In the world of soccer, teams are like George Orwell’s Animal Farm. They’re all created equal, but some are more equal than others. At least in the eyes of football supporters. Many of these fans, whether they try to or not, find themselves believing in their team, their players and their manager so much so that it’s often difficult to remain objective. They drink their club’s Kool Aid.
This leads me to Arsenal supporters. I’m not a supporter of any Premier League. I have a lot of admiration for Arsenal, who play the prettiest football in the Premier League bar none and run a club better than any team in the league. But I’m getting sick and tired of a small faction of Arsenal supporters who seem to be on a mission to “crucify” Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke City defender who was involved in the tackle that broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg in a match between the two clubs on February 27, 2010.
There’s no point trying to change Arsenal supporters’ minds who still believe the tackle by Shawcross was deliberate. I don’t believe it was, and I’ve watched the video replay of the incident tens of times. Then, you have Arsenal supporters who say that Shawcross has a history of horrible tackles including ones against Francis Jeffers and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Yes, the tackle against Aaron Ramsey was sickening. But I still don’t believe that Shawcross deliberately injured Ramsey. It was a 50-50 ball and the injury to Ramsey was very unfortunate.
With Shawcross, the fact is that he’s only received one red card in his history of playing professional football. That is not a record of a malicious defender who commits deliberate fouls. While Arsenal have been renowned for playing pretty football, they also have a disciplinary history. Between 1996 and 2008, they collected 73 red cards and were one of the dirtiest teams in the country with players such as Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Nigel Winterburn and Tony Adams in the side. That’s not the same Arsenal team of today, by any means, but they were managed by the same manager, Arsene Wenger.
I’m no Stoke City supporter, but I have a lot of respect for the Potters as I do for Arsenal. They’ve been stereotyped as the team that only has a Rory Delap long throw as it’s offensive weapon, which is a ridiculous statement to make. The club seems to be trying to have different attacking options with Tuncay Sanli. Plus they recently picked up Eidur Gudjohnsen as well as midfielders Marc Wilson, Salif Diao and Jermaine Pennant. They’re trying to change their style and they’re moving forward in a positive direction.
As a Welshman, I was deeply saddened by Ramsey’s injury as it meant that he would miss important games for Wales, as well as Arsenal. Thankfully the player should return for Arsenal and Wales in November. And I, as well as many other football supporters, will be glad to see him back on the pitch.
We football supporters need to realize that football is a contact sport. Yes, there are players out there who sometimes commit deliberate fouls. But there is no football club out there that is angelic and who never fouls. All club teams foul. Some more than others. But no club is holier than thou, even Arsenal. So, it may be surprising for some to read Wenger saying “I encourage my players to play and be committed,” he said. “I have a go at them when they don’t put their foot in sometimes.”
Arsene Wenger’s recent decision to stir up the Shawcross controversy again is unfortunate. By singling out Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth as using “rugby” tactics on Tottenham goalkeeper Gomes, Wenger opened a sore wound. Shawcross retaliated in the press by saying that Wenger has a personal vendetta against him. That may or may not be true, but the fact is that more than six months after the Shawcross-Ramsey tackle, the story hasn’t gone away and has not been forgotten.