Wenger still to forgive Shawcross

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has rejected the opportunity to absolve Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross of any blame for the tackle that broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg last season.

The fractious relationship, which already existed between the two clubs, was accentuated by Shawcross’s actions back in February, when he inflicted a potentially career ending injury on the Wales international.

Following the 3-1 victory at the Britannia Stadium, Wenger branded Shawcross’s challenge as “horrendous” and asked to be spared stories relating to the defender’s “honest” nature.

And when asked if he was prepared to forgive Shawcross as the teams prepare to renew hostilities at Emirates Stadium tomorrow, Wenger declined.

“It is only Ramsey who can forgive Ryan Shawcross for what happened to him,” said Wenger. “I cannot forgive. I have not that power.

“If you are the manager of Aaron Ramsey, who is 19 and has two bones broken in his leg, you cannot say you are not upset. It is absolutely right you are upset.”

Ramsey has only just returned to action having been loaned out to Championship side Notting-ham Forest and will not feature tomorrow as Arsenal attempt to return to the Premier League summit.

Shawcross, however, is certain to face a hostile reception from Arsenal fans and his club are to employ several minders to ensure he is protected against an over zealous backlash.

But Wenger (inset) believes extra protection for Shawcross is an overreaction and asked his club’s supporters to treat the player with respect.

He said: “I can frankly assure you that [protection for Shawcross] will not be needed. My message to our fans is to respect our opponents as I always do for anybody.”

Meanwhile, Wenger claimed he is not concerned at the prospect of being pitted against either Real Madrid or Barcelona when the draw is made for the last 16 of the Champions League today.

He said: “We will take the draw as it is and I don’t want to put my team in a position where they feel ‘we would have preferred somebody else’.”

ARSENAL AND STOKE: WAR OF WORDS

Nov 2008:
Stoke defender Abdoulaye Faye claims “Arsenal don't like a physical game” ahead of their first Premier League meeting.

Nov 2008:
Robin van Persie sent off for dangerous follow-through on goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen as Arsenal lose 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium. Emmanuel Adebayor ruled out for three weeks with an ankle injury following Ryan Shawcross’s off-the-field lunge on the Togo striker. Theo Walcott is also stretchered off with dislocated shoulder.

Nov 2008:
Furious Arsene Wenger brands Stoke as “cowards” for their tackling during the match and claims Sorensen got van Persie sent off by “acting like he's two months in hospital”. Stoke chairman Peter Coates then hits back at Wenger: “I couldn't disagree with him more. We don't have nasty players who go out to injure people.”

Jan 2010:
Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller says his side need to “rough Arsenal up” ahead of their FA Cup meeting with the Gunners. Stoke run out comfortable 3-1 winners.

Feb 2010:
Aaron Ramsey suffers a broken leg as a result of Shawcross’s tackle during Premier League clash.

Aug 2010:
Wenger criticises Shawcross’s challenge on Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in Spurs’ win over Stoke, claiming “it is more rugby on the goalkeepers than football”. Tony Pulis hits back at Wenger: “What he has said about Ryan is very, very poor.” Stoke write to the FA, the Premier League and to Arsenal to complain about Wenger’s comments.

Sep 2010:
Shawcross claims Wenger has a “weird vendetta” against him following his latest set of comments.