I felt relatively confident about the game yesterday. The weather was nothing short of stunning, the mood around the ground bubbled and Stoke at our place lose their thug touch around goal.
The line up was strong. The major talking point centred around the manager dropping Szecseny. I don’t see why it was even a conversation point. If ill discipline, newspaper arrogance and poor from isn’t enough to drop someone… you have to ask the point of having Ospina in the squad. You also have to ask how it can be possible for a player to be bigger than the team? Thankfully, Wenger made the right choice and we didn’t have to ask those questions. It was a big game for the Colombian, but jeez, he’s played in a World Cup against Brazil, I think he’s going to be fine against Peter Crouch and band of merry knuckle heads.
We switched ends, which meant Stoke played into the sun first half. Early signs were positive. Sanchez slipped inside from the left and curled shot inside the far post, Begovic got down swiftly and pushed it wide. Tomas went on his own marauding run but shot just wide. Everyone I sit round adores that guy. Not good enough for more than a game a week, certainly good enough to create an impact.
The breakthrough arrived in amusing circumstances, Sanchez duffed a low corner that was thighed back out to him, he punched a low flat cross into the box for a simple Koscielny header home. Lovely. Maybe there’s something in the short corner?
The tackles were flying in. The ref seemed to be taking great amusement in letting it run. He has no control of the game. The first horrible incident came from when Arnautovic shoved Debuchy into the hoardings seriously damaging his collar bone. He didn’t even pick up a booking. How anyone can do that to a fellow professional is beyond me. That’s his season over. In the real world, if you did that to someone, you’d be prosecuted for assault. Why it’s ok when it’s professional football is beyond me. That was illegal and disgusting. Thuggish behaviour deserves a clampdown.
Stoke continued to fly in with horrendous tackles, the ref oblivious and not feeling card happy. Monreal was the next casualty. What does frustrate me is the lack of ref harassment we offer. Why are we not screaming in their face like other teams? We don’t ever seek out a tried and tested method of gaining favour. I also kind of hoped for a retaliation. Chamberlain had a go but missed, Coquelin is always up for the fight, but to see Giroud jump out of an opportunity to smash Arnautovic was disappointing… he really was poor yesterday. Flouncing around because he didn’t fancy it. He should have been using his weight to intimidate.
Karma did repay us for our second, one of the orks flew at Sanchez, he dodged the tackle, cut into the area and buried a shot low at the inside post. An absolute peach. If you’re a nasty piece of work, try not to hack at Sanchez, he goes all Incredible Hulk.
What. A. Player.
Second half opened with more LOLz. Sanchez duffed an edge of the box freekick under the Stoke wall, Begovic made a hash timing his dive, he tipped the ball onto the post and palmed it into the net. Hilarious.
There were more solid moments. Santi hit the bar with a floated chip from 7 yards. Theo came on and missed a one on one. He looked sharp physically, but he’s still a way off mentally. That’ll come though. We have to be patient with him. He’ll be protecting his body subconsciously and he’ll be feeling the nerves. He’s been out of the game for a year, it’ll be a tough slog getting back in the swing of things. It’ll be fine though, he’ll start showing mid Feb and he’ll kick us on for the league.
Ozil came on to great applause late on. Shad Forsythe looks like he’s let his strength and conditioning exexpertise loose on the German. He looked like he’d bulked on 10kg. Good thinking. The Colbert regime had the club in the mentality that bulk slowed players down. I’m interested to see how the bulked out German handles the league. There was one moment that reminded you of his talent, it was a volleyed pass out wide that was spectacular. Can’t wait for him to get cracking…
Style: For the first time this season, we looked like we had a purpose. The team knew what they were looking to achieve, they didn’t feel sorry for themselves when Debuchy slipped off and they dealt Stoke the hammer blow the only way they know how… with great football. As predicted, the cavalry would steam back into the team, we’ll find out rhrhythm and we’ll nail 4th place because we’re so much stronger than the pretenders below us.
Ospina: ‘OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOspppppiiiiina!’ < That’s what we do when he runs to take a goal kick. It’s good fun. Like a fart, the joke never dies. From a performance perspective, he wasn’t exactly busy, but his distribution was smart and he had a calm air about him. He’s only a year older than Szecseny, so if he makes that spot his own, it could be big trouble for the Pole.
