By William Boone
In watching the Arsenal game home to West Ham on Wednesday, I was struck by something.
Not by the fact that we won, nor that played attractive, flowing football for most of the match, or that we scored five very nice goals (Poldi’s was my favorite) and that Fat Sam looked miserable (I very much enjoyed all of it, the last one especially). What struck me most was that Mark Nobel was still on the field in the 10th minute. He should have been off the pitch, period.
In the 7th minute he attempted to separate Jack Wilshire from his left foot permanently. It was an obvious red card if the ref saw it. If being the operative word. Apparently he didn’t or thought it was somehow fair play and thus didn’t even see fit to award a foul, even though poor Jack was writhing around in obvious pain. I’ve taken plenty of knocks in my 20-plus years of playing the game, and will tell you sometimes you can get up from tackles like that, and sometimes you can’t, as my right ACL will attest. Thankfully he was able to shake it off and continue, but I’m sure I’m not the only Gooner who is generally irate at the lack of protection afforded to Arsenal by the ref’s or the higher ups in the game. Maybe our guys are faster and other teams (especially the cloggers) can’t keep up so they boot us because they’re late. Maybe they think because of the aesthetic with which we play, they can kick us out of our game. Regardless, at least five very clear instances of this issue spring to mind.
1) 2006 – The tackle on the enigma that is Abou Diaby at Sunderland that has pretty shambolixed his career. That was seven years ago and he still can’t get fit.
2) 2008 -The absolute destruction of Eduardo at Birmingham City that basically ended his Arsenal career. The offender was sent off, but so was Eduardo’s leg which was hanging by ligaments.
3) 2010 – The tackle on Aaron Ramsey by Ryan Shawcross at Stoke that put him out for a year and he’s only now coming back into form three years after the incident (Shawcross did get a red and cried off the field, how contrite).
4) Last year – Bacary Sanga’s first broken leg at White Heart Lane. He got undercut on an aerial challenge which looked slightly malicious in my opinion. It wasn’t even a foul in the eyes of the ref.
5) Last Weekend – The stamp on Francis Coquelin by Ramires that went completely unpunished and led directly to Chelsea’s first goal, which isn’t as bad as the first three, but relevant as it is similar in nature to the “non-foul” on Jack. And it’s sort of fresh in my mind, even though it was 5:30 in the morning when I was watching it so I was probably angrier than I should have been…
I can’t think of another team who has lost more players to serious long-term injuries than Arsenal. Maybe that’s because I’m not paying enough attention to other teams, but that’s not the point. Two things that bother me are this: The more that these type events are not punished the more they are going to happen. If you think the guy is going to beat you and you want to lunge in on him, you should be prepared for severe consequences. If you have to think about it you are less likely to do it, in my mind at least. To that end there needs to be video reviews of games and retroactive punishment options in place.
Now I’m not saying that we don’t put in a rash challenge or tackle every now and then—pretty much any time Frimmy’s on the field there’s a chance of that—but the players need to be protected (sometimes from each other, sometimes from the refs) and the only way to do that is with review and retroactive punishment so that a line is drawn and expectations are met. End of rant.