I saw the highlights of the Stoke vs. Arsenal match on Saturday night on the ever faithful Match of the Day. I was aware of the outstanding incident of the match, namely the leg break of Aaron Ramsey. I’d followed the comments of Arsenal fans on Twitter. I had Arsenal down as losing the match because it is always hard to win at the Britannia and Arsenal of all teams don’t like playing teams like Stoke.
I was disturbed by the way the incident was spun by two sections. Some of the Arsenal fans were fairly hysterical about the event as though what had happened was the crime of the century playing into the hands of a larger conspiracy against a team that enjoys playing beautiful football. Sure, three broken legs in five years at Arsenal is more than a coincidence and there is a thought that goes around about the way to play Arsenal is to get in their faces. This is patently pointless when you consider Arsenal’s success in league positions over the last ten years.
The even more disturbing reaction which was reiterated by even the faithful MOTD team was defending Shawcross as person as though he was being hung, drawn and quartered for the challenge. The issue was never about his character, however nice a guy he is. The issue was about the challenge which on any given day, in any given game would be a deserved red card as it is an unacceptable challenge. Whether it’s seen in games or not, that challenge is unacceptable, which I understand is the point of Wenger’s fury, rather than an attack on the character of Shawcross. On the same subject being the instigator of such a horror to see in the broken leg is understandably something that can traumatise a player so there’s nothing to be made of Sir Alex Ferguson’s call to a player that used to be on his books.
What the incident highlights though is that as ever certain agendas are easy to dominate media coverage of events at the cost of the real issues. Like in winning at the Britannia even if it was ‘for Aaron’, Arsenal put themselves in a very good position for a ’tilt at the title’ especially with Chelsea’s shock result. When that is taken into account along with the team spirit such an even can bring in a team (seen in the huddle) and with the run-in they have stranger things have happened than the Gunners winning the Premier League. Not that they will of course, but it’s good for the sense of competition! (So why am I so uncertain …) Enjoy.