Stoke and Refs: The caliber of refereeing in the league is getting beyond a joke. Yesterday, Jonathan Moss, delivered a terrible performance. I don’t like to bag on people, but he had done next to no research on Stoke and how they play. If he had, it was minimal. Every corner we had, Shawcross had two hands on whomever he was marking. Stoke systematically fouled us. He ignored violent attempts on players if the man in question missed. I didn’t see a card for breaking a collarbone. I’m not sure I remember seeing on for the Monreal busted eye (I was the other end of the pitch).
Why are refs not looking at how a team traditionally plays and stopping the skulduggery early on? It’s not like they have much on inbetween games.
Outside that, that ref is clearly hugely out of shape. He couldn’t keep up with play, he was visibly overweight and he doesn’t have the physical presence to be respected on the pitch. Look, I don’t give a rats arse about how people look, but this is top level sport. Most of the refs you see in Rugby look like boxers. They command respect. They’re accountable.
Our refs? It’s like an old boys club. They never answer questions on their performance, they never justify their thinking, they never apologise, they look like they have a total lack of understanding of how teams play… but hey, at least they share their phone numbers with superstar players. It’s embarrassing.
You know what else is perplexing? Why no one has ever legally challenged the ‘all refs are English’ thing they’ve got going on. If there’s one thing you can guarantee about being English it’s this… you’ll have an affinity to certain teams and a disdain for others. How is that fair? Why can’t we open our ref association out to Europe? Why can’t we have an Italian ref over for that game yesterday? Would he or she tolerate that sort of behaviour? No way. Red cards out in the first half. By bringing in foreign influence the ref association, you raise the bar. You bring European scrutiny. You share best practice. You create a more powerful body. You might get somewhere demanding video assistance against the backward FIFA.
Football is so outdated compared to other sports. Our refs are backwards. It’s such a regressive set up and no one has the power to make it better. If they do, they don’t care. It ruins the game and in the case of Debuchy, could ruin his career.
Monreal: I prefer him to Gibbs. I’ve said this most of the season. Yesterday, he put in another solid performance. He might not look as glamorous going forward as the Englishman, but he’s a more solid defender all round. He won’t be bombing forward after 12 seconds next weekend, he’ll put his body on the line for the club and I think he’ll show a few people what he’s made of for the run in.
Coquelin: Well, well, well… he’s doing a job people! I did wonder why he’d never been given a go in the past, he has a lot of ingredients Wenger looks for in players like that. Well, who cares, he’s proving himself. He sits in front of the back four. He asks questions of other teams, he puts a foot in, he passes well and he makes a nuisance of himself. I much prefer him to Flamini. He’s our Giles Grimandi. There’s certainly a place for him in our squad. Not everyone has to be world class. What he can’t be is our ‘like a new signing’ player. Though, with Schneiderlin moving in the summer, you can imagine that’s exactly what he’ll be.
Next Week: Next up in Manchester City. This is the big one. How far have we progressed? I fancy it at least being a good game. I’m worried we’ve lost Debuchy for the long term. I’m worried we still don’t have a centre back lined up, and Koscielny was limping for parts of yesterday. However, going foward, we’re more than a match for a City capable of a wobble. I’m not in total fear… that’s all I’m saying.
#jesuischarlie: I try and keep this site to football. But I just wanted to congratulate the French for bringing 4million people out to march in solidarity against the backdrop of the horrors that occurred at the Charlie Hebdo offices. Freedom of speech is important. The hashtag isn’t about promoting offesive / unfunny cartoons. It’s about being able to express yourself without fear. It’s about a progressive society that won’t bow to violent people. Opinion often seems to be the enemy of the internet. The web is hugely intolerant of anything that sits outside of vanilla. It’s not a nice place to be. The disgusting behavior on both sides of the fence over the last few days makes me ashamed to be human. The fact these regressive behaviours slip offline is worrying. We should unite against these actions, we should learn to be more accepting and if we don’t like something because it’s offensive, turn the other cheek. Don’t read it. Don’t give it oxygen.
It’s your choice to be offended, remember that.