Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Was Aaron Ramsey's Injury A Result Of Declining Coaching Standards?

Recriminations and questions have been flying since Aaron Ramsey picked up an horrific leg break following Ryan Shawcross' tackle. Perhaps the most pertinent being, was the tackle a result of a fall in coaching standards at both clubs?

As with any incident in a football match, there are a million little things that have to happen first.

The episode began with Ryan Shawcross in possession. Although there were a few Arsenal players in attendance, he wasn't under what you would consider as being heavy pressure.

Shawcross' touch here was unusually heavy, letting the ball drift from his sphere of influence to where an opposing player could easily attack the ball.

With the ball now in no-man's land, Aaron Ramsey's quicker reaction meant he was going to get to the ball first.

However, the Arsenal player was not going to be in a position to take possession, hence his stretched attempt to stab the ball away from the on rushing Shawcross.

In this section of the episode, Ramsey attacked the ball wrong.

Seeing that Shawcross was coming in, full forced to attack the ball, the Arsenal youngster had two options.

1) Tackle side on, thus protecting himself in the challenge.

2) Get both feet as close to the ball as possible thus allowing himself to prod the ball away and jump at the same time, avoiding the challenge.

His inexperience showed here as he stretched into the tackle and prodded the ball away. With his feet set so far apart, he had no other choice than to plant his foot in the ground for balance.

Meaning that when Shawcross came in for the ball that was not there anymore he made contact with Ramsey's leg.

The Arsenal player had not protected himself, nor set himself up to avoid the challenge, his foot could not move, and he ended up with an horrific break.

Going back to Shawcross' lunge.

This tackle is what is known as a statement tackle. It is one of the most important parts of the game, such a tackle can be as good as a goal in regards to lifting players and fans alike, as well as being a massive psychological blow to the opposing team.

Having lost possession with his poor touch, Shawcross was left with no other option that to tackle, and he chose to make a statement.

The thing about these kind of tackles is that you do not make them in 50/50 type challenge. The secret to these is that they are as close to guaranteed tackles as you can make, thus allowing yourself the extra power to clatter into your opponent, letting him know he's in a game.

In short, Shawcross chose the wrong tackle.

Then he tackled with the wrong leg.

By coming across Ramsey with his right leg, which was further away, Shawcross stretched and came down upon where the ball used to be.

Had he used his left, as he should have, his natural inclination would have been to either block tackle the ball, or slide in. Either decision and Ramsey would have probably come off without a broken leg.

Had both players tackled properly and neither player would have been injured.

Tackling is a skill, as equally important as heading or scoring or passing. When done right, it is a thing of rare beauty.

One of the reasons that makes football such a wonderful sport is that it caters for every type of player. Big, small, fast, slow, precocious youth or wily old journeyman.

Small players like Lionel Messi can outwit the big cumbersome defender through trickery and guile.

While the untalented player can out fight his more illustrious opponent if his work rate and determination is not matched.

Last weekend two cultures that should be allowed to exist side by side clashed and the result was Aaron Ramsey breaking his leg.

Some have been quick to point the finger at Stoke's style and Shawcross' impulsive challenge.

We now have the knowledge that an average of almost 20 injuries are incurred per game, ranging from niggles that almost go unnoticed to injuries that keep players on the sidelines for indefinite time periods.

67 percent of all injuries that are picked up are based in the lower extremities (from the knee down) and the most common injury being damaged ankle ligaments, which were four times more likely to happen during practice.

However, football should be allowed to exist in it's current state. These occurrences are rare, but are as likely to happen on the training ground as on the field of play.

Which brings us back to coaching standards.

Passing, shooting, heading, etc are all technical skills and are easily practised and taught. Tackling however, is one of the hardest parts of the game to educate upon, and is glossed over by many coaches.

Had either player been thought to tackle correctly in that situation, and nobody would have been hurt.

To read about FIFA's campaign to ban tackles such as these click here