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.