February 27, 2010: A scrambled play. A planted leg. A mistimed, late swing of body and leg. Fabregas inconsolable. Campbell enraged. Vermaelan's head in his hands. Shawcross a mix of fear, anguish and disbelief, taking his marching orders. Aaron Ramsey's career in doubt.
September 22, 2013: Not five minutes gone, an Özil free kick is parried into the feet of Johnny-on-the-spot Ramsey who pumps home his sixth goal in all competitions this season on a mind-numbing seven shots on target. He peels off, elated, as the crowd cheers, and he raises a finger to his lips as he races past Stoke fans.
This gesture means a lot of things in the soccer world: shut up. Stop chanting, you're losing. I told you so. But in this case, I would prefer to believe it meant something rather different: It's over.
I watched both the above games and can't shake the sense that we've finally turned the corner on this whole affair. The Tackle was one of the lowest moments in sport for me. I know a lot of fans who'll cite horrible losses as leaving them feeling "gutted" (Hello, 8-2), but nothing quite had me feeling rather empty and bewildered as The Tackle. It hurts to go back an watch it again. The speed with which it happened during a scrambled play. Ramsey waving his hand for medical help, seemingly before the true pain hits. The way his foot just... dangles. It was truly a gutting feeling. Coupled with all the doubts over a return, which turned into a rather lackluster, criticism filled one at that, you wondered if a young career was over. And Arsenal had just been through Eduardo's ordeal to boot.
But faith remained and now, we find ourselves rewarded. Ramsey has hit a vein of form that I don't think anyone suspected he had. Truly, I often have stated that, as good as the young Ramsey was, he was playing alongside the better Cesc Fabregas. Boy, has he proven me wrong. Even before the induction of Özil, without Arteta or Cazorla, Ramsey had been flying through teams, taken every industrious bit of skill he has and making use of what those around him could offer. It is nothing short of a revelation for the Welshman.
So that little shush may not be anything truly malicious. In the run up to every Stoke game since, there has been endless media bantering about The Tackle, much of it directed squarely at Ramsey. Speculations on who it haunted, what the impact would be to the fragile Arsenal and/or Ramsey. It had to be tiresome and annoying to relive twice a season for three years. With that early goal and his form this season, Ramsey made the statement that it doesn't haunt him, he isn't intimidated and you can kindly stop talking about The Tackle, thank you very much.
Which causes me to look across to the other side and the still maligned Ryan Shawcross. In fairness, if we are to put away The Tackle, it's time to stop focusing on him as well. Oh, the boos rang down and I know some shall never forgive him, but remembering and rewatching, The Tackle was nothing more than poor timing. Shawcross has never been "that kind of player", totaling only three red cards in his career, nor do I expect he'll become that kind of player. I do not find myself wanting to reserve the hatred I have for such malcontents as Joey Barton for Shawcross. He doesn't deserve it and if we are to move on, we need to leave it all behind.
For, as horrifying as The Tackle was, Aaron Ramsey has recovered. There's no need to rehash again and again its impact. He's back and he's better than ever. So, shhhh... It's over.