Monday, May 20, 2024

Maybe Arsenal are ‘soft’ but it doesn’t excuse dangerous play

Morning all, a very quick one and a very early one because I have some travelling to do today.

As expected it’s been a quiet week, there’s not much the club can say about very much all things considered, and there’s probably very little anyone wants to hear. They have given an update regarding Hector Bellerin, left concussed by the forearm of Marcos Alonso, and we told you yesterday he’s going through the stages of the GRTP protocol (Graduated Return To Play).

Now, I don’t want to spark any more debate about whether or not it’s a foul or not. I believe it was, some of you out there don’t agree, but I do wonder if the way people view Arsenal when things like this happen to us is different from other clubs.

I realise I’m viewing this through my own red and white prism, but it seems to be there’s a willingness to overlook blatant foul/dangerous play, because of the reputation Arsenal have for being a bit soft. I’m sure you remember the Cesc Fabregas interview after Aaron Ramsey had his leg snapped in two by Ryan Shawcross, and the fresh faced Spaniard made the point that this was the third such horrific injury in his time at the club:

He didn’t specifically say that teams were out to get us, but suggested that referees don’t offer Arsenal as much protection as they should. This was, of course, the very height of the Allardyce/Pulis inspired, ‘Arsenal don’t like up ’em’ era. And there’s no denying that, but then very few teams like it up ’em, in all fairness.

There’s also no question that the physically imposing Arsenal teams of the past might not have been dealt the same treatment, but that doesn’t make it right. And it’s got ripples into today. Apparently, Alan McInally said on TalkSPORT that Hector Bellerin went off because he knew Arsenal would lose and didn’t fancy it.

Not because he was unconscious, twitching on the floor, but because he, basically, was a weakling. And whether you think it was a foul or not, that kind of narrative has to be called out for what it is: a load of archaic, misinformed, backwards shite.

It also got me thinking about other incidents in recent times, where dangerous play towards an Arsenal player was more or less ignored. There were three that sprung to mind, and I’m sure there have been many more but it’s really early and you can chip in in the arses and remind us, I’m sure.

1 – Mikel Arteta flattened by Jordan Henderson during a game at Anfield (watch here – 5MB GIF). As I said at the time, I don’t think he meant to catch him as hard as he did, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he meant to ‘let him know he was there’.

The result was Arteta turning into the full force of Henderson’s shoulder, leaving him in a heap on the floor, then stretchered off concussed with an oxygen mask on. It was ok though, because Henderson was a ‘good sport’ for patting the banjaxed Arteta as he was carried off.

There was no discussion about the unintended consequences of the challenge. Arteta was just a fey Arsenal Spaniard, after all; Henderson a good honest English lad.

2 – Mathieu Debuchy v Stoke. It’s fair to say that Debuchy’s career with us has not gone the way he or anyone else would have liked, but he’s also had some bad luck and having just come back from injury, he was put out of action by Marko Arnautovic during a home game against Stoke.

The Lidl Ibrahimovic gave him a shove while his feet were completely off the ground, sending him into the advertising hoardings with no control, and causing him to dislocate his shoulder. Debuchy ended up ‘destroyed and embarrassed’, according to Arsene Wenger.

Destroyed at another injury, embarrassed that he was going to miss another lengthy spell with his new club. Arnautovic got a yellow card for his sly push, and there was almost nothing said (apart from those of us with a vested interest in Arsenal) about how dangerous it is to push a player in the back when his feet are off the ground. Which, in part, might have led us to …

3 – Alexis Sanchez v Norwich. A very similar foul to the one suffered by Debuchy, with his feet off the ground he’s pushed into a camera position, a concrete pit (watch it here). Thankfully he didn’t suffer any significant injury at the time, but during that game went off with a hamstring strain that kept him out for months.

Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:

First of all, it’s dangerous to have a camera there. Secondly, he didn’t need to push him like he did. He could have killed him. I think the camera position was absolutely dangerous.

When Alexis was pushed it did not shock anybody. Nobody suggested that he could displace his back or his hamstring. The injury can come from that as well.

This wasn’t a Robin van Persie having a ball booted at his head ‘killed him’ either. It doesn’t take much to do serious damage if you smash your head off a concrete wall or land head first down that camera pit. And yet as with the Arnautovic thing there was little discussion about how dangerous and cowardly that push was, because it once again plays into the idea that Arsenal are soft.

Maybe we are, maybe we are a bit soft, and I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t like to see us toughen up at times. But this conflation between dangerous foul play which can, and has, caused serious injury to our players, and being soft is as tiresome as it is worrying.

Because the longer these footballing halfwits, like Danny Mills, Jamie Redknapp, Alan McInally and all the rest dismiss players being hurt and injured down to them not being strong or brave enough – when they have clearly been fouled or practically assaulted at times – the more it gives licence to those willing to skirt the boundaries of what’s acceptable to do them damage.

As I said above, maybe it’s something that isn’t just relevant to Arsenal. I don’t watch other clubs with the same intensity, so maybe they too have had their issues, but it shouldn’t happen to us or anyone else for that matter. English football has a peculiar outlook on the physical side of the game at times, and it’s something that should really be addressed more often by those who cover the game.

Not just ‘partisan bloggers’ or writers, but the wider media for the benefit all every player on every team. And if the men paid handsomely for their opinions on the game continue to perpetuate this kind of abject nonsense, maybe those who pay them might consider hiring people who aren’t morons stuck so badly in the past they think these kind of things are just part of the rough and tumble of the game in England.

Right, I gotta get going. Press conference team news and the rest over on Arseblog News this morning. Tim is here later with his column, and I’m back tomorrow with a location based Arsecast.

Until then.

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