Stoke 1-3 Arsenal… Still in shock…

It’s been 2 days since the match at the Britannia, but it’s still very hard to come up with a match report as one just can’t help thinking of Aaron Ramsey’s injury and well-being. I’ll touch on that briefly before going on about the match and what it means for our season.

I’ve seen the tackle again, not because I’m sadistic or anything, just to have an idea of what happened exactly, if not I’ll still be in denial! I’ve also read loads of Articles on the issue, some stupid and some sensible, just to get a balanced view.

So both players went for the ball, which was a 50-50, with Ramsey coming off with the sort possible injury. With his leg in such a bad state, one’s attention immediately turns to the tackle. The issue is not whether or not it was intentional- no human being in their right mind would intentionally set out to cause such damage. But was it a dangerous tackle? To be honest, I’ve seen worse. It human nature to sometimes categorize tackles as bad or good, depending on the injury, but I think one needs to separate both. The injury was horrible, but that does not mean the tackle was equally horrible. There have been (and there will be) worse tackles than Shawcross’ which have caused (or will cause) way less damage. The only thing I can say about the tackle is that it was mistimed. It could easily have been a tackle by any of our players on a Stoke player. I’ve gone through all the emotions over the past few days, but one I haven’t gone through is blame for Ryan Shawcross. It’s a bit of a fine line because obviously Shawcross’ tackle caused the injury, but I’m not blaming him. I just can’t

If at all I would apportion blame to anyone, it would be those, managers and pundits alike, who go on about how the best way to play Arsenal is to kick them about. ‘They don’t like it up them’. But really though, does anyone? The physical battle is one of the things that make the Premier League loved by us fans and the players, but the suggestion that to stop Arsenal from playing, you need to get in their faces is wrong. For starters, we won the game yesterday and believe it or not, we can be physical as well. Just because we’ve got ‘small’ players doesn’t mean they don’t get stuck in, or that they get scared when you tackle them.

But not only that, it encourages players to put that extra effort when tackling, and that’s what leads to injuries like poor Aaron Ramsey’s and Eduardo’s. If you keep hearing statements such as ‘Arsenal don’t like it up ‘em’, ofcourse you’ll put that extra effort in to rough them up, and that can lead to poorly timed tackles and nasty injuries. I’m not saying teams set out to deliberately to hurt us- I refuse to believe that- what I’m saying is that the notion that we’re soft touches who need to be roughed up every now and again is the  real problem that needs to be looked at. Who knows, maybe if  such views were not bandied around, we might have avoided these injuries.

I’m so gutted for Ramsey and will probably not feel any better about the whole issue until he’s back playing. I do think what we ought to do as Arsenal fans instead of castigating Shawcross to all ends, is to throw our support behind Ramsey and the team, because that’s the right thing to do. Fair enough if you’re mad and angry- I am, too- but it’s not worth it giving undeserved grief to Ryan. I’d rather spend all my time worrying about Aaron and wishing him well, than direct my anger towards a particular person, after all, I’m meant to be a supporter not a hater.

Get well soon, Aaron. It’s not going to be an easy way back for him, but I’m sure he’ll get help from the likes of Eduardo and Diaby who know exactly how he will be feeling. Hopefully he doesn’t get too down about it all and is able to concentrate on getting back to using his feet again. Football can always wait. But yeah, I can’t wait to see him back in an Arsenal jersey playing like we know he can, but for now, his well-being is the primary concern.

Now to the game itself…

So we started our usual sloppy selves and ended up being 1-nil down thanks to one of Delap’s customary throws. We failed to deal with it and Danny Pugh was there at the far post to nod it in. But like we always do, we slowly got back into the game, creating a few chances and it was no surprise when the equaliser came about 5 minutes to half-time. Fabregas down the right side, spotted Bendtner in a decent position in the box and provided the perfect cross which he met with the perfect of headers, bending it into the corner of the goal. It was a brilliant goal and a deserved equaliser. We continued to cause problems for Stoke and were proving that we were a match for them physically. It ended 1-1 at half time, but apart from the first few minutes, we put in a display to suggest that we could go on and win the game.

