The Day When Arsene Wenger's Boys Became Men

In the Jewish faith, the act of becoming a man at thirteen is a huge step. Standing before your family, friends, and the community as a whole, you are recognized as a full member of the community. For me as a Jew, that is the moment that I became a man. For most of you, you can probably remember the moment that you became a man. Whether it was your first car, your first apartment or house, or your first kiss, that moment sticks out clear as day. For those of us who consider ourselves to be Gooners, we have found that moment.

As Arsenal battled the first hour against Stoke on Saturday evening UK time, our steady dominance was overshadowed by a horrible incident happening to one of our most promising young players. While Ryan Shawcross went sliding at Aaron Ramsey, the look on Thomas Vermaelen’s face said it all. We have seen this before. Arsenal gaining in confidence, the league title in sight, overwhelmed by a horrifying injury. But when it appeared that the season was about to fade away, another disappointing game in a teasing, disappointing season, I saw something that I hadn’t seen in years out of the Arsenal.

Gael Clichy, having his best game in months, was trying to rally his teammates. Sol Campbell, the old legend, was slapping his teammates on the back, yelling “let’s go!” at them. And then there was Cesc. Even though the game restarted slowly after the injury, it was clear that Arsenal were not going to let Stoke get the best of them. They were going to attack, and solve the hex that was Stoke. Responsible for two crucial goals and his signal to Tony Pulis were clear as day, it was clear who was in charge today. Cesc Fabregas, for whatever his faults at times, is consistently the best player for Arsenal. Should we win the league, he should be the player of the year. Now, while I am done marveling in how this team grew up today, you probably want me to comment on the biggest story of the day: the injury to Aaron Ramsey.

Here is my question about this injury. How is it that the FA allows these things to continue? The way the FA currently operates, there is no downside to attempting to injure players. In the long run, the loss of a Ryan Shawcross or Martin Taylor for three games will not be much as compared to the complete decimation of someone’s career. There is a simple way to stop these tackles from occurring.

  • First, when one of these injuries occur, the player who commits the injury should be suspended for as long as the injured player is out. Not just from the Premier League, but from all competitions.
  • During this time, half of the offending players wages should be donated to charity.
  • The club of the offending player should pay the entire medical bill for the injured player.

Only when you have severe financial sanctions for nasty challenges like this one will clubs like Stoke and Birmingham City think twice about trying to kick us around. As long as the FA allows teams to do this, bright young talents like Ramsey will continue to get injured.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Arsenal grew up tonight. When it would have been easy to fold and let the season end with a whimper, Arsenal have found that they no longer have a team of boys. Tonight in Stoke-on-Trent, as the remaining Arsenal players huddled together on the pitch, it was clear that Arsene Wenger’s boys have finally become men.

38 thoughts on “The Day When Arsene Wenger's Boys Became Men”

  1. Jordan

    Given that Mark Davies of Bolton hasn’t played since William Gallas tackled him, should Gallas be playing?

  2. I am a Man U fan but unlike you, Jordan, I never for a moment thought that Arsenal wouldn’t win this one. They dominated the match and mounted wave after wave of attacks against Stoke. Stoke’s defensive strategy was doomed from the start, but spurred on by the injury to Ramsey, the game became, for me, even more of a foregone conclusion. From the start of the season I have had more faith in your team than you do. It doesn’t make me happy to say that. But Wenger and his squad continue to impress and I think they will come back to oust Porto from the European Championships.

    1. Good point Martin. As much as you never want to see incidents like what happened with Ramsey, it could actually be a turning point for the Gunners. The team huddle at the end of the game shows how the players bond together. And they’ll be able to move on from this and mount a serious challenge against Porto in the Champions League. Plus, more importantly, they’ll be able to finish the Premier League season with much more desire (“let’s win it for Aaron”) and could mount a serious challenge especially if Chelsea plays like they did again versus Manchester City.

      The Gaffer

  3. I’ll add to Martin’s comments Jordan that I believed Arsenal capable of challenging for the title this season, so much so that when I saw that I could get a handicap bet on Arsenal with an 8 point head start at 18-1 I snapped it up. I believe that they stand an excellent chance of finishing in the top two and looking at their next five matches it’s theirs to throw away.

  4. Sometimes you need to realize that injuries will sometimes happen in sports. The tackle was not malicious at all. Shawcross cannot be blamed. It was just an unfortunate case of wrong place wrong time. Ramsey was going in for a tackle more than Shawcross.

    1. I agree with you Justin re. the tackle – it was a tackle.

      The coming of age aspect of the article seems somewhat patronising to Arsenal – they’ve been great for most of the season. And they beat Stoke – not exactly a surprise, especially against 10 men.

      1. I agree with you Warren. I expected Arsenal to beat Stoke, they should do given their superior skill and the fact that we played 120 minutes on Wednesday with pretty much the same team we put out last night.

