Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Purely!) coincidental contact…

I’d like to begin this post by informing you that there’s been a horrible mistake in the routing of condolence messages on Arsenal.com. Apparently the messages of comfort and encouragement were, inexplicably, directed away from the unfortunate, traumatized intended recipient and INSTEAD sent to a young Welsh lad by the name of Aaron Ramsey. We at Arsenal Review USA would therefore like to offer our whole-hearted apology to the real victim and rightful addressee, Ryan Shawcross.

Before you find me and burn my house down while I’m cowered inside, let me quickly inform you that this is sarcasm. Or is it? Because based on the number of comforting words of support spewed out by the English media (behold: exhibit A, B, C, D), I would not be the least bit surprised to see a “Save Ryan Shawcross’ Feelings” website spring up overnight, replete with animated .gif pictures of “poow wittle Wyan” leaking some of his heavily manufactured tears with Rory Delap still robotically toweling off a ball in the upper right-hand corner. As someone who is not putting his faith in a serial leg-breaker to help further his country in this summer’s World Cup, I can say without hesitation that I find this bias disgusting.

So then, what should be the consensus on Ryan Shawcross? I personally agree that Shawcross is not a malicious individual: rather, he is an especially uncoordinated and shockingly inaccurate tackler of the ball, which conversely makes him an effective and consistent vehicle of injury to opposing players. But for me what makes this Stoke version of Sheva all the more dangerous is the philosophy that drives him.

What was once merely a seldom spoken opinion that Arsenal could be unhinged by “physical play” has now turned into the rallying cry of (can I say ordinary?) teams like Stoke. When a player regurgitates the phrase that his team will “rough [Arsenal] up” as Ricardo Fuller did in the build up to the Stoke-Arsenal FA Cup clash, it’s indicative of more than just one player's alternate game plan. It means that per the “coaching” of their manager, Stoke’s Plan A, B, C, and D is making Arsenal feel their presence in any way possible.

So when this ethos is passed down to a player who at the tender age of 22 has committed more fouls and broken more bones than most players twice his age, the result is at the least a substantial increase in the team's number of missed tackles, especially when you consider that his 9 outfield teammates don’t exactly tackle with surgical precision either. This means that while Arsenal have committed 20 fouls against Stoke in 3 meetings this season, the Potters have well and truly hit their lofty goal of “roughing up” the better team by committing 46 fouls against the Gunners in the same number of games. So is it coincidental that 1 foul out of 46 snapped Aaron Ramsey’s leg? Maybe. But when a team is indoctrinated to double the fouls of their opposition in an effort to simply stem their productivity, it certainly isn't surprising.

Ryan Shawcross is still a really, really thoughtful boy, I’m sure. But the truth is he is shockingly inept at tackling, and under the tutelage of the Pulis/Allardyce/Hughes School of Brute Force he and many other young, “developing” Englishmen are not going to get any better. Until the English FA decide to stop embracing these distinctively Neanderthal-like tactics as their country’s “traditional style of play,” players like Shawcross will unfortunately continue to quite literally leave their mark on much more promising players like Aaron Ramsey.

Arsenal then, with some of their legs still intact, emerge from the cesspool of bad tackles with 3 points in the bag and 3 points off the top spot. I trust we've learned from our early defensive miscues at Stoke and come out with the fighting spirit we exhibited in the final 15 minutes on Saturday as we face Burnley at home this weekend. Eat well, cheer hard and check back here after the win (we'll take nothing else!) this Saturday.

Come on, Arsenal!