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Wenger wrong to blast Shawcross

02 Mar 2010 15:14:43

Wenger wrong to blast Shawcross

I was at the Stoke v Arsenal game and the horrific injury suffered by Aaron Ramsey is comfortably the worst thing I've ever witnessed live at a football match. To see a young lad in such agony was an awful experience and I found it extremely difficult to focus on the remainder of the game after Ramsey had been taken away in an ambulance. My mood has remained sombre ever since and I can't remember thinking so little about a game of football, particularly a defeat, such was the seriousness of Ramsey's injury. Clearly my thoughts are with the lad and I sincerely hope he makes a quick and full recovery. But, as a Stoke fan, I am feeling almost just as sorry for Ryan Shawcross who was on the receiving end of criticism from Arsene Wenger after the game. I fully understand why the Arsenal manager was so upset after seeing one of his brighest young talents so badly injured, but his description of Shawcross' tackle as "horrendous" and "unacceptable" was as out of order as it was off the mark. Shawcross is only a young lad himself at 22 and Wenger's criticism of him was completely unneccessary, particularly given the obvious remorse he showed when walking from the pitch in floods of tears. Replays show that both players went into a challenge for the ball at an equal pace. They also show that Shawcross went into the challenge with one foot grounded and the other kept low with his laces always aiming towards the ball. Unfortunately Ramsey nicked the ball away just before the Stoke man got there and, because he had lunged at the last minute, his ankle was bent over when Shawcross clattered him. However, no matter how many replays I watch I cannot see anything to alter my view that Shawcross was an innocent party in a terrible accident. That's why I am so angry about some of the comments coming from the Arsenal camp. Shawcross is only a young man himself at 22 and with a future so bright that he was called into the senior England squad for the first time this week. So bright in fact that Wenger himself is reported to have scouted the centre-half over the past 12 months. The Frenchman is not stupid and he knows full well that Shawcross is not only a tough and uncompromising player - but also fair and honest defender that would never deliberately set out to injure a fellow professional. I don't believe there is a player out there that would as it goes, so Wenger's comments that Ramsey's injury was no coincidence are bang out of order. Arsenal have suffered from this type of tragedy before but surely that is more a by-product of their quick, passing style rather than a conspiracy among the other 19 Premier League sides to injure their players. I suspect Wenger believes his side have to put up with more physical opponents than any other, and I think he's probably right. But only because everybody knows Arsenal struggle against that type of opposition. It must be infuriating for Gunners fans to read, but they would not get knocked about so much if they had more players that could take it and dish it out. After all, I don't remember Wenger moaning about tough opposition when he had the likes of Vieira, Keown and Adams in his team. The irony is that Arsenal did match Stoke's physicality on Saturday and their win was fully deserved. The Ramsey injury put a huge dampener on the afternoon but Wenger should have focused on the win, accepted Shawcross was blameless and let the defender revel in his England call-up. But while Stoke come out of the incident with credit due to the quick thinking of Glenn Whelan on the pitch and subsequent apology from Shawcross, Arsenal have not. The likes of Sol Campbell and Cesc Fabregas were more interested in getting Shawcross sent off than looking after their stricken team-mate, and Wenger's comments since the game have opened up a completely unnecessary war of words between the two sets of supporters. What a shame.


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