The second half started with us in the ascendancy and even though Stoke continued to pose a threat with their long throws, we were able to neutralise it most of the time. Sol and Vermaelen in the centre were dominant and seemed capable of dealing with it sufficiently. Clichy was back to his brilliant best and worked very hard defensively and offensively. Eboue was causing problems, and we even had a good shout for a penalty when Ramsey seemd to be fouled inside the box but the referee waved them away. But not long after came the unfortunate injury to Ramsey. It was pretty emotional seeing him lying there with his leg in an awkward position and credit to Stoke’s Glenn Whelan and Bendtner for staying by his side and trying to comfort him while the medics were being hurried on to the pitch. The referee showed Shawcross a straight red and he looked visibly shaken as he walked off the pitch.

There was a lengthy delay while Ramsey got treatment and the players all looked devastated, especially Cesc and Vermaelen. My mind automatically went back to 2 seasons ago when Eduardo suffered a similarly horrible injury. It was a bit eerie, seeing as both occurred at similar stages in the season when we were looking like real challengers for the title and both were also away at tricky grounds in the month of February. It was a totally horrible few minutes and in all honesty, I didn’t care much for the result. I was very worried about the effect it would have on the players who looked visibly shaken. Rosicky came on in place of Ramsey and 5 minutes later, Eboue was subbed for Theo.

But great credit to the lads, they put it all to one side after the restart and played with so much heart and courage and eventually secured the win with two more goals. Eduardo had a great chance to put us in the lead after he was played in, but he ended up shooting wide. The winning goal came in the last minute of normal time courtesy of a penalty after Danny Pugh had handled in the box, after Bendtner tried to feed to ball into the box. It was Fabregas to take the penalty and despite all the pressure, he slotted it confidently into the bottom right corner. The relief and emotion was evident as the players celebrated, Fabregas dedicating the goal to Aaron Ramsey. We continued to press forward and eventually got the third after a short corner on the left was played to Rosicky who cut inside and fired a fierce shot which Sorensen could only parry into the part of Cesc who responded quickly to set Vermaelen up for the simplest of tap-ins.

It was definitely a hard fought but well deserved win and I was immensely proud of the spirit shown by every single one of the players and it felt like watching them grow up right before our eyes. 2 seasons ago our title challenge ended that day when Eduardo got injured, but this time around feels different. The players showed that they were capable of dealing with adversity and that they are capable of fighting hard for the title until the end of the season. Wenger has always said we have a special team spirit and the lads demonstrated it yesterday after the game with that team huddle at the end. Sol, Cesc, Clichy and Vermaelen were all magnificent, showing their experience and pulling everyone together. I definitely saw something on Saturday which proved that we can go all the way this season, and if we do I’m sure we’ll all look to this game as the day the title was won.

We’re only 3 points behind Chelsea and with the run-in we’ve got, we’ve got a fabulous chance to prove the doubters wrong that we are capable of winning trophies. I certainly believe that we can do it this season. Let’s do it for Aaron Ramsey.

  • devday

    Debs, spot on with your analysis – but having seen the history of Shawcross and having seen his disciplinary record this and last season, he is a player who has committed many many fouls and has taken people out of the game before. As many people have already mentioned, the injuries on Jeffers and Adebayor were very bad.

    Some people have compared the likes of Gallas after his recent tackle at the Emirates on Mark Davies and the incident this weekend. But in my opinion, you can’t compare. Shawcross has been known for his over competitiveness, has one of the highest foul counts in the league and has injured three players where they’ve missed lengthy periods out (and probably bruised a hell of a lot more) – whereas Gallas mistimed one challenge.

