02 May 2006

Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal

An expected win for the Gunners. With Sunderland so dismal, particularly at home, it was difficult to get worked up over the game. Sure, it was must-win, but there was a sense that if Arsenal couldn't beat Sunderland, winless at home on the year, then they deserve what they get.

And somehow the game suited that downbeat attitude. Arsenal won handily, with three goals in the first half, but also never seemed to really be involved in the game. Taking the 0-3 lead into the dressing room, Arsenal seemed content to play the second half at reduced pace, satisfied to go home without injury.

But that intent was frustrated in the 92nd minute with a horrid tackle from Dan Smith on Abou Diaby. The reckless challenge saw Smith fly in, studs held high, and catch Diaby square on the ankle. His screams were unsettling and it was clear that he was badly injured. The outcome is a fracture and dislocated ankle. It's the same injury that Alan Smith suffered back in February, though the circumstances were completely different.

Much of the online debate now is around Dan Smith. The anger towards him is immense and it's clear why. Though Diaby is still new to the Arsenal, he's played well and done credit to the badge. And frankly, he's just a likeable kid. To see him injured like that -- especially so late in an essentially meaningless match, with nothing to gain for the hosts -- is simply unacceptable.

Was the tackle intentional or accidental, malicious or stupid? Nobody knows -- probably not even Smith. In the end it doesn't matter. It was clearly dangerous play and as such deserved a red card. Unfortunately, since referee Dermot Gallagher chose to show yellow, I believe the FA are unable to punish Smith further. And that's too bad because he clearly deserves to be punished. Smith offered an apology of sorts after the match. It's a mealy-mouthed politician's apology, more defensive than apologetic. Try again, Dan.

So there's nothing more to be done. It's happened and we have to move on. One thing is certain: every Arsenal fan is in full support of Diaby and will be eager to see him playing again. Let's hope that he has a full recovery and that he's back on the pitch quickly. And as for Dan Smith, his karma will have to punish him, because otherwise there's nothing to be done.

Still, it's probably a good thing that Sunderland are relegated.

On to Manchester City for Thursday. Let's get another win!

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