Can’t we all just get along?

It’s moments like the Eduardo and Ramsey injuries that really put this sport in perspective. You feel embarrassed that you’ve spent the previous hour disputing every refereeing decision and cursing every misplaced pass. That said you know you’ll be back doing exactly the same thing next week. Such is the life of the football fan.

The incident can only rationally be seen as an accident. Listening to some of the reactionary Arsenal fans on 606 was almost as difficult as watching the panic ridden look on Ramsey’s face as he signalled for the medics. It would be naive to claim that Arsenal don’t receive rough treatment on a regular basis from their opponents, but it would be equally wrong to suggest that there was any malice in this particular challenge.

Nonetheless, Pullis’ predictable comments that Shawcross is not “that kind of lad” collapse under even the slightest scrutiny. In fact the defender has previous against the Gunners. Just over a month ago he injured Fabregas in the FA Cup final tie, and in 2008 a lunging tackle from behind left Emmanuel Adebayor with ankle damage. Then consider that he broke Francis Jeffers ankle in 2007 and you start to paint a picture of a player who is exactly that kind of lad.
The game itself looked like following the trend of the two most recent matches at the Britannia when Danny Pugh headed Stoke into the lead after a trademark Rory Delap throw. It continues to bewilder how Delap’s excessive towel drying is not punished either with a yellow card or time added on. What is just as baffling is Arsenal’s continued inability to deal with such situations.

Emmanuel Eboue, playing in a more advanced position than against Sunderland, encapsulated Arsenal’s shortcomings in his own mixed performance. The Ivorian terrorised the Stoke defence on numerous occasions with his direct and powerful runs, but more often than not the move would culminate in a poorly timed pass.

It will come as a surprise to few that Cesc Fabregas was the catalyst as the visitors finally made their mark on the game. The Spaniard, though far from his outrageously brilliant best, ended the game with two assists and a goal. After an out of sorts start, the midfielder finally found his passing range on the half hour mark. Inexplicably unmarked from a throw in, Cesc steadied himself before inviting Nicklas Bendtner to level the game with a perfect cross. The Danish international reciprocated and guided the ball back across goal and into the top corner for his second goal in as many games.

As the match progressed, the visitors stranglehold on the game tightened. The home side seemed to be showing some tiredness after their extra time victory against Man City in mid week whilst Arsenal, who had an empty mid week schedule, improved as the game went on.

The Gunners should have been rewarded for their new found dominance with a spot kick when Aaron Ramsey was felled in the penalty area. The young Welshman collected a sublime Fabregas pass in the penalty area before being bundled over by Faye. Despite being in a good position however the referee didn’t see the contact and Stoke were able to clear as Ramsey showed his anger at the decision.

Just moments later the 19 year old was in an altogether different kind of agony. Sky’s reluctance to show a replay of the challenge, coupled with the reactions of players from both sides, confirmed immediately the seriousness of the injury. With Fabregas shaking his head in dismay and fighting back the tears, the incident felt hauntingly reminiscent of St. Andrews just over two years ago.

Fortunately for Arsenal’s burgeoning title hopes they responded in a more positive manner than against Birmingham in 2008, and when Fabregas fired home the penalty he made it clear that the win was for his fallen team-mate. How Arsene Wenger’s men react in the long run could be crucial to their chances of ending their five year trophy drought.
2 Responses to “Can’t we all just get along?”
  1. Lou says:

    There have been comments all over the internet about the Francis Jeffers incident. It’s completely irrelevant, and I can guarantee that there’s not a single person who actually saw what happened and thinks it’s proof that Shawcross is a violent thug.

    Shawcross fouled him. There’s no doubt about that. The fact that Jeffers suffered ligament damage (not a broken leg) as a result of the foul was unfortunate. But the referee awarded a yellow card, but neither Francis Jeffers, Jeffers’ club at the time (Sheffield Wednesday, I think), nor a single person who actually witnessed the incident made any comments to the effect that Shawcross should be punished further.

    The fact that various Arsenal fans have come across this story whilst frantically Googling in an attempt to back up their claims that Shawcross is some sort of leg-breaking thug, simply doesn’t change the fact that the foul that caused Jeffers’ injury wasn’t a notably bad one.

    Like any footballer, and especially like any centre-back, Ryan Shawcross has committed fouls. No-one is denying that. But Jeffers’ injury is certainly not proof of Shawcross as the kind of player who deliberately injures the opposition.

  2. wizzyk49 says:

    You’re right, it’s not proof that he’s a violent thug. The incidents listed above do go some way to dispelling this saint like image that Pullis seems intent on painting for Shawcross though. Extra marks for creativity for the “picked up by his mum” comment.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that the challenge was an innocent one (“The incident can only rationally be seen as an accident”), but naturally if teams continue to apply these tactics against Arsenal then injuries of this nature are all the more likely.

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