Before I start the post, I just want to say the thoughts of everyone at Le Grove are with Aaron Ramsey. Get well soon…
I had a pre-match post dedicated to explaining my finance post the other day. I don’t feel it necessary to post now, all I want to say is that I apologise for the regrettable Gazidis headline. It was a heat of the moment opinion that upon reflection was unfair, irresponsible and clouded the point I was trying to make. I’ll explain my concerns another day…
Saturday kicked off in spectacular fashion. Chelsea dropped 3 points at home to Manchester City and lost ground with their superior goal difference. The Chav’s attacked with little intent and defended shambolically. I’ve been saying all week that I think we can win the league and I’ve been saying all week that Hilario is a keeper of questionable ability. If Arsenal could capitalise on Chelsea’s slip, there would be 3 points between the top 3. This is the closest we’ve been at the end of February since we last won the league.
What a mad season eh?
Sagna Campbell Vermaelen Clichy
Fabregas Song Ramsey
Eboue Bendtner Nasri
The notable Absentee from the starting line up was Theo Walcott. Preferred in his place was our answer to Lionel Messi, Emmanuel Eboue. The team looked strong, the results earlier were encouraging, the only missing ingredient was a rampant Arsenal victory. Stoke had become something of a bogey team for us, Arsenal Addict made the point to me on twitter… we couldn’t let the Potters become the new trotters!
Clichy started the game with a mistake, running past the ball allowing stoke to create a move which saw fuller fizz a ball across the goal. Song lost the ball sloppily shortly after, the through ball was marshalled by Sagna, Almunia took and age to come, then crunched Sagna. A worrying start from Arsenal.
It didn’t take long for Stoke to take the lead. 7 minutes to be precise. A Delap throw, nodded on for Pugh to head in. It’s just so depressing that firstly, Song preferred to play it out for a throw instead of leaving it for the corner or dealing with it more effectively and secondly that we are getting beaten to second balls in our box, what was the greatest right back in Europe doing at the back stick (What he does best, switching off)? Shocking defending.
Individual errors were stopping Arsenal getting into any kind of rhythm, we hadn’t turned up for the biggest game of our season.
Clichy’s tiny throw made me laugh after he took the ball off Delap. The stoke players throw in prep was starting to grate.
Song continued to have a shocker after failing to push up with the defence allowing Shawcross to tee up Fuller.
After 30 minutes we began to find our feet.
Cesc picked the ball up out wide, whipped in a cross, Bendtner squeezed between two defenders and buried a header back across Sorensons goal into the top corner. Superb header, finally, Nik had delivered his first bit of true class this year.
Eboue wasn’t imposing himself on the same way as he was the week before but he was playing for freekicks and winning them, which can be a touch irritating. He has the skill to skin people, he should have the confidence to use it when his chips are down.
Only two question needed answering in the second half. Were Stoke too tired to make an impact? Were Arsenal hungry enough to dig out a result?
Eboue launched a rasping shot that was tipped over by Sorenson.
Then came the saddest moment of 2010, Shawcross flew into a high challenge and snapped Rambo’s leg. Yep, once again, a disgusting high challenge from a so called physical team has ruined 18 months of a young mans life. How many times do we have to see this happen to our boys? Diaby against Sunderland, Eduardo against Birmingham and now Rambo at Stoke. It’s a disgrace… I don’t care what Shawcross intentions were… he tackled half way up a fellow professionals leg, disgraceful. More disgraceful than the challenge? Stoke fans chanting, ‘your f**ked and you know you are’ and ‘he’s only got one leg’ to a 19 year old boy verged on criminal. Words can’t describe how sickened I was by that. It sums up the attitude of certain clubs though… the fans knew what their player had done, but didn’t care… it was part of their make up and Arsenal needed to be man enough to accept that.
The game kicked off again but the players were shell shocked. I was praying this wouldn’t become another Birmingham 2008 moment. Cesc fired a freekick into the box, Sol Campbell failed to get on the end it and the ball flashed narrowly wide.
Shortly afterwards, Eduardo found himself through on goal after Song played him in, he hooked the ball just past the near post.
Then our moment came, Nik B was searching for an opening on the edge of the box, his flick through was handled, the penalty given. Cesc stepped up against a keeper who had saved his last 3 penalties. He glanced at the goal, ran towards the goal and buried the ball just past Sorenson’s hand. His celebration was a dedication to Rambo. Touching.
We were playing for the third goal, Nik Bendtner was denied a clear penalty after being shoved over blatantly in the box. Ref’s find it tough to give two penalties in ten minutes though. The Rosicky controlled the ball on the edge of the box and low and powerfully, Cesc anticipated the spill, intelligently cut it back to Vemaelen, bang! 3-1… dead and buried!
