Wenger says Arsenal won't target Shawcross
Arsene Wenger said yesterday that only Aaron Ramsey could forgive Ryan Shawcross for the tackle that broke two bones in the Arsenal midfielder's right leg in February – but that the Stoke City defender will not need a bodyguard tomorrow when he plays at the Emirates for the first time since the incident.
The injury to Ramsey provoked strong feelings at Arsenal and Ramsey is still yet to make a return to the first team, as he is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest in the Championship to build up his match fitness. Wenger said that Shawcross should not fear any reprisal at Arsenal.
It was a testament to the effect of Ramsey's injury – a broken tibia and fibula – that supporters paid for a banner in tribute to the player which has been displayed at the Emirates over the past 10 months. In the immediate aftermath of the game, Wenger called for a longer ban over the tackle which he described then as "horrendous and unacceptable".
Yesterday, Wenger said: "It is only Ramsey who can forgive Ryan Shawcross for what happened to him. I cannot forgive. I have not that power. If you were the manager of Aaron Ramsey, who is 18 and has two bones broken in his leg, you cannot say you are not upset, it absolutely normal you are upset.
"I gave my feelings at the time, what we were focused on after that was to get Ramsey back to playing again, what he is just starting to do now. We care about Aaron Ramsey and his career. We did not focus on Shawcross – that is why I don't feel there is any need to talk about that.
"I can reassure you that [a bodyguard] will not be needed. What happened in the past, happened in the past. We have come [through] that – I don't think there is any need to add any fuel on it, and just focus on playing football as we always do and respecting our opponents.
"What is important is we want to see a football game where both teams play good football," Wenger added. "It is Arsenal against Stoke. Every game is different and it is a new start. We do not have any preconceived ideas before the game happens on any individual. We want to win the game, focus on it and respect our opponent as we always do."
Wenger's counterpart at Stoke, Tony Pulis, is convinced that Shawcross has the character to come through what will be a trying occasion. "People have to take flak at times, and if Ryan does, then so be it," Pulis said. "It's part of the world we live in. We all take stick, and we all have to be broad-shouldered to do that in this game. If you're not then you shouldn't be in it.
"We'll see what happens, but I don't give a damn what people think of Ryan outside this club. He's a great lad, an honest lad, a competitive defender who has done fantastically well for us.
Pulis added: "I've seen the challenge over and over again, and I'm convinced, as are 99.9 per cent of people I've spoken to who have seen it, that it was an honest challenge. There was no malice in that tackle whatsoever."
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