Sam Allardyce has molded Blackburn in his own image during his time there, just has he did at Bolton. The match against Liverpool saw Blackburn notch up 25 fouls, equaling this season’s record for fouls. This endemic ‘physical’ style play is the direct cause of Aaron Ramsey’s leg hanging off at an awful angle on Saturday.
At Bolton Allardyce developed players such as Kevin Davies and Diouf, who has now followed him to Blackburn and is still notching up dirty tackles, as shown here against Almunia earlier this season (Thanks 7AM).
This sort of play has deeper implications than just fouling in one game. This approach is the reason why Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross on Saturday. The ‘physical approach’ is what Stoke have invested in since the arrival of Tony Pulis.
Shawcross hasn’t got a great record in the past, it has been pointed out that he broke ex-Gunner Francis Jeffers’ ankle in October 2007 . At that time he was defended in exactly the same way by Dave Kemp, asst. manager at the time:
“There’s no way that was a malicious challenge, Ryan isn’t that sort of player.”
This approach is the reason why Arsenal have suffered horrible breaks in four years. Whether or not there was intent to break bones, the recklessness and clumsiness of the challenges and style of play, as propagated first by Allardyce at Bolton, has lead to the problems that Arsenal now face.
Even worse is that much of the media’s sympathy is with Shawcross, in the hope that he ‘can recover from such a traumatising incident’. I agree that he must feel pretty bad, but what about Ramsey, he has suffered a career threatening injury, and may never be the same again.
The Diouf tackle shown above on Almunia could have been another ankle-breaker, and I feel a lot of sympathy for Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey.
Untold Arsenal has made much of the rotational fouling employed by Allardyce, and their record on Sunday shows what happens to teams who play against them. Liverpool were left bloodied and Benitez was so angered he sarcastically commented that Barcelona are looking to copy Blackburn’s lovely style of football.
The issue runs deeper over retribution and the media reaction. Remember the furore over Gallas’ stamp against Burnley at the Emirates, which may have been accidental. That only bruised the player yet Gallas was pilloried. Meanwhile English players such as Martin Taylor and Ryan Shawcross are let off the hook in part due to national sympathies for ‘the English game’, and the supposedly ‘English’ physical approach.
The inequalities in the English game will always exist, but I hope to see some improvement in the attitude towards these reckless tackles which could potentially kill a young player’s career. You can’t just brush it off by saying that they aren’t the sort of character to do that. It now looks like Ramsey will not be back in training for 9 months, a blow for him and the club.
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