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Arsenal 3 Stoke City 1

First of all, my apologies for the lack of a Sunderland match report last week. Matters of the booze took hold last Sunday evening and with the flight to Marseille on the horizon; I didn`t get the opportunity on Monday. Nevertheless, the week has gone rather well in my sabbatical. A timely win in France courtesy of an improving Aaron Ramsey and three points collected against Sunderland via the world`s best striker means that, as the team`s understanding is gradually growing, so is their momentum.

With the Victoria line up the spout and Transport for London deciding to reduce overground services as well, the journey into the ground was rather unfamiliar compared to the usual routine. Not even so much as a sniff of a beer pre-game. Shocking. What was perhaps less surprising was the manager making good on some of his midweek hints that Robin van Persie was in need of a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa. I`m sure Stoke`s aerial threat informed his decision that this would be the game to give Chamakh a run out.

The result was hardly surprising. Chamakh showed plenty of willingness, but without van Persie, Arsenal lacked the movement upfront to trouble Stoke. It was frustrating watching Chamakh, quite correctly, offer himself as a sounding board to his midfield, only to watch Walcott miss chance after chance to spin off and curve his run into the centre into the space Chamakh had vacated. He doesn`t make a compelling case to be played in the centre at all. Perhaps it was less surprising that Arsenal`s first chance of note came from an Arteta corner which Chamakh headed just wide.

The Gunners didn`t show any lack of guile in midfield, with Ramsey and Arteta pulling the strings. With Chamakh out of sorts and Walcott putting in a quite baffling performance, they lacked a target. Fortunately Gervinho was slightly better attuned and could have opened the scoring when he latched onto Ramsey`s lofted through ball, he chested down in the area but just ran out of space as Begovic thwarted him. But the connection between Ramsey and Gervinho would not be forgotten.

Another Arteta set piece caused a flurry in the Potters back line, drifting to Gervinho on the back post. The Ivorian tucked the ball back to Ramsey whose fulminating shot flew centimetres wide. It would have been dulce et decorum est for him to score in front of the Stoke fans. Ramsey looked Arsenal`s most likely sorcerer and the support Arteta offers him in midfield is not to be underestimated. Arteta isn`t going to split defences 6 or 7 times a game, but he doesn`t cede possession, he plugs gaps, he makes tackles that need to be made. He is a sensible head in a team that has made a name for itself for its propensity towards shooting itself in the head. This is what you get when you buy a 29 year old with six years Premiership experience.

But after 27 minutes of relative toiling, Arsenal broke the deadlock. Arteta found Walcott on the edge of the area; he tried to pick his way through a Maginot line of Stoke defenders. The ball trickled back out to Ramsey who picked out another sumptuous clipped pass to the run of Gervinho, this time the Ivorian had space to chest the ball down before lashing it through the legs of Amir Begovic. It had been brow moistening work, but it had paid off via the home side`s two most threatening players. But the lead only lasted five minutes before old defensive frailties resurfaced. For some reason, Lee Mason judged the excellent Laurent Koscielny heading the ball to be a foul. But from the resulting free kick, Arsenal`s biggest attacking threat became our defensive bane.

I was on the same side as Shawcross; I saw his run from the corner of the area. So did Gervinho. Song yelled at him to cover Shawcross, Gervinho looked back and spotted that he had peeled off. Yet he stood idle as Whitehead clipped a free kick towards the far post, leaving Shawcross with a free run towards the flight of the ball. For some reason, the North Bank cheered ironically, thinking the ball was sailing out of play when it wasn`t even close. (I`m astounded that people that pay so much money to watch football pay so little attention to it). Shawcross headed back across goal; Walters got a flick inside the six yard box leaving Peter Crouch to convert from close range. A poor goal to concede having laboured so hard to assume the ascendancy. Gervinho had ostensibly scored one and cost us one. He`d make those maths more favourable by the game`s conclusion.

