Shawcross defended over Ramsey leg break
Stoke City 1 Arsenal 3
Monday 01 March 2010
It was perhaps as well that the Arsenal party had left the Britannia Stadium by the time Ryan Shawcross's inclusion in the England squad was announced.
Arsène Wenger had already used the word "scandalous" in relation to the challenge by the Stoke defender which snapped Aaron Ramsey's right leg in two places. His reaction to the idea of Shawcross being endorsed by the Football Association might have led to his also receiving a call from the ruling body.
Having had to leave 19-year-old Ramsey in hospital, where he underwent surgery yesterday, the Arsenal manager insisted their revived title push would not fizzle out as it did after a similarly sickening injury to Eduardo at Birmingham two years ago. "We had some other problems then," Wenger admitted. "It will be tight to the end, of course, but this group is so strong mentally, so united, that this will give us one more reason to fight to the end – and to do it for him."
Did such episodes shake his faith in pure football? "No, because I believe the way I try to play the game is the right way. When we don't win, I get a lot of stick because of how we play, but I still prefer to continue playing like that. We respect the game, and the opponents, and try to give pleasure to the people who watch. In my time here, none of my players ever broke anybody's leg. I encourage my players to be committed. I have a go at them when they don't put their foot in, but I feel nearly guilty to do that. When Aaron went for the ball today and got done like he did, it is not an easy situation."
After Arsenal's defeat at Stoke last season, the Frenchman complained furiously about challenges by Shawcross and Rory Delap on Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor respectively. He clearly regarded Ramsey's double fracture as part of a cynical pattern intended to exploit his young team's alleged dislike of what he euphemistically referred to as "the physical stuff".
Following Saturday's victory, which saw Arsenal recover from Danny Pugh's headed opener with a Nicklas Bendtner header, a late Cesc Fabregas penalty and Thomas Vermaelen's stoppage-time tap-in, Wenger added: "In midfield we had [Samir] Nasri, [Emmanuel] Eboué, Fabregas, Ramsey. Their average age is 20-21 years old. Up front, Bendtner, 22. What these guys do, to handle the game the way they did at that age, is absolutely remarkable. Of course if you destroy them, you will not be football players. What is most terrible for me is that a player like Ramsey starts his career with a double operation. You never know what the consequences will be for the physical and psychological side of [his] game. It's scandalous."
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, defended Shawcross. "I know my players better than Wenger. I wouldn't give tuppence for his opinions because he doesn't know the kid. Ryan isn't that type. It's so ironic he's involved because he's such a genuine kid. It'll be devastating for him. The people who work with Ryan know what he's like – he's a real gem, an absolute dream to work with and be around."
The incident took place in the second half, when Arsenal were nullifying Stoke's initial power surge with their touch and movement. Shawcross had possession but a heavy touch gave Ramsey a chance to win the ball. The Stoke player tried to hook his left foot around the ball but caught his opponent halfway up the leg. Wenger viewed the incident in the context of previous long-term injuries, using the same word, "horrendous", as he did after Taylor's lunge on Eduardo. Pulis said Shawcross was "distraught", the very term with which Birmingham's Alex McLeish defended his player.
Television evidence suggested Shawcross was guilty of mis-control rather than recklessness or malice. The referee, Peter Walton, looked unsure how, or even whether, to penalise the former Manchester United reserve, producing a red card only after seeing how badly Ramsey was hurt. This was not Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland revisited. Shawcross, who left the pitch in tears, issued a statement yesterday saying he was "deeply upset" by Ramsey's injury and sending his "best wishes for a speedy recovery". On Wednesday he could become the first Stoke player to represent England since Mark Chamberlain in 1985. For Ramsey, who was due to join up with the Wales squad, the immediate future looks less auspicious.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye (Collins, 60), Wilkinson; Delap, Whelan, Whitehead (Lawrence, 77), Pugh; Sidibe, Fuller (Tuncay, 80). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Beattie, Kitson, Diao.
Arsenal (4-5-1): Almunia; Sagna, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy; Eboué (Walcott, 75), Fabregas, Song, Nasri (Eduardo, 83), Ramsey (Rosicky, 69); Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Vela, Silvestre, Traore.
Referee: P Walton (Nortamptonshire).
Booked: Arsenal Song. Sent off: Stoke Shawcross.
Man of the match: Fabregas.
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