As stricken Welshman Aaron Ramsey lay, leg shattered, the pious cry of Arsène Wenger could almost be heard above the youngster’s screams. But with the dust settling, it is debatable what chasm will heal first: Wenger’s rash assertion that there is an anti-Arsenal conspiracy to injure his players or the midfielder’s fractured bones.
Football, as a contact sport of long-standing, is well used to serious injury but its power to shock is undiminished. Ramsey’s injury was every bit as sickening as those suffered by Eduardo, Alan Smith, David Buust and countless others over the years.
As a highly talented youngster at a leading club Ramsey’s injury, naturally, garners more national interest than most. But it is this very fact that proffers Wenger a platform to pronounce Ryan Shawcross not only guilty but lay the charge of national conspiracy at the Stoke City player’s door.
The degree of legitimacy in the former-Manchester United youngster’s tackle has been widely debated. Opinions range from essentially labeling Shawcross as the demonic figurehead of a brutalist sport bent on destroying Arsenal to the belief that Wenger should personally apologise to the Stoke defender.
Neither is true of course, and although it is hard to defend a tackle whose outcome was an injury of such severity, perspective must be kept.
That Ramsey’s broken leg, on first medical analysis, will heal and enable the player to return within the year is a blessing. And in time perspective normally brings a more rational response as well healing broken bones. Except, sadly, in Wenger whose extrapolation from one tackle the intentions of an entire community is deeply flawed.
The trouble with Wenger is that his didactic assertion, born of a skewed partisan viewpoint, that football is in some way out to get his team is hugely wide of the mark. The Shawcross incident is hardly the first time Wenger has made this charge. It has become an habitual pattern.
Football is and always has been a sport both of technical skill and physicality. There is no monopoly on the former at Arsenal and no conspiracy to direct the later solely at Wenger’s side. The Frenchman’s attempt to assert moral authority over the rest of the football community is deeply insulting.
Wenger also allows a legitimate charge of hypocrisy to be laid at his door. In recent seasons the Arsenal manager has condoned the perpetrators of two of the most shocking tackles seen in English football.
William Gallas’ brutal two footed assault on Bolton Wanderers’ Mark Davies is no less violent simply because the outcome was less destructive than Shawcross’. Similarly, Abou Diaby’s challenge on Bolton’s Gretar Steinsson was miraculous only in that it did not break the Iceland midfielder’s ankle.
Just two examples to illustrate a point but each challenge could have resulted in far more serious injury. Would it then have been justifiable to label Arsenal a side pre-determined to break opponents’ legs? Of course not.
Sadly the debate has degenerated into two camps. Those within the Arsenal family, spurred on by Wenger’s illegitimate paranoia, genuinely believe than not only did Shawcross mean to break Ramsay’s leg but that there is a culture of violence against their team. Few outside of the Emirates buy into that analysis.
The pity in all of it is that Ramsey deserves better support from his manager. He’ll need it.