    I do blame Shawcross – he is violent – but I do agree with the synopsis of what the media do with the whole “arsenal don’t like it” thing and I don’t know where or how it will end – we’re the most punished team (most cards per foul) and the least protected (least cards per foul for the opposition)… you’ve got to wonder why that is…

  • ArsenalFightBackAtOnPitchBullies

    Totally disagree with your post. Just spurning out the same old rubbish that the media is trying to ‘force feed’ us. I strongly belive as AW, it is no co-incidence that these ‘low level’ teams keep breaking our players legs. Reda this link:
    http://arsenalaction.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/shawcross-is-a-thug-has-done-it-before-just-ask-francis-jeffers/

  • Kodjo

    @ Dev

    Good post all in all….one thing that cannot be denied is that the idea of getting up in arsenals faces will most likely to result in injuries like this. When a player goes in for tackles like that, the player has to take responsibility for the consequences whether intended or not. The point is that such injuries are just waiting to happen the way other teams tackle arsenal.

    Arsene has always been saying that serious injuries are just waiting to happen (without being a harbinger of bad news)… it could have happened to Eboue last weekend against Sunderland. Lorik Cana’s tackle on the former was even worse. Eboue in a split second had the presence of mind to take his foot of the ground…otherwise it could have been a different story. And Steve Bennet was 5 yards from the incident…what did he do, he issued a yellow card…that was license for Cana to go on kicking arsenal players (Cesc got “kicked” not tackled, no less than 3 times by the said player).

    I believe refs are part of the problem for failing to clamp down on such dangerous tackles. There seems to be a different yardstick with refs when it comes to arsenal. In previous blogs i pointed out 3 equally dangerous tackles committed by Stoke players which went unpunished by the ref. To make matters worse these tackles happened after the Ramsey incident.

  • Kodjo

    Sorry my contribution should have been addressed to Debs and not Dev. Sorry for the mix up.

  • devday

    @Kojo, Debs wrote the main article (massive thanks to Debs, she’s the official post match post writer)…

    @Kojo – you are correct, some of the challenges we’ve seen against our players over the last couple of years have been very bad.

    Sunderland, Bolton, Stoke along with a most other clubs have decided to go extra physical with us and if the authorities don’t clamp down on it, then it will only get worse.

  • Kodjo

    Good point Dev, Shawcrosses history tells the story.. if not part !!! I know folks who would argue otherwise, but against all reasonable doubt and on the balance of probability (Shawcrosses history) it is hard not to say he is not culpable.

  • http://arsenalandtherandomthoughtsofmylife.blogspot.com/ Debs

    The main reason why I found it difficult to be harsh on Shawcross is that everyone makes mistimed tackles, even our players. There were certainly some in Saturday’s game. The Ramsey tackle could have been by any of the other Stoke players.
    I’m not sure it matters much if a particular player mistimes more tackles than other players- Paul Scholes mistimes tackles all the time, but I do agree that the chances of our players getting seriously injured are a bit higher as I think teams tend to go after us a bit more.

  • AmriGooner

    Sorry Debs but I disagree with you.It is never normal to have a 3 injuries like those in less than 4 years.
    It is not a coincidence at all.
    Every player in the world of football has mistimed tackles but not all players do the damage that showcross has done over years to many players.
    Every team on earth has its share of injuries but no team receive as horrible injuries as Arsenal. DEFINTELY, THAT IS NOT COINCIDENCE.

  • AmriGooner

    Oh guys, I just loved what Wenger said. It just sums what Arsenal is all about and what I love the most about this team.

    “the way I try to play the game, I believe, is the right way. When we don’t win, I get a lot of stick because of that way but I still prefer to continue to play like that. We will respect the game, the opponents and try to give pleasure to people who watch us.”
    Well said Professor.

