Monday, February 25, 2008

Eduardo Da Silva for Arsenal (vs Manchester City), 2nd February 2008

The injury suffered by Eduardo Da Silva in the early stages of Saturday's game against Birmingham was one of those that makes almost everyone cringe in horror. The first person to react, of course, is the injured player, but pretty soon you can tell from the reactions of the other players on the pitch that something serious has happened: the frantic gestures to the sidelines, the looks of horror and, perhaps most telling of all, the looks away as the other players simply couldn't look at something so sickening. For most English football fans of a certain age, it was also the kind of injury that immediately turns the mind back to David Buust against Manchester United back in April 1996.... an injury so horrible that someone as big and tough as Peter Schmeichel was sickened and unable to look; an injury so bad that they had to delay the restart of the game whilst they mopped up the blood in the penalty area.

David Buust needed 26 operations on that injury, and never played again (although that was as much down to the MRSA infection that destroyed much of the tissue in his ankle as it was down to the original injury). Thank heavens it looks as though Eduardo has been "lucky" and is expected to be playing again in about 9 months - a far more optimistic prognosis than everyone was fearing on Saturday, although I should imagine it will be some time before the player himself considers that he has been "lucky".

Buust writes in the Guardian today about his injury and what Eduardo may face before he can think about kicking a ball again. It's an interesting article, but what's really interesting is the comments of the bloggers in response. Perhaps not surprisingly, the almost overwhelming view is one that backs Arsene Wenger's immediate reaction after the game (and subsequently retracted) that Martin Taylor should be severely punished for the tackle and should perhaps never be allowed to play the game again.

My heart goes out to Eduardo, of course it does, and I hope he has a full and rapid recovery from his injury, but this kind of overreaction seems ridiculous to me, and my immediate reaction to such a response is to actually feel sorry for Martin Taylor. Alex McLeish repeatedly said after the game that Taylor was not a malicious kind of a player, and although this isn't exactly a defence for such a horrible tackle, watching the game, I didn't feel as though there was any more malice of intent in that tackle than in hundreds of others that take place in the Premier League every week (Eduardo himself was lucky not to be sent off for a two-footed lunge at Nani in the game against Manchester Utd). Taylor goes in for the ball and Eduardo is simply too quick for him, moving the ball away just before the tackle comes in. It's clumsy and it's high, but it is not two footed and Taylor has his eye on the ball all the way. So how come he is being compared by one blogger in that thread to one of the terrorists on 9/11?

Taylor was said to be devastated after it became clear that Eduardo was seriously hurt, to the extent that McLeish suggested that if he hadn't been sent off, he wasn't sure he would have been able to continue playing. He tried to see Eduardo in hospital but was turned away as he was in surgery, and he subsequently returned and spoke to him the next day. Just because he didn't take the press with him to these visits does not mean that he does not care. Eduardo himself was incredibly phlegmatic, refusing to blame Taylor and suggesting that "It was an unfortunate situation but these things can happen in football."

Clearly Taylor was responsible for the injury, but how much blame should be attributed to him now? Should he be punished? Should he even have been shown a red card? Was the colour of the card in fact determined by the obvious severity of the injury?

I'd love to know what you think.

[incidentally, there are plenty of pictures of the actual aftermath of the tackle itself on the web, but I think we all know what happened and I'm not going to post any. If you want to see pictures of another human being in distress, then you can find them for yourself]


weenie said...

Accidents happen in physical games and this just seems to be one of those freaky accidents.

I didn't see the tackle, nor any photos, don't ever want to.

I don't think Taylor should be punished further.

LB said...

It was mistimed, but in no way malicious. A pal of mine met Martin Taylor a couple of times in his Blackburn days and he is, apparently, a lovely fella (they nickname him "tiny"). He got a red card, he'll get a ban, let's move on.

I know he has retracted his comments since, but Wenger was also *completely* out of order in that post-match interview he gave. Considering the disciplinary record of his team during his tenure, he should be more careful.

swisslet said...

Nice to see that Eduardo has come out and completely absolved Taylor now too:
"I forgive Martin. It hurt like hell but I'm fine now. I know he did not do it on purpose," Eduardo was quoted as saying in Tuesday's Sun newspaper.

"I was horrified when I saw how my leg looked at first and wondered how it would all end. But I will be back."

The striker, who turned 25 on Monday, refused to get too disheartened.

"These things can happen in football. I see this as a risk of professional football," he told the Daily Mail.

"Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down."

I think Alan Hansen struck the right tone on match of the day when he talked about how much he regretted the comments he had made in the heat of the moment when his close friend Jim Beglin broke his leg against Everton. Not Wenger's finest moment, certainly.

What was Gallas up to during that game, incidentally? Is that how you'd want your captain to behave as you come to the business end of the season?


ian said...

The Arsene Wenger red card story is a media illusion. Since 1996, when Wenger took over, Arsenal have had 42 red cards in the premiership - over 11.5 seasons, that's an average of about 3.5 per season. Of course he's had loads of red cards in total - that's what happens when you're in a job for such a long time.

So far this season already Reading, Sunderland, Chelsea, Fulham and Blackburn have had more than that average. So if you want an example of a truly dirty team, try Blackburn - 5 this season already, 7 last, 6 the two seasons before.