        Beating Stoke doesn’t make Arsenal’s current crop of players men. Winning the title when many pundits and their own fans believe they haven’t a chance will make them men. As I posted earlier I have always believed that Arsenal stood a chance of challenging for the title this season given the dramatic slump in quality of the top sides and the added experience that Arsenal’s youngsters now have.

        To maintain this I believe that they need to go out this summer and purchase a top quality midfielder who can be their new Viera, and probably another central defender to complement their brilliant Belgian. If they get the Striker from Bordeaux, Chamakh, and he settles, I think my money will be going on them again next season.

  5. That’s all fine and good, Justin. But when you consider that three once in a lifetime tackles have occurred to the same team in 4 years, it is not just a coincidence. Teams go in and try to get “stuck in” against Arsenal. It is the job of the FA to step in and protect their talent. A long term ban, with loss of wages for tackles that occur like this, would get players to think when they are going to make stupid challenges like Shawcross and Taylor.

    1. Teams go in and try to get “stuck in” against any team which is superior to them talent wise. That doesn’t mean that they play dirty. And Shawcross’ challenge wasn’t a stupid (or dirty) one, it was accidental. Only was a red IMO because of the injury. Miles worse was Sol Cvntbell, who immediately runs to the referee and screams in his face to try to get Shawcross sent off while everyone else on the pitch is attending to Ramsey.

  6. A few years ago, Chelsea was in the same situation when Petr Cech suffered his head injury at Reading, and then JT gets his head kicked in by Diaby. To say that Arsenal are getting targeted for these things is a bit niave. Should a player be punished for an unfortunate, but legal, tackle? This is a physical sport. Injuries happen, that’s the nature of sport. The English game is particularly physical. If Arsenal can’t handle the physical nature of the game, maybe they should change their game…

    1. Amen, UTC
      The English game has been fast and physical since the beginning of time. Those who started watching in the mid 90’s may not remember that the top PL teams did NOT represent what the English game had been–United and Chelsea are more of a hybrid of the English speed/physicality and Continental skills. Playing long balls and going in fast and hard are the staple of English football.
      Arsenal can try to “beautify” the football culture by wining the PL. If they can’t they can always shut down shop. Don’t blame the English game if the pretty football they play doesn’t bring them trophies.

  7. Hi Jordan

    There are pictures on News of the World website showing that Ramsey’s leg was broken before he went in to tackle Shawcross. Does this change any points you have made in your article? Both players were commited. A slow motion replay of Ramsey’s face before he broke his leg personified that of the comments aimed at Shawcross. He was looking quite aggressive, but let’s not rub salt in the wounds. Ramsey’s injury is horrible and I hope it is a clean break and heals quicker than usual. Shawcross, however has been tarnished by a backlash of media and hype when all that happened was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  8. The game is physical. Nobody likes to see what happened to Ramsey, but what does suspending Shawcross for a year prove? He went in hard and late but it wasn’t malicious in most people’s eyes. I don’t see the sense in stunting the growth of two young talents (Ramsey by injury, Shawcross by extended suspension) becasue of one lightening quick incident on a field. As I type this I’m watching Pascal Chimbonda kick out at Javier Mascherano in a deliberate manner. It was a weak connection and no injury happened and no card was issued, but to me it was actually more malicious than what Shawcross did. He just miscalculated and Ramsey comes off as incredibly unfortuante.

    Our thoughts and prayers around the world are with Ramsey as we hope he can recover fully as quickly as possible so that he can resume his promising career. But some ridiculous rule suspending the offender for as long as the injured is out would be a travesty. Every player realizes that injury is possible and still choose to play the game.

    1. That would be all well and good if you don’t consider that Shawcross also broke Jeffer’s ankle and laid a tackle last year on Adebayor that put him out for a month. Whether it’s malicious or not doesn’t matter. The fact is the kid has a history of making bad challenges that seriously injure other players, no matter how much Pulis or the media want to portray him as a saint that loves his mum. Last year’s trip to Stoke saw Adebayor, Gallas, and Walcott all suffer injuries from tackles that put them out for weeks. Playing physical is one thing… this is over-the-top, though. Arsenal matched Stoke’s physicality throughout the match… once they did that and didn’t concede throw-ins, Stoke’s entire gameplan was out the window. We don’t have a problem with a legitimately physical match, it’s when stuff like this happens routinely that discontent will be perfectly understandable and acceptable.

  9. wanted to give this article 0 stars but couldn’t. suspension as long as the injury??? are you kidding me? you don’t make a bad tackle and automatically break a guys leg in half–it takes a lot of bad luck for this to happen. Sometimes injuries come from rather innocuous challenges too. I feel as bad as anybody about what happened to Ramsey but Shawcross doesn’t deserve anything worse than the red card he got on the pitch.