  • Kodjo

    @ Debs

    I certainly agree with your point when it comes to mistimed tackles…which can happen anywhere and to any player. As a former footballer (defender) my analysis of Shawcross’s tackle in view of “get up in Arsenal’s face” is this:

    1. The “tackle” was a swipe with his boots from the outside- in as opposed to a straight forward tackle (quick stab at the ball). What I mean is the angle from where his foot came from meant that at a minimum his foot had to arc or swing about 15-20 degrees before he got to the ball. Any good defender knows that from that angle your chance of getting to the ball is less the 50%. The probability of kicking the player is more than 60% from that angle. To minimize injury to the opposing player as well as preventing the ball from been nicked of Shawcross, he could have put his foot right in front of the ball…at worse the ball would have deflected in another direction.

    2. A good defender has to make all these decisions in a nano second ….but that comes with practice and knowing what each defenders strengths are and which tackle types are the most effective. I refer folks to Nesta of Milan …not because he is the quickest but his choice of tackle type and which angles his foot comes from. I hope I am not being too technical, but the issue is that defending is an art and a science which can be developed and perfected (within the backdrop of human imperfection).

    3. The angle, speed and position of Shawcross meant that in all probability injury to the opposing player was more than likely…and defenders know this …trust me on this. If Shawcross is a right footed player then in this case he was incompetent. In that he used his less favorable left foot. Which was incidentally further away from the ball than his right foot? Granted his right foot was planted, but that was because of the decision he made on the tackle type.

    4. The only way an injury could have been prevented, was for Ramsey to ride the tackle or just jump. Unfortunately Ramsey did not take evasive action which was probably due to the angle from which Shawcross’s foot came at him (from the outside-in). Most of the time, a player has to make a decision on taking the ball and taking evasive action at the same time to prevent catastrophic consequences. Eboue did that last weekend against Cana, and Eduardo also took the same action, but to a lesser extent, yet he was still floored by the sheer force of Huth’s tackle. The result was that Eduardo missed an opportunity that he would have put away before his horrific injury. Did Edu’s injury play on his mind when he saw Huth coming at him? Most probably!!! No player wants to sit out for a whole season.

    Sorry for the long post but i had to analyse the incident from a technical perspective, not to mention intent and motive which is harder to prove bar a player’s previous history/record.

  • arseneKnows

    Shawcross needs to alter his settings!!

    The difference between hitting someone in a car at 30 MPH and 35 MPH is life and death! We’ve all seen the advert. One speed is legal the other is illegal!
    So a young boy drives his car at 35 MPH and kills someone – and you hear ‘he’s not the killing type – he’s a good lad’ – the point is he killed someone who might have lived if he was driving at the right speed.

    That’s a harsh example but it applies to this.

    The tackle is too excessive for the moment and the probability of winning the ball verses injuring the play stacks too heavily in the ‘injuring another player’ side.

    Shawcross ‘MUST’ take responsibility for using far to much force for the situation.

    Secondly, responsibility MUST be taken for the general underpinning idea that if you hit Arsenal hard, they don’t like it!

    It had cock all to do with weather or not Shawcross intended to injure Ramsey – it’s to do with the boys ‘settings’ – they’re wrong! I didn’t intend to kill that person – ‘but you did coz you were driving too fast!!!

  • jeffvip

    Please every1 stop defending shawcross, he is an animal from the beginning. look at his video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JImCLHKXTOs

    I wonder he is able to put tears in his eye is such a short moment. he must been praticising this scene really hard.

  • Peres

    Twice Arsenal showed real character in this fixture. The English media will point to how upset he was and what a good English pro he is. Will they be showing replays of his assault on Adebayor in November 2008? The man is exactly the kind of wreckless thug who should be drummed out of the sport, but is actually encouraged at places like Stoke, Sunderland, Birmingham and Bolton. He was probably crying about his red card and the three games he will miss. I haven’t read the ‘The lad’s inconsolable’ quote from Tony Pulis yet, but I’m sure it’ll be there when I read the reports of the post-match press conference. F*** off Tony Pulis and well played Cesc Fabregas for telling the Stoke boss to shut his hypocritical mouth when he had the audacity to complain when our captain hacked down a Stoke player. You can’t have your cake and eat it pal.