The team huddle called by Sol Campbell after the game reminded me of the unity and spirit after Bobby Pires busted his knee incident a few years back. Lets hope that spirit brings us a trophy we can dedicate to Rambo… he deserves as much.
Cesc was fiery after the game, he pointed out that he appreciates the English game is rough, but it goes too far sometimes. Today it went to far. It was disappointing to listen to the sky interviewer trying to get Wenger to look like he was a whinger after the game, his message was the same as Cescs, the jist was -
1) There are no coincidences in football
2) The treatment meted out to Arsenal is unacceptable
Andy Gray can talk about players not wanting to injure fellow pros, but that’s b*llocks. Most of us know what people are like in Sunday league, so to think Pro’s have a different mind set is fantasy talk. He might not have intended to break his leg, but the intention was there to hurt.
However, talk that Shawcross is the only person to blame here is unfair. He made a hideous mistake, but be fair, he’s playing in a country where that type of challenge is lauded and he’s at a club where ‘physicality’ even brutality is demanded. When you’re raised in a culture of vindicated thuggery, things like this will happen.
Though it must be noted he has previous and I’m pretty sure he was let go by United because of his disciplinary record in the reserves… I’m open to correction there. I’m pretty certain he smashed Adebayor in the sidelines last year. It’s interesting to note that this type of thing only happens in away games. Even more interesting is the whereabouts of Shawcross tomorrow… According to a Diamond Club member he’ll be at Arsenal’s training ground reporting in for England this week (*I was told last night before I just saw it in the NoTW). I’d like to a be a fly on a wall there…
This is an issue that must be addressed with balance and intelligence. I want to see all players protected, but I don’t want to see the league lose it’s edge. Maybe the introduction of foreign refs would do the trick, perhaps we need proper retrospective punishments for challenges that are blatantly reckless or perhaps fairer analysis of thuggery in the main stream media. I don’t care what happens… something needs to be put forward now because at the moment, Premier League football seems to throw up more nasty injuries than motor sport or rugby.
Just a thought, how would the press react if Rooney was in hospital with a snapped leg?
Back to the team, I couldn’t be prouder to say I support Arsenal right now. Screw the balance sheet, this is what supporting your football team is all about… watching your team battle against the odds to turn in a fantastic result, give the fans the opportunity to connect with them. We showed grit, professionalism and maturity to win that match today. They’ve delivered an inspirational come back which could go down in folklore if we can deliver the league.
We’re in a title race, we’ve got more motivation than ever and as fans, we should all unite… this feels like its about more than just football now. Lets all put our differences behind us and all get behind the team… in ten games time, we could witness the most unlikely of trophy lifts… wouldn’t that be glorious?
Have a great day Grovers!
Almunia: I thought he played well today. He made a couple of decent saves and there wasn’t much he could do for the goal. 7
Clichy: Still looking a liability to me. He was better going forward as the game wore on, defensively a little worrying. 6
Vermaelen: Top scoring defender in the league this year, played like a warrior, looked an emotional wreck after the goal. He brushed himself down and popped up as our fox in the box in the second half. 8
Sol: Again, took the challenge to heart and looked the most frustrated. Performed with gusto and helped lead the team through a painful incident. Probably one of those days where you’d prefer Sol in there to Gallas. Good defensive performance from our rock in reserve. 8
Sagna: I thought he played well bar some suspect attacking play 7
Cesc: It didn’t click for him in the first half but he still whipped an amazing cross to loan striker Nik B. He scored a penalty and set up the third. There is no denying Cesc is one of the best midfielders on the planet at the moment, today he delivered on the big stage in an important game. 9
Song: A very up and down game from him. He gave the ball away a lot in the first half and was part responsible for the first goal because he went out of his way to concede a throw. He grew in the second half and put himself about a bit more. 6
Rambo: Was having a blinder. He was winning balls in the air, driving forward with intent and he was doing his bit in the middle to mix it with the rough boys. I’m angry just writing about the challenge, but it was sickening to see the best talent in British football lose a year of his career. 8
Nik B: He was sloppy with his control in the first half, but he was a physical presence. His header was nothing short of world class in a big game where perhaps you wouldn’t expect many strikers to score a header. That set the ball rolling and in the second half he played very well. His deft flick led to the handball and the second goal. 8
Nasri: He tried really hard today but not much fell for him. 7
Eboue: Not his best game and more typical of the type of performance I’d associate with him up top. He did let off a rasping shot and his runs occasionally caused bother. Preferable to Theo. 6.5