Prior to Arsenal’s game against Blackburn this season, Arsene Wenger spoke about how he felt some clubs were making the game more like rugby than football, and more specifically targeted Stoke. Speaking about Tottenham’s victory over Stoke a week earlier he was quoted in The Mirror as stating,
“I saw some pictures last Sunday; you cannot say anymore it is football, it is rugby on the goalkeepers not football. The referees cannot go on and accept that. When you see how (Ryan) Shawcross kicked Gomes, how (Robert) Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football anymore.”
Stoke manager Tony Pulis was furious with Wenger’s comments, and the club complained to the FA, but no action was taken against Wenger. Ryan Shawcross also had his view about the Arsenal boss’ quotes, in The Guardian he is quoted as saying,
“He’s (Wenger) obviously got something against me. It’s just weird. He seems to have a problem with Stoke, our manager and certain players.”
Is it the case though that Wenger has a vendetta against Stoke and Shawcross?
For a number of years now Arsene Wenger has complained about the overly physical nature of certain teams and players within the Premier League. Blackburn, Bolton and Stoke amongst others, have often been the subject and it is the case that these sides are committed and tough in the tackle.
Ryan Shawcross firmly wrote himself into Wenger’s bad-books after his X-rated tackle on Aaron Ramsey. There are of course differing opinions on the challenge, with some calling Shawcross a vile, dirty player after the game and others defending the player as a person with good character who would never intend to hurt someone. Shawcross almost certainly didn’t mean to break Ramsey’s leg when he went in to the tackle, but it can’t be denied that it was a very poor one and it is understandable that Wenger was so upset with what had happened, particularly after similar incidents had occurred to Abou Diaby and Eduardo in previous seasons.
Wenger re-opened wounds when he spoke about Stoke’s rugby tactics and pinpointed Shawcross as a culprit, claiming he had kicked Heurelho Gomes. It has emerged that there is no video evidence to suggest Shawcross did in fact kick Gomes, and some have called Wenger a liar for what he said. In my view this is going too far, Stoke certainly employed some strong-arm tactics in Spurs’ six-yard box, and Wenger was probably more mistaken in his view that Shawcross kicked Gomes, rather than actively lying about it, after all it was not too difficult to find out what actually happened.
It is doubtful whether Wenger actually has a vendetta against Ryan Shawcross, the Arsenal boss has never been shy of voicing his opinions and he has crossed swords with many footballers and managers in his time in the Premier League. Wenger’s tactics when he releases such comments as he did about Stoke are generally to help out his own team by giving the referee something to think about when a rough tackle is put in or a keeper is shoved, and at that moment Stoke and Shawcross were a convenient target. Ryan Shawcross is never going to be name that is on Arsene Wenger’s christmas card list, but it would be wrong I think to suggest Wenger has a vendetta against Shawcross.