Sloppy start from Stoke…©GettyImages
Games between the two sides need little introduction, tempers have flared since the semi finals of the Cup in the 70’s and more recently because of the unnecessary and often libellous words of Wenger so there was little incentive needed for those who made the trip south to the Emirates. Evidently this was not the case for certain section of the home support who in their attempts to engender a hostile atmosphere for Ryan Shawcross, handed out 500 whistles for fans to blow when he touched the ball. Alas Ryan’s treatment was about as loud as it appears to get at the Emirates, the boos (in the first half) certainly seemed to be louder than their muted goal celebration as we uncharacteristically conceded from a corner following a frantic and disorganised start to the game for the Potters.
We were terribly slow from the off and Walcott had 3 attempts on goal in as many minutes as Stoke seemed to be caught in the headlights of their more illustrious opponents so many weren’t surprised as the deadlock was broken on 8 minutes. Shortly afterwards we saw Fabregas limp off yet again, after which Arsenal seemed to lose their momentum and creativity in the middle, this seemed to be the turning point as Stoke gradually got back into the game. We still sat back far too deep and left poor Carew isolated, much like he was at Anfield, as we struggled to get over the half way line to support the increasingly forlorn Norwegian.
Fabregas lasts barely 15 mins…©GettyImages
The second half, however, was a different story as we came out the blocks firing on all cylinders, got our foot on the ball and pushed further up the pitch. We suddenly showed we do have some confidence and invention and it worked as it was Arsenal who started to go on the back foot and start misplacing passes, this was more like it. Unfortunately we didn’t make our possession count despite having some good chances on goal but instead came away with a creditable loss on a night many were predicting a cricket score, Arsenal fans were even whistling for full time before the 90 as their players kept the ball in the corner for the best part of 10 minutes.
From what I saw of Arsenal, I would be surprised if they were to finish the season as Champions, for all their possession they crafted very little, it’s all very well and good making 5 yard passes sideways and backwards but what use is that if you’re not creating chances? They will certainly struggle, even more so without Fabregas and Walcott, I’m not sure the former has been fully fit for a year or so given the number of times Wenger has rushed him back into the fray.
After the final whistle I was preparing for the usual from Mr Wenger, especially with two of his crown jewels facing lengthy lay offs but I was surprised to hear him reflect on actual events, stating the injuries were unlucky and that the game was fair with no bad tackles. I saw this as a bit of an olive branch and a commendable gesture from Arsene, and I imagine it wasn’t actually what he wanted to say but saw it was the right time to say it and in doing so draw a line through the recent animosity between our clubs, credit where credit is due.
So we’ll take plenty of heart from our trip to North London and be happy in the fact that we remain the only team in the league not to have conceded more than 2 goals in a game and look forward to Monday evening when we welcome our perennial point bearing chums from the Black Country, West Brom.
Vis Unita Fortior
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