    The second Groundhog Day moment was obviously Ramsey’s (assumed) broken leg. All that can be hoped is that the break is a clean one and that the lad recovers. The match went predictably flat for a few minutes after he was loaded into an ambulance. In 2008, Arsenal did rally from Eduardo’s injury to take the lead in the second half at Birmingham, but ultimately the late concession of two points became a turning point in the campaign, and the team never recovered.

    However, on this occasion, Arsenal were able to establish a lead and hang onto it, and this was the second time that they showed immense character. It took real balls for Cesc Fabregas to step up and take such a pressure penalty under the circumstances, but the goal he scored was a moment of affirmation. The Gunners’ winning the game – that was already so vital to the season even before Chelsea’s defeat to Man City, and then losing Aaron Ramsey until at least the following campaign – suddenly developed even bigger significance, real make or break for this season, perhaps even for this generation of players. Time will tell.

    But in a horrible kind of way, they needed something like this to set them up to battle with real purpose in the games ahead. There is talk of an easier run-in on paper, but when every match becomes a must win fixture, it’s all about determination, focus and attitude. The players had to get it from somewhere and the adversity of this victory might be what galvanises them and actually gives them the fighting spirit to go on the necessary run of victories at places like St Andrews and White Hart Lane.

    I like the sentiment of the notion of ‘doing it for Aaron’, but in reality that idea did very little after the Birmingham match in 2008. What is more of a factor is the drawing on reserves of character to overcome injustice, to battle against the odds and triumph in adversity. It’s what makes boys become men, and this misfortune might just provide the spur. The table certainly offers hope, but so does the response of Arsenal to win at the Britannia. It’s backs to the wall and a siege mentality from here on. And in the seasons that this club has triumphed in the league, that is usually the story. This has nothing to do with the beautiful game and everything to do with winning your battles. Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg is a very unfortunate incident, but the response on the pitch might just be a turning point in a very weird football season.

  • ny

    get well soon aaron ………

    It was a terrific response from Arsenal.I thought it would be a repeat of Birmingham but the lads did a very good job.However I didn’t like Wenger replaced Eboue by Theo.
    Eboue was creating problems for Stoke and Walcott was fairly anonymous.

  • dada

    great post. I was at the Britannia Stadium last season and wondered how the hell Shawcross got away with the Adebayor tackle.

    For me these injuries are a direct result of the worst ever refereeing performance by Mike Riley when “kicking Arsenal” became an Olympic sport. The Old Trafford game in October 2004 which ended Reyes career with Arsenal and the thuggery that the Mancs got away with that day was the blueprint for all teams wanting to beat Arsenal. Had Riley reffed the game to the rules, Man U would have finished with eight, possibly seven men and then the FA should have thrown the book at Ferguson and his sycophantic gang. Eduardo’s injury was as a direct result of that day – as was yesterday’s ‘let ‘em know you’re there’ tackle. Stoke has a plaque somewhere in their complex with the words for visiting teams “this is going to hurt”, so when you send out a team to hurt the opposition you are never more than a tackle away from disaster and on Saturday disaster struck again for Arsenal.

    It’s the cowards at the FA who have created the Araldite, Pull-this and McLeish brand of football and they are the real culprits in this recurring horror story. Ramsey’s injury would probably not happened if the politicians in Soho Square had acted in accordance with their own rules and thrown the book at ‘Red Nose’ the morning after United kicked Arsenal to pieces in 2004. I used to believe in ‘rough justice’ but with Shawcross now in the England squad and the Neville Sisters still free at large to kick who ever they like, it seems to have done their careers no harm at all.

  • Yemi

    @jeffvip : That was a bad ass tackle in that video. My People say, “a mistake is a mistake, but when you repeat the same mistake over and over again, it becomes either intentional or foolish

  • jeffvip

    @yemi, absolutely correct