Last week on EPL Talk some discussion surfaced concerning Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City and his vilification at the hands of Arsenal supporters. Regardless of your personal opinion on Shawcross, through articles and comments, a line was drawn in the sand concerning the disgusting trend of horror tackles on Premier League players, specifically from Arsenal. In recent years, those very supporters have seen two of their own, and now possibly another, suffer horrendous leg breaks.
Just this past weekend another Premier League player, this time Bobby Zamora of Fulham, was stretchered off with a break as Wolves midfielder Karl Henry ‘got stuck in’ in all the wrong ways. This was the same Wolves midfield who booted Newcastle’s Joey Barton around the pitch just a few weeks ago with not even the slightest of repercussions minus a few jabs and jibes from the English media. Of course the question that begs to be asked is what is football doing to stamp out the stamping?
Red cards have been shown this and other weekends, yet the nightmarish tackles continue in ample numbers. How many more Eduardo’s, Aaron Ramsey’s or Bobby Zamora’s will there be before some serious action is taken? And what specifically can be done?
Just Saturday, Arsenal were again the target of a shocking challenge when Bolton’s Paul Robinson went in extremely high and well over the ball on Abou Diaby and likely put the Frenchman out of Arsenal contention for some time. The fact that the ref or linesman allowed this atrocity to go unnoticed and unpunished is almost as shocking as the challenge itself. Not a red, yellow, or even a free kick was awarded for one of the worst challenges this, or any other season.
It’s times and instances like these when the Premier League need to consider retroactive punishment for tackles and challenges that go unnoticed as protection for players’ health and safety - two variables that should be their highest priority. Broken legs destroy careers, a look at a video tape post match doesn’t.
Bolton under Owen Coyle seem to have turned over a new leaf of positive football in recent weeks. Their commitment going forward bares little resemblance to the Bolton of Gary Megson or Sam Allardyce. Yet it remained poignantly obvious that Bolton set out to disrupt Arsenal in all the wrong ways as seen under Kevin Davies (who should have seen red), Gary Cahill (who did see red) and Robinson’s ridiculously high lunge on Diaby.
These horror challenges Premier League fans continue to witness each season again raise the debate of pre match instructions and specific ‘assignments’ certain players undertake against different opponents. The ‘destroyer’ role in football has always been a prevalent position, yet in recent years its relevance due to the injuries and sendings off associated with it begs the question of its purpose.
Let it be known that I understand the physicality of the Premier League is just as much a part of football as boots and the ball. But the singular difference in a game that is so physical is that the myriad of accidents directly resulting from the physicality promote serious and career-threatening incidents. The physicality of tackling has always and will always lead to horrific injuries. At some point it just becomes a numbers game for the quick footed, the slight and the creative types while the British mentality of getting stuck in ruins or derails another career.
So what can be done? It’s up to the discretion of the players on the field, yet those ‘rush of blood to the head tackles’ will always exist in a game where so much is on the line. Until the FA and Premier League get involved by dishing out serious punishment retroactively, it’s unfortunately just a matter of time before one of these atrocious tackles happens again.
Note: Video not for the squeamish.