It was a great day at the office as Pulis gave Whelan his chance in the middle and also gave Collins the opportunity to stake a claim for the left back spot having been forced to move the excellent Higginbotham into the middle, Fuller came in for Tuncay as the Turk nurses his hamstring injury picked up in our previous thrilling home game. The game plan was simple, as it always is against the slight flair players of Arsenal, get in their faces, give them no time and take advantage of the narrow pitch, we excelled in all 3 and a big put ourselves in a great position to dare to dream of a Wembley appearance, though the billionaires of Manchester City may have something to say about that.
Manager Rating – 9 – Pulis brought in the more industrious Whelan when every bone of his body no doubt craved the wall of Whitehead and Diao, he also brought back the hungry Fuller to great effect. Some good substitutions followed towards the end of the game too, so well done Mr Pulis for the decisions you made as well as getting the defence a further 10yds up the pitch to close the midfield into the attack to support the excellent Fuller and Sidibe, we’ve wanted to see it for so long, and look, it works!!
Sorensen – 8 – Commanded his area well, I’m always confident when Tommy is between the sticks, I’m not sure if he could have perhaps done more for the goal but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as he has deserved it. It will be interesting to see how he responds to James coming in, most likely straight into the first team, I hope he stays.
Huth – 8 – Played well, I continue to be surprised by his pace, much like Shawcross, when he gets going he can work up a fair speed and at one point was neck a neck with the lightning quick Traore with Southgate (who was commentating) saying that Traore was never going to beat Huth once he got up to speed, very encouraging.
Shawcross – 8 – Shawcross has been such a better player this season, he looks that little bit quicker, sharper and thoughtful. His consistency has been key to his form this season and I pray we hang on to him for as long as we possibly can.
Higginbotham – 9 – A great game from Higgy, who looks so much more effective in the middle. He and Shawcross for me are our best centre pairing and I hope they will be given the chance to line up together again on Monday night against Sunderland. A magnificent goal saving tackle capped a very impressive performance.
Collins – 7 – Danny didn’t really grab this chance with both hands, he looks composed but gets dragged out of position so easily he can’t possibly be a long term solution to our left back issue and perhaps could have moved a bit quicker to the threat of Fabregas’ drag back to Denilson for Arsenal’s equaliser. People might point to Walcott having a very poor game but I really think it was down to a bad performance from the England Winger as opposed to our fullback nullifying any threat he posed.
Delap – 8 – Once again, Rory was stuck out on the wing where he has played so poorly of late. This was a better game and I know his inclusion was largely for the throws and as well as providing an assist, had a good overall game..we still need a right winger though.
Whelan – 8.5 – Glenn had a good game in the middle alongside Whitehead and they looked to compliment each other nicely, I hope he gets the chance again and more importantly replicates that form, as consistency has been his biggest issue this season. Some questionable set pieces were more than offset by the intelligent forward play and determined tracking back.
Whitehead – 9 – Another excellent game from Whitehead who has really pushed on and found in his feet in our unique system. Is now a shoe in for a central midfield role, he just needs a better, more consistent version of Whelan next to him and he will shine further. I’m so glad that he finally got his goal and that caps off an impressive run of games where the ex Sunderland Captain has played his way into our affections having been the subject of unfair and unwarranted criticism since he arrived.
Etherington – 9 – Yet another amazing performance from the England hopeful, I can’t say much more really, pace, trickery, workrate and precision means he could be as important to England as he is to Stoke.
Sidibe – 8.5 – Mama’s best game since returning from injury, showing turns and flicks Cruyff himself would be proud of, Mama revelled in being re-united with long time strike partner Fuller and showed some great wing play by running from the half way line and putting the ball right onto Fuller’s head for his second of the day. He supported the midfield well and really did defend from the front with some great timed tackles to win back possession for us – well done Mama.
Fuller – 9.5 – Man of the Match – I’m so glad we saw the Ric that had a point to prove and not one sulking at being left on the bench the last few games. He looks so much happier playing with Mama and it showed as he gave the Arsenal defence a torrid time all afternoon. Was unlucky not to get a hat trick as his honesty in not going down under challenge in the area proved his undoing as it so often does these days – there really is no incentive for honesty.
Tuncay – 7.5 – Looked as lively as ever when he replaced the excellent Fuller and in my opinion was very unlucky not to have his goal allowed given the linesman was looking right at him and didn’t deem his control of the ball to be illegal. It’s great to have three strikers on such good form and that confidence is what we have been waiting for all season from our front men and it could have arrived at just the right time.
Diao – Not on long enough to rate..
Pugh – Not on long enough to rate - but showed glimpses of confident control, I’m happy Tony gave him a few mins to show him he is still in his thoughts.