In the wake of the shocking double ankle fracture suffered by Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey after an overly-aggressive challenge by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross, I’ve read articles placing the blame all over the place. Some have chosen to blame the media, others have chosen to blame the “get stuck in” culture of English soccer. Interestingly though, I haven’t heard anyone place blame on someone who has some of the blame, and even blood, on his hands as well. That person is Arsene Wenger.
Let me start with the blame tossed at the media saying that the press plays up the belief that Arsenal “doesn’t like to get kicked” and that Arsenal “‘Arsenal don’t like it up ’em.”
Let me tell you something as a long time Arsenal supporter. This current Arsenal team doesn’t like to get kicked and doesn’t like it up ’em, one bit. That is simply true. Teams like Stoke, Bolton, Sunderland, and on and on have been successful against Arsenal by playing them physically and seeking to intimidate. There is no denying that.
Here’s where Arsene Wenger comes in. Rather than whining about how the referees don’t protect your players, how about you protect your players, Arsene? This is where Wenger bears more than a small bit of responsibility. Where are the players on this roster who can intimidate reckless hacks like Shawcroft or Martin Taylor into pulling out of challenges or thinking twice about making them in the first place?
The answer is, they are not out there.
Arsenal hasn’t had anyone with the ability to physically or emotionally intimidate anyone since Vieira left in 2005 and Keown left in 2004. They had the ability to intimidate opposition players and make them think twice about “taking liberties” against Arsenal players.
Why are these players not there? Because Arsene Wenger hasn’t signed them. Wenger sits atop his Gallic high horse and says “we will not stoop to play like that.” Well guess what, Arsene? We’ve had five trophy-free seasons and three shocking near-career-ending injuries to our players. So how is that “ethos” working out for us?
If Wenger had bothered to secure a real defensive midfield weapon during the last three seasons rather than subject us to Denilson, Diaby, et al trying to survive there, maybe we wouldn’t face this. Maybe Ramsey’s ankle or Eduardo’s leg would have remained in once piece.
If Wenger wants to protect our players, then he needs protect our players. The constant expulsion of hot air about the culture, or the referees, or the media won’t do it. If Wenger wants to protect his skill players, he needs to get players to protect his skilled players. It’s like the quote from The Untouchables. “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”
While no one wants to see anyone sent to a morgue or hospital over a soccer match, Arsenal and Wenger won’t win a single thing unless they start to make opposition players worry that they could find themselves there.