Ramsey injury blights win


Stoke City 1 Arsenal 3:THE DOUBLE leg-break suffered by Aaron Ramsey cast a pall over this match and led Arsene Wenger to sound the alarm over what the Arsenal manager sees as attempts to sabotage his precocious side.

The Frenchman believes his team should be celebrated for continuing to challenge for the title despite their youth and the abuse he believes they endure.

Ramsey, 19, underwent surgery yesterday morning following the injury sustained in a challenge with Ryan Shawcross. Two members of the Arsenal squad have previously suffered similarly gruesome injuries – Abou Diaby in 2006 and Eduardo in 2008 – and Wenger hinted at a tacit or subconscious conspiracy.

“I do not believe in coincidences,” he said darkly. Only one top-flight team, Hull City, have suffered more fouls this season than Arsenal.

“[Against Stoke] we had in midfield [Samir] Nasri, [Cesc] Fabregas, Ramsey, [Alex] Song and [Emmanuel] Eboue – that’s an average age of 22, and up front was [Nicklas] Bendtner, who is also 22. What these guys do and how they handle the game, at that age, is absolutely remarkable. But of course, if you destroy them, they might not be football players.

“What is most terrible for me is Ramsey starts his career with a double operation and you never know what kind of consequences this will have, both on the physical side of the game and the psychological side. It’s just scandalous.”

Wenger stressed he is not opposed to physical confrontation but admitted he occasionally feels uneasy about encouraging his players to engage in it.

“I have a go at them when they don’t put their foot in, when they are not committed sometimes, but sometimes I feel nearly guilty to do that because when Aaron went for the ball like he did [on Saturday] and he gets done like he did, it is not an easy situation.”

Arsenal’s manager did make it clear he considers Ramsey’s injury to be the result of an individual’s action rather than any policy by Stoke. Shawcross was criticised after the corresponding fixture last season when his heavy challenge resulted in the then Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor sustaining an ankle injury.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis expressed his sympathy for Ramsey but angrily defended his player, adding he was “desperately, desperately worried” about how Shawcross, who before Saturday had never been sent off in his senior career, might deal with any attempt to demonise him.

The 22-year-old was so distressed by his role in the injury that some Stoke staff initially thought he might withdraw from the England squad, to which Fabio Capello called him for the first time on Saturday.

Stoke’s manager has some experience of Wenger’s plight, having watched in horror as Rory Delap suffered a double leg-break in October 2006. Immediately after that incident Pulis absolved the opposing player – Sunderland’s Robbie Elliott – of any malicious intent and he recalled that on Saturday, as if to contrast it to Wenger’s indignant barbs.

“Rory was out for nearly eight months,” said Pulis. “It was a poor challenge but there’s no way in a million years we thought the lad meant to do it. It was just an unfortunate incident so, you know, we got on with it even though it’s not nice to see.”

Delap, himself, claimed that, though he showed a red card, referee Peter Walton agreed with the Stoke players that Shawcross did not intend harm.

“The referee appeared to react to the seriousness of the incident rather than the actual tackle,” said Delap. “I said to him, ‘Did you see it?’ and he said, ‘I don’t think he meant it but I’ve got to send him off’.”

At least Arsenal overcame their anger to emerge with a victory and close to within three points of league leaders Chelsea. After falling behind to Danny Pugh’s early goal they took control and Nicklas Bendtner equalised with a fine header before half-time. They went in front when Fabgreas converted a 90th-minute spot-kick after Pugh was penalised for a handball that did not look deliberate. Thomas Vermaelen added an even later third.

Guardian Service