The tackle from Ryan Shawcross on Aaron Ramsey personifies what is wrong with the discipline in English football. Since when did the beautiful game warrant challenges of that ugly nature? No game should incorporate such challenges, and it seems certain broadcasters, officials, managers, and players alike have forgotten what is acceptable in football.
Shawcross left the Britannia stadium in tears after his horrific tackle left Aaron Ramsey with a double fracture in his right leg. Stoke are known for their no-nonsense style of play and there is a line, but Shawcross crossed it. And he has done it before, even against ex-Arsenal player Francis Jeffers—his tackle broke Jeffers’s ankle.
On Nov. 1, 2008, Arsenal faced Stoke at the Britannia stadium. Three Arsenal players were injured but one tackle stood out due its blatant maliciousness.
The ball is going out of play while Emmanuel Adebayor is shielding the ball. Shawcross aggressively stands on Adebayor’s ankle with the clear intent to cause injury. Shawcross succeeded as Adebayor could not continue and missed three weeks of action. Wenger was rightly furious, yet the main consensus was that Adebayor’s high boot, a challenge earlier on in that match, warranted the tackle from Shawcross.
On Jan. 24, Arsenal faced Stoke in the FA Cup. Arsenal lost 3-1 in a tightly-contested game in which Stoke deserved their win. However, one tackle stood out and warranted a booking, yet the incompetent Martin Atkinson allowed the foul from Shawcross on Cesc Fabregas to go unpunished. There was no attempt to play the ball; Shawcross was late and only attempted to cause injury.
On too many occasions the English media have turned a blind eye to acts of extreme physicality against Arsenal, giving pathetic excuses such as “Arsenal are too fast.” To counter this argument, how about this: “The opposition is too slow”.
Analyse the tackle again. Did Shawcross need to lunge in for the ball? No. Did Shawcross have a realistic chance of cleanly dispossessing Ramsey without causing harm? No. Could Shawcross have pulled out of the challenge? Yes.
So why did Shawcross not pull out of the challenge? Shawcross knew that Ramsey was faster than him. He also knew Ramsey had a very heavy touch on the ball. He also knew the damage he could do if he went in full throttle. The fact that the ball ended up with a Stoke player says everything about the tackle.
Shawcross went into the tackle to “rough up” Ramsey, not to the extent of breaking Ramsey’s leg, as this would disrupt Arsenal’s rhythm. The intent was clear and the tackle was another act of maliciousness from Shawcross. Tackling is an art and Shawcross certainly does not possess this art. Shawcross’s defensive partner Abdoulaye Faye has this ability, demonstrated by his tackle on Emmanuel Ebouè in the first half.
As Shawcross cried he undeservingly received sympathy and support. His malicious tackle left the career of one of the most talented youngsters in the world hanging in the balance. Shawcross’s tears were a realisation of what damage his “acceptable” physical play can do.
This is where Tony Pulis is to blame. The manager is responsible for his players and the way his team plays the game of football—such as how hard his players go in for challenges.
When Pulis spoke to Sky, he was full of guilt. He quivered and pathetically misconstrued what Wenger said. Wenger spoke about the horrendous challenge not how well he knew Shawcross, yet Pulis tries to sway the argument to cover up his player’s sickening tackle. Pulis knows he is partly to blame and has now seen the damage that his side’s “acceptable” physical play has done.
Peter Walton missed two penalties yesterday. Had the first been given, Aaron Ramsey may have finished the game. Walton had no choice but to send off Shawcross, but if Walton had taken action against Ricardo Fuller and his overzealous and late challenges, this may have discouraged the rest of the Stoke team to make such dangerous tackles. Considering Alex Song was booked for far less it shows blatant inconsistency on Walton's part not to book Fuller.
Such is the “culture of the English game”; tackles such as Shawcross’s will only get a three-match ban, whilst Adebayor gets a four-match ban for far less. Ironically, Adebayor was sent off for violent conduct against Shawcross.
The FA must change the length of punishment of malicious tackles. In the space of four years, three Arsenal players have been severely injured due to malicious and needless tackles. The only way that this may change is if a leading English player such as Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard receives a leg breaking tackle; the FA may realise that the thugs who are ruining players and the English game as a whole should be banned longer than a measly three matches.
Shawcross is a malicious player. This tackle was not a one-off, and he has done this before. Too many people in football are myopic and it is shown by the acceptance of Shawcross’s challenge on Aaron Ramsey.
Why shouldn’t Ryan Shawcross be banned for the rest of the season? He has done this before and obviously has not learned his lesson. Yet, he is rewarded with an England call-up. The FA needs to think long and hard about how they deal with malicious players.