The Gunners looked stung once again and struggled for any kind of rhythm. Van Persie`s vigorous half time warm up suggested a swift introduction, but the manager kept his ace firmly tucked up his sleeve. As a result, the Gunners created very little. Ramsey and Arteta brought the ball forward willingly, but were met with a wall of static from Arsenal`s forwards. One could almost feel the players` eyes drifting towards the bench again, imploring their captain to come save them again. He duly arrived and within seconds he created our best opening of the half. Immediately he demonstrated the sort of movement we had lacked to pick up a pocket of space between full back and centre half, shimmed some space and stood up a cross to the back post which was just a fraction high for Koscielny.

Arsene then sent for Arshavin and he made a difference too, running more directly at Stoke`s tiring backline, as opposed to the running into it favoured by Walcott to that point. It was to be a direct piece of running from Gervinho that would yield the Gunners` second. Gervinho nudged the ball past Danny Pugh to the by line. Van Persie once again did, quite simply, what Chamakh couldn`t. He moved in the penalty area, sauntering past a sea of statuesque Stoke defenders towards the front post to meet Gervinho`s pullback and stab it past Begovic. Pulis immediately sent for Jones and Jerome from the bench.

But as the lactic acid gripped Stoke legs and as they pushed for an equaliser, Arsenal used the gaps at the back to punish the visitors. Arshavin played a measured ball down the line for Gervinho. He left Andy Wilkinson for dead, again racing to the by line. Again, van Persie saw the opportunity to attack the ball and met Gervinho`s cutback to stab it past Begovic again. Gervinho had scored one, made two and cost us one, leaving his account well in credit for the afternoon. A paycheque he banked in the form of a standing ovation as he left the pitch to be replaced by Frimpong. Meanwhile, Arsenal`s skipper can reflect on a calendar year that has now gleaned 25 goals in 26 games. Those are Henry-esque numbers and I will call him the world`s premier centre forward without fear of reprisal. A word too for Laurent Koscielny who dealt with Stoke`s aerial threat with ease. A partnership really seems to be developing between he and Mertesacker.

A semblance of understanding is beginning to emerge in the team and quietly, after a horrendous start, we now find ourselves two points behind Liverpool. Slowly but surely the team looks to be getting there. Ramsey`s influence is growing by the game; Gervinho gave us reason to rise from our seats. Koscielny is turning into the defender I always suspected he would be. A defender that just loves to defend. But the jewel in the crown is clearly the captain. The movement he demonstrated says to me that he shouldn`t play off of a main striker as many suggest, he would be too missed inside the area. He would also be too heavily missed, anywhere else other than our team sheet. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 20.DJOUROU, 4.MERTESACKER, 6.KOSCIELNY, 11.A.SANTOS, 17.SONG(c), 8.ARTETA, 16.RAMSEY, 14.WALCOTT (23.Arshavin `71), 27.GERVINHO (26.Frimpong `90), 29.CHAMAKH (10.v.Persie `66). Unused; 7.Rosicky, 9.J-Y.Park, 21.Fabianski, 30.Benayoun.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday October 23 2011

Time: 9:21PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Sign that ******** contract, RvP
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23/10/2011 22:00:00

Well, there you are then, LD. I did think you were on some protest strike when we didn't get your usual match report for our last 2 games. Good read as always; I feel we have to find a way to rest van Persie, as often as possible. He is far too vital to our attacking play to be risked in games like this one so, fairplay to Wenger choosing to bring him on when the Stoke defenders will have tired and hopefully, lost their hacking instincts. I thought Gervinho did well and is definitely MOTM, as the polls say. He has been unsteady for a few games before our midweek game so, I feel he is starting to come into his own after being left to come from the bench against Marseille. We just have to build from this game and with some wise counsel coming from our Captain and Arteta, we should just be able to get a respectable position on the table, come May 2012.
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23/10/2011 22:21:00

The Ref today (Mason) was poor as his decisions at times merely encouraged Stoke's physical style. How didn't we get a penalty for the hangman move on Chamakh by a Stoke defender; and how could he call Koscielny's powerful jump and header over Crouch a foul, resulting in their goal? A word about the TV commentators: DISGRACE!
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23/10/2011 23:02:00

Excellent article as usual. Cheers, TS.
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24/10/2011 00:09:00

RvP is simply, as Tim said, the best striker in the world bar none. He is absolutely leathal. I'm scared to think what teams will be in for him next summer and how much we can offer him to stay. Agreed with the comments on Kos too, been saying for a long time what a wonderful defender he is, and as it stands he's the best one in the team right now. With the awesome Chesney in goal, we're developing quite a nice spine to the team. Massive test next week!
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24/10/2011 00:35:00

gervinho has been a superb sidekick to rvp. he has been providing most of the assists this season to the captain. well done!
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24/10/2011 00:57:00

Gervinho finding some form with a goal & assist is to my mind the major positive (aside from the 3 pts against a huge, physical, aerially combative team) from today. Granted he never looked as likely until RVP entered the fray, but I was relieved to see him upping his game and hopefully it's a sign of many more games to come.
Report Abuse
24/10/2011 04:15:00

List of contenders for best strikers in the world in no particular order: Rooney, Aguerro, Messi, RvP... anyone else based on form over last 2 years?
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24/10/2011 06:28:00

Tevez perhaps also.
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24/10/2011 06:31:00

Good article. Despite the goal, the defence seems to be coming together slowly. I take only possitives from this game. Was not impressed by Walcott and Arshavin seems to be making more of n impact as a sub when the other team is beginning to tire. What made me feel so good today was the 6-1 thrashing of manure, it mde the 8-2 not feel so bad after all.
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24/10/2011 08:20:00

Another nice article, LD. Great performance from the lads given the physicality of the opposition. Did I hear Pulis say they were in control until RVP graced the pitch? He really must think they are something. Concerning Walcott, I think he deserves some time on the bench to think things through thoroughly and ultimately see the bigger picture. That there's more to football than just racing about the pitch. If that is all he is good at, then i think he is in the wrong sport. A good contender with Bolt he'll make. Looking forward to Bolton and the Blues. 7 yellows and 2 cards, boy did we look bad at the start of the season. Maybe they were trying to best our disciplinary record.
Report Abuse
24/10/2011 09:04:00

Nice one, great summary as usual...just wanted to ask (so I finally decided to log myself in) if Kosielny was winning all the headers, what was Mertersaker doing? I have always been a fan of 'Kos' and I am very happy with the signing of the German. I also believe that the CB partnerships are always best when you have the combination of ball winner and the other that 'mops up'. Per and Kos are that perfect combo (on paper) Kos has the speed to cover the ground to clean up anything that drops from the giant Germans head (from all the high balls into our box). So if Kos was winning every header - what was the German doing - is he the one best with the mop? Don't get me wrong, this is not a complaint or a dig, just interested to hear your view. All the best dude Martin
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24/10/2011 10:48:00

@ fridgital, in my opinion it was cos Crouch parked himself on Koscielney, as is usually the case the striker will stick themselves on someone who is the weakest in the air, ala Kevin Davies & Clichy. Kos was good yest.
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24/10/2011 11:03:00

Fidgit - I think the answer will be as simple as that the ball was going towards Kos's area of the pitch more often than not. Most likely a tactic from Stoke. If the oppo have a 6 foot 6 defender in the area it's more sensible to attack the smaller defender, especially if they have their own freakishly tall striker. Fortunately for us Kos has quite the leap on him!
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24/10/2011 11:04:00

Merts seems to stick a leg in and break things up, reading the game. He's probably a better header of the ball than Kos, but the ball drops where it drops.
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24/10/2011 11:12:00

...that would make sense, I like them both (Kos and Merts), then when Thomas gets fit, we are starting to form competition for places in those areas. How did Djourou fair in the right back spot. I have heard nothing which would be a good sign of his performance!?!
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24/10/2011 12:26:00

Instead of lighters and coins being pelted at that ***t Shawcross, the crowd sang "There's only one Aaron Ramsey etc etc" which was a nice, classy touch from the fans. Stoke knuckle draggers take note, this is how dignified football fans behave. My voice was non existent this morning, great stuff!!
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24/10/2011 12:47:00

*When was on the floor getting treatment. A word on Stoke, they are cheats, time wasters, divers and hackers. A ***king disgrace to the modern game. I thought Wimbledon from the 80's was dead? I love Pullis