    1. Totally bad luck. He’s a nice lad. Never done something like this before.

      Fact is, when you play dangerously and recklessly, these things happen.

      Long suspensions and fines are the only way to get this out of the game.

      Sadly, will it take Wayne Rooney getting his leg broken right off to get the FA to do something? I hope not, but would you really rule it out?

      1. “Fact is, when you play dangerously and recklessly, these things happen.”

        Are you saying Shawcross was playing “dangerously and recklessly”? That is what confuses me about this incident, as others are saying this (perhaps you are not). Shawcross had touched the ball last and was going for it when Ramsey raced in to kick it away a split second before Shawcross’s leg came down Shawcross wasn’t leaving his feet, wasn’t coming in two-footed, he looked like he was trying to clear a ball he had touched last.

        1. He absolutely was playing dangerously and recklessly. The challenge was totally unnecessary, as was the one against Adebayor.

          Look, you can think my idea for punishment is extreme, fine. But if you watched the game and noticed that Alex Song is getting a 2 game ban for a nothing shove of Rory Delap, while Shawcross is getting a 3 game ban for a reckless and unnecessary challenge that might have ended the career of one of the UK’s brightest young talents, I’m sorry, I can’t help but find a lot of injustice in that. Fact is, 3 arsenal players have had horrible reckless challenges happen to them within the course of 4 years. This is not coincidence. People like Sam Allardyce etc. who for years have said you have had to kick at arsenal to beat them.

          I will lay this on the line for you as well: People watch the Premier League to see stars and talent. The Billion-dollar TV contracts aren’t given out to watch Stoke City mudder around the pitch and kick up at Arsenal. They are there to watch talented guys like Rooney, Torres, Cesc, Gerrard, etc. Whether you agree or not with what Shawcross did, the fact is that the Premier League, for the sake of its business, must protect their players. Fining and suspending players who make such challenges is the only way to do it. It would certainly eliminate these kinds of activities from the game.

  10. Not sure what a 13-year old boy has to do with Arsenal players…

    The harsh red card for Shawcross made Arsenal clear favorites to get all three pts. I still do not think they will mount a challenge for the title as they are their own worst enemy.

  11. I think every case has to be judged on its own merits. Shawcross deserves the 3 games he’ll get for the straight red. Case closed. One of the unfortunate aspects of Wenger’s approach to football is that his players are not only more skillful with the ball at their feet, but noticably faster. At the top of the table where there is similar talent, you don’t necessarily see these things happening. At the bottom half more. When Ramsey gets to the ball that much quicker than Shawcross, its going to look bad when a challenge for the ball goes awry. This routinely happens when Arse play these clubs in the bottom half. I think its a bit unfair for Wenger and Arse fans to simply default to the ” they’re only out to kick us” card when something like this occurs. It is the gulf in talent not thuggery that caused this and the Eduardo horror injuries. As far as the uniform punishment of as long as the injured player is out? Ridiculous. Only and only if intent can be proven and that is very, very subjective.

  12. Yeah I agree Garcia…it’s absolutely asinine for people to say that Shawcross deserves to be out for as long as Ramsey is out, Shawcross clearly was not trying to hurt Ramsey, he was going for the ball as was Ramsey. I am sick of hearing about how the FA should make these players pay, last time I checked its a risk you take whenever you play sports, no one says the player who shoots a puck into someone’s face and severely injures their eyes should be out for as long as the player with the eye injury, or the batter who hits the ball straight back at the pitchers head that he should have swung a fraction of a second earlier so as to not hit the pitcher. It’s part of the game, it’s very unfortunate, but it’s part of the game. The only reason Shawcross got the red is because of the injury, otherwise it’s easily no more than a yellow. It sucks that this happened, but sheesh, if you’re not willing to take the risk of possibly suffering these “freak” accidents, don’t play the game!

    1. Hmm… So two previous incidents with Shawcross resulting in broken leg and season ending injury were freak accidents too? I would not be surprised if some players decided not to play the same game that Shawcross plays. At least, not in the same league. Well that may not work as he just got selected to English team…

    2. I think you should re-check the laws of the game.

      An extract from Law 12

      A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.
      A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.
      Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

      That’s at least 3 times now Shawcross has caused serious injury but not following that simple Law. I’d say the chances are he probably has never read it as I’m equally sure neither have you. The risk of an accident is there in any sport but no player should accept someone challenging with such force as to break a leg – that is not an accident as challenges of such force are not part of the game. It’s because the skilled players are kicked out of the sport before they get to 14 or 15 that England has such problems producing creative talent and unfortunatley it’s the attitude of people such as yourself and teams such as Stoke that will ensure that situation continues.

      BTW, if any rugby player was continually guilty of serious foul play, as Shawcross clearly is, he’d be banned for at least 6 months.

  13. I must say that I truly believe we lost the Premier League two years ago when Eduardo was injured. Not because we wouldn’t be able to win the league without the player, but because 25 mostly young guys saw their careers flash before their eyes. They realized, probably for the first time, that you could get seriously, seriously hurt playing the game. I mean, I remember that they were talking about how if Eduardo hadn’t been given oxygen on the way to the hospital, he might have lost his foot. Think about what it must be like for a 19 year old kid to see something like that when they’ve got the world pretty much by the balls otherwise. It has to do some psychological damage.

    I think that the whole club learned from that experience two years ago, and will rally together. Even if they don’t win the league this year, I think they will be in it until the last few weeks of the season.

  14. It is like adults eating their young.
    Why the FA allows this slaughter is beyond me. The refs traditionally start with a warning then move to a yellow, and, with an injury, finally a red. Why not start on a bad hit with a red and that will send a message. I watch enough La Liga to see that this type sloppy tackling does not happen there with the frequency and viciousness. It is this edge to the English that elevates this bashing as a sign of manliness. You debilitate players, you invite retaliation and the bad tackles feast on themselves escalating the violence. As silly as the NFL is in America, the owners decided long ago to protect the quarterbacks from cheap shots and now the rules are changed to do just that: protect and keep safe the QBs.

  15. YouArsenal whingers make me sick. The whole world can see it was an accident, yet you try to vilify opponebts for bad challenges yet say nothing when an arse player carries it out… Wankers

  16. funny that this dude has a history of injuring tackles against other players but everyone says “he’s not that type of player”

    right – and John Terry didn’t mean to cheat on his wife with his teammate’s girl.

    his history of recklessness, Stoke’s history of employing Allardycism, and the oft repeated media mantra of “kicking Arsenal is the only way to beat them” are not coincidences in this incident. And it’s bound to happen again because the FA don’t care and neither does anyone else.

  17. how can you start off an article talking about jewish faith and being jewish then claim to be an arsenal fan?

  18. Compare this to Ballack’s tackle towards the end of the Chelsea-City game. That was clearly malicious and he didn’t care if he got a red – he was frustrated and put a dirty tackle in to vent.

    Shawcross’s tackle on Ramsey was also different than the one on Adebeyor. The Adebeyor tackle was sending a message, the Ramsey tackle was to win the ball. Intent makes a difference.

    Soccer is a contact sport, as American Football is. But there are injuries in football from dirty plays, and one from clean plays, and you should punish the two differently. The way they both went it, it could just as easily have been Shawcross who got hurt. That Eduardo had a similar injury owes more to bad luck than any intent against Arsenal – I once flipped 10 tails in a row to show how sometimes even a bad pick comes up, but it ended up showing a bad pick can either hide for a while or come up a lot more than you think.

    1. “The Adebeyor tackle was sending a message, the Ramsey tackle was to win the ball.”

      Yes Adebayor tackle has sent a clear message. You can get away with it. You can go for the ball no matter what the cost is. And Shawcross answered that message against Ramsey…

      Bottom line: Shawcross got away with two previous injury incidents. He will pay relatively small price for this one. This kind of “business as usual” attitude creates monsters. I’m wondering how many broken legs we yet to see with one of the “not that kind of guys” involved.

  19. Malice or not, the fact remains that Shawcross is a sloppy player. I’m sure he never meant to hurt anyone in his career. He just doesn’t have the skill level to play in the Premier League. If the Premier League wants to be known as not only the most entertaining league, but also the most talented, the FA needs to act accordingly. No one should ever be banned for as long as the injured, but at least lose their wages for all the games in which they are banned. The jingoism in the media is ridiculous. Pundits give more story to praise Shawcross than to give sympathy to Ramsey. Remember when Beckham had his metatarsal broken? The English media followed the poor guy to his Spanish home and called him a dirty cheat. The only way anything will change is when an English player brakes Rooney’s leg.

  20. You must be joking if you thought that Shawcross went into that tackle with the intent of injuring Aaron Ramsey.

    I am a Liverpool fan, so with absolutely no bias towards either team, I can tell you that in my opinion, this was merely an extremely unfortunate ending to what I can only describe as two fantastic talents in British football today both going into a 50/50 challenge wholeheartedly.

    I do not even see why Shawcross was sent off. Both players went into the tackle with one thought in their mind – ‘I am going to get to that ball first!’, and if Shawcross is given a red, then in my opinion so should Ramsey.

    I do agree with your view on suspensions however. I beleive that there should be an FA comittee to deal with such incidents, and whenever they decree that a player has gone into a challenge with the single intention of injuring the opposition, there should be a sizeable fine and global ban until the victim is fully fit and playing again.

  21. Challenges like Shawcross on Adebayor anywhere else other than on the pitch would be classed as assault and battery the punishment for that maximum is a red which is like the sentence for burglary being detention.

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