It seems that according to the FA, a gentle touch on the cheek after being provoked is a worse crime than gbh. Jeremie Aliadiere got a 4 match ban, Taylor only 3. Although whether being deprived of Aliadiere's dubious striking abilities is actually a punishment is open to question

Shane said...

Haven't seen the images and don't feel the need to.

It's good to hear of Taylor's private visit to Eduardo, ditto the Croatian's recent comments.

Stan Collymore on Radio Five was good on this subject. Amongst other things, his contention was that many footballers don't know how to tackle.

I'm also wondering whether there's a relationship here to the much-vaunted speed of the game in Britain / England / the Premier League. I imagine that (slide) tackles are more likely as a game's speed increases - the past few weeks have seen me trying to explain to a 7 year old that although slide tackles look exciting, it's much more impressive if you don't need to slide tackle to dispossess a player... a point that is yet to be taken on board.

swisslet said...

someone in the Guardian pointed out the other day that people remark about Paul Scholes, almost with a smile as he scythes someone down, that tackling isn't the strongest part of his game. Um, maybe so. But does that excuse him?

Shane - as they always said about Bobby Moore, he never needed to get on his arse to tackle anyone.


ian said...

Of course it excuses Scholes. You see, Scholes and Taylor are good honest tough Englishmen.

Just as Rooney never dives, Scholes tackles are never cynical or malicious. And even if they were, he'd be excused half the time as Man U players never deserve a red card at Old Trafford.

LB said...

Ian - I take your point about Arsenal's red cards, but I wouldn't call the tackle "gbh". I also don't see why Taylor should serve a longer ban than anyone else in his position, just because the player suffered an injury as a result of his tackle.

Whilst the end result was far worse than could have been envisaged, considering there was no motivation to injure (which I believe is a view now widely held) I don't see why his ban should be extended.

Aliadiere got a three match ban (the standard for a straight red card) which was extended by one match as the appeal was considered "frivolous". It was the appeal that led to a longer ban, not the sending off offence itself.

Plus, I would argue that a deliberate slap (such as it was) deserves a longer ban than an honest mistimed tackle anyway - at least there is a provable intent there.

Shane - as I have said here before, I firmly believe that the speed and necessity for athleticism in modern football is directly responsible for injuries/deaths. 2007 was the worst year on record for professional footballer deaths. The worst ever in over 100 years - and that's with the significant improvement in medical care and performance monitoring.

LB said...

do what, Ian? Man United players "never deserve a red card at Old Trafford"? Keane, Chadwick, Solskjaer all spring to mind immediately.

I love the fact that Arsenal's red card record is a "media illusion" yet you can spout a lazy cliche about red cards at Old Trafford.


swisslet said...

Luke Chadwick? Blimey, there's a blast from the past. What a face!

ian said...

Just because it's a cliché doesn't make it untrue.

Last premiership red card at old trafford for a Man U player : Alan Smith, November 2004, around the time that Chadwick and Keane stopped playing for Man U. And Solksjaer's red card? 1998.

Playing for any other team, Scholes would be sent off about once a month.

GBH defined seems to pretty much sum up the act of Taylor. The case of R v Mowatt seems particularly pertinent.

LB said...

Ian - I don't agree with you as I don't believe that Taylor had ".....intent to do some grievous bodily harm to any person."

swisslet said...

and anyway, you can have intent to injure without breaking someone's leg can't you? If you slide in on someone but miss, does that still leave you open to an intent charge? If the manager has told them to put a foot in (as apparently McLeish did to his team before sending them out against Arsenal, not wanting to see them afraid to put tackles in and allow them to just dribble through), is that an accessory charge for him too?

This is a dangerous game to get into.
And anyway, how would you prove that Taylor's intent was to injure? You can't can you. It's not like in a pub when you walk towards someone with a broken bottle or something. He went in for a tackle and missed the ball. If you can prove he had an intent to injure Eduardo, then you clearly know something that noone else does.

ian said...

Intent is irrelevant under Section 20 of GBH. That he could have had reasonable knowledge that his actions could have had some physical harm is enough.

I should imagine that one short term of imprisonment would have a much greater effect at removing this kind of tackle than any number of 3 game bans.

Paul said...

Look, I'm sorry but the whole GBH stuff is a joke.

Do you want to watch a game in which players are too afraid that they are going to be prosecuted for attempting to win the ball?

Will you be suggesting that Ricky Hatton is also charged with GBH next time he enters the boxing ring. He's clearly intending to harm his opponent, and carries out actions to that effect.

For all that injuries of this nature are rare, they do happen, and provided it is an accident (as is surely the case in this instance) then that should be the end of it. Everyone knows there is a slight risk when they play competitive sport and you accept those risks, and clubs pay insurance premiums to cover such eventualities.

Yes it was an horrific injury, but was the challenge any worse than any one of the number of 2 footed Stevie G lunges we see every season?

Injuries like this are thankfully very rare. The referee rightly sent the player off, and he's been banned. The players have made their peace, and that should be the end of the story.

Unless Taylor produces an autobiography a la Roy Keane and starts expressing a desire to hurt someone then you should draw the line. To my eyes at least, he made a genuine attempt to win the ball, but was beaten to it by a quicker player.

The injury is horrific, I'm confident that the remorse is genuine, and hopefully we won't see another accident like this for a long time to come.