I don’t care if you get the ball.
That should be the stance when players go in for challenges which even if they win them seriously endangers the safety of a fellow professional (and indeed at lower levels of the game also).
It’s the stance that was missing when Aaron Ramsey got cleaned out by Ryan Shawcross and it’s the stance that was still missing on Tuesday night as Hector Moreno all but ended Luke Shaw’s season.
The England full back may return before the Euros if he’s lucky, but the recovery from this type of injury takes far longer than the first minutes on the pitch – Ramsey had to go out on loan to Cardiff to get both his game and his confidence back before he was ready to return and have an impact on Arsenal’s first team.
Meanwhile, Shawcross missed three games, and Moreno none at all – indeed he was even awarded UEFA’s Man of the Match award – despite inflicting damage, pain and misery upon their victims. (Yes, victims.)
Those making the challenges have a lot to answer for.
Of course the two culprits in question have form – the suggestion that they are “not that type of player” is frankly ludicrous and in any case no excuse. Shawcross inflicted a serious injury on Francis Jeffers before leaving his mark on Ramsey, and Moreno hasn’t learned his lesson despite having his own leg broken with a similar assault to the one that broke Shaw’s.
So when are the game’s rulemakers and referees going to step in and stop young players from having their futures risked by reckless and thoughtless challenges?
If you go into a tackle where you are not in control of your own body, that should be punished.
If you go into a tackle where you take the ball with no regard to how the rest of your limbs may contact an opponent, that should be punished.
If you go into a tackle where you are using force strong enough to injure your opponent, that should be punished.
If you go into a tackle with the mindset that as long as you get the ball it doesn’t matter if you get the man, that should be punished.
And irrespective of mindset, if you go into a tackle which has potential to seriously injure your opponent, that should be punished.
It does not matter if you did or didn’t get the ball – if the “tackle” in question could be a red card or not even a foul based upon whether you nick a millimetre of the round thing, that is simply not good enough.
We’re not talking about professional-foul-type cards – these are cards by virtue of the impact on the game, not the risk and danger involved. No, we’re talking about those “violent play” cards where they show a disregard for the health of the other players.
If by missing the ball a challenge would be deemed a red card for dangerous play, then that challenge should be a red card no matter what. It’s entirely down to luck whether they make that challenge a millisecond too early/late or a millimetre to the side, and the slightest of touches on the ball does not change the potential for danger and the impact that follows.
Shawcross missed the ball, Moreno did not. Both endangered their fellow pro.
Scissor tackles, trailing leg “accidental contact”, piledriver challenges all are unacceptable in the modern game and there has to be more deterrent and punishment.
There has to be a consequence for that level of recklessness.
We’re seeing red cards as a result of dissent, diving, and shirt pulling, and yes, they’re important to address, in order to safeguard the integrity of the football.
But they pale into insignificance beside challenges that endanger the safety of the individuals who play the game.
Just ask Aaron Ramsey. Just ask Luke Shaw.
FA, UEFA, FIFA? You’ve had enough warnings. It’s time to do something about it.
All the best, Luke Shaw, we wish you a speedy recovery and a return to your pre-injury levels.
Heck, we wish you to surpass those levels and stick it to the thugs who are spoiling the game for those who play properly.
Just don’t reach those levels against Arsenal 😉