Firstly, congratulations to Stoke for improving upon their average goal tally at Reading. They scored one whereas last season they managed less than one goal a game, scoring 36 goals in 38 games. And guess what – the majority were from set plays (58% !!)
I must confess to liking Tony Pulis as a man, he is passionate, committed and honest (though deluded!) but I hate his tactics; I realise he has limited resources but that is no excuse to play the worst type of anti-football. Norwich, Swansea, Wigan etc show it is possible to stay in the PL on a limited budget without resorting to Route One physical football. Hopefully, the signing of Fatboy Huddlestone indicates a change of direction.
Ryan & Robert
Some have expressed an opinion that we should be more accommodating and friendly towards Stoke and in a logical world I can empathise with this – but – addiction to Arsenal is totally illogical, as is the amount of time we spend discussing it! Fact: Football is tribal. Fact: One of my tribe was hurt by one of Stoke’s and there was no apology forthcoming. Fact: Stoke play a physical game designed to curtail the skills, pace, cohesion and equanimity of my warriors. Fact: Stoke fans hate us and Ramsey in particular. Fact: Rivalry in sport is what makes it so damned compulsive.
So, I make no apology when calling Stoke “The Orcs,” nor when belittling their admittedly well run club. Yes, Stoke play with heart and commitment and generally within the rules of the game but “so what”. I don’t like them – not since we went down 5-0 in the first Double season (the pain was worse than MU last year). Bury the hatchet? Why? Why now? Should we reflect kindly upon our miscreant, cave-dwelling, knuckle-dragging neighbours? Of course not. No, the Stoke game has an emotional element which did not exist a few seasons ago when a trip to Stoke was just another hurdle on the way to the title; long may the rivalry continue.
Right …. off the soapbox and onto the game. Stoke have a superb home record against the top clubs (losing only to Newcastle of the top 6 last season). We came away with an admirable draw despite wearing last season’s awful away kit. Today, we premier our lovely purple outfit – not sure it is proper Arsenal but at least our players no longer look as if they are in Cirque du Soleil (though I suspect Bob Wilson would not be impressed by Chesney’s pink ensemble).
We know all about the excellence of Stoke’s twin Orcs at CB. I wonder if Pod and Giroud will have ever come across two such “committed” players. Thankfully, the little scrote Whitehead was sent off last week and will be absent. Mr Crouch has a penchant for goals against The Mighty Arsenal and our best bet has to be to stop his supply, but can Corporal Jenks or Young Gibbsy control a wily and pacy player like Etherington – we shall see. And please Mr Wenger put a player in front of Crouch at set plays with BFG marking him.
Will we play O-C or continue with the fit Diaby? Gerv or Theo or both? Pod or OG? Gibbs or Santos?
I really worry about our right side because Diaby has never shown himself to be strong defensively and Jenks will need cover. The connection between him and Theo needs much work. However, we will need Diaby’s height at set plays – an area where Sagna will be much missed. For this reason I would also play Giroud. Podolski may not be fully match fit but 70 mins pitch time will sharpen him plus playing The Orcs will give the new boys an important lesson in the leniency of EPL refereeing. Lee Mason has the whistle today.
Rocky’s excellent post about the forced expansion of Stoke’s pitch and it’s effect upon the long throw tactic will be highlighted today. Will a referee ever add extra time for the “towel”?
Expect to see the Orc fans doing the Wenger Wave which passes for humour in a town where there is very little to laugh about – let’s face it, if you were forced to live in Mordor wouldn’t you want to take the rise out of a multi-millionaire, successful, intelligent foreigner?
Can we win? It will be difficult, as Stoke’s home record suggests. With the wind at our backs, a little luck, a secure defence and potency upfront – why not?
Some facial graffiti …… a world record beard measured at 18* 6″ (5.65m) owned by a Norwegian.
Written by Big Raddy