back of ’em, nor stamping down on top of ’em, nor, as yesterday, swinging recklessly through a planted limb.  They don’t like it when their legs are snapped and left in a twisted, mangled mess.

Call him soft, but when this happens, Aaron Ramsey doesn’t like it:

Nicklas Bendtner and Glenn Whelan comfort Aaron Ramsey

Eduardo didn’t much care for it either, nor Abou Diaby before him.   Rough ’em up a bit, leave that foot in a second longer, apply an ounce more force in your tackle.  Those Arsenal boys, they won’t like it.  If something should go wrong – well, it’s hardly the aggressor’s fault, is it?  The media will round to remind the Arsenal manager that, “it’s a contact sport after all, Arsene.  He’s just a good old-fashioned, big-hearted, tough-tackling sort of lad”.

“He’s not that sort of player,” they’ll say.  “He lives with his mum and does charity work.  He’s never even been sent off.  There was no malice in the tackle.

Perhaps not.  But none of that, not one part of it, makes Ryan Shawcross innocent.

Arseblogger struck upon a superb analogy yesterday when he pointed out that whist the law distinguishes between a pre-meditated hit-and-run and reckless driving, both remain crimes.  The law distinguishes between manslaughter and murder.  Shawcross might not have intended to break Ramsey’s leg, but irresponsible and negligent conduct means he did.

A tackle can be a beautiful thing.  There is as much technique in dispossession as a drag-back.  I would never want to see a game bereft of that art, but what Shawcross did was different.  He threw himself in to a situation where his chances of winning the ball were negligible, and his chances of taking out Ramsey significant.  Whatever his pleas about respecting his “fellow professionals”, he didn’t consider the odds enough to show concern for Ramsey’s well-being.  For him, there were no consequences.

The sad thing is how true that is – relatively, there are no consequences.  Another area where Common Law has the edge over Football Law is the idea of proportionate punishment.  Ramsey will probably miss a year due to his injuries – Shawcross will miss three games.  I’m sure his remorseful tears will have dried up by then.  Ramsey will have to live with his physical and emotional scars for a good while longer.

It’s tempting to ask the press to stop perpetuating the idea that the way to beat Arsenal is with unbridled brutality.  Unfortunately, the media are merely a reflection of our culture: one fascinated by the triumph of underdogs.  If Stoke’s cloggers are to overcome Arsenal’s artisans, uninhibited physical force is bound to be their principal weapon – and the people of England will then come together to celebrate it.  And we wonder why we don’t produce enough technical footballers.

Attitudes won’t change.  There are too many people in the game who regard our players with something approaching xenophobia; too many idiots like Stan Collymore dictating the media agenda; too many managers pulling the same old dirty tricks.  Instead, the only way to stop this from happening is to show that it doesn’t work.

Two years ago, when Martin Taylor’s stamp crumpled Eduardo’s left leg like an expendable plastic cup, our title chances collapsed in a similarly horrific manner.  After rallying to lead 2-1, a mistake by Gael Clichy saw us concede a stoppage time penalty that pegged us back to a costly draw.  After the game, a tearful William Gallas launched a Taylor-esque attack on the advertising hoardings.  He and the fans knew that the title would escape us.  Our belief, among other things, had been crushed.

Yesterday could not have felt more different.  When Ramsey reached out his arm to call for the physio, his team-mates responded just as they did two years ago.  For some of them, the experience was new – Thomas Vermaelen’s reaction was one of a player who’d not yet witnessed such a horrifying injury.  For others, it was painfully familiar – Clichy himself seemed distraught, whilst on the sidelines Eduardo’s expressionless face masked what must have been traumatic memories.  For ten minutes, there was barely a tackle in the game, as both sides came to terms with what they’d witnessed.

But then, something happened that Pulis, the press, and others hadn’t reckoned on: we fought back.  Not with high tackles or raised elbows, but with a ruthless efficiency befitting of this talented squad.  Stoke were down to ten men, and we exploited it.  No tantrums from our captain, but an ice-cool penalty and two assists for the superb Cesc Fabregas.  An injured Gallas was notable by his absence – in his place, Sol Campbell, a titan of a man, bellowing instructions and pumping his fists as the winning goals went in.

At the end, Cesc called the players in to a huddle – a sign of indomitable spirit not seen since The Invincibles.  Ours is the title challenge that won’t die, and with ten games to go, the message now is simple: do it for Ramsey.

Get well soon, Aaron.

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

Match Report | Highlights | The Tackle | Arsene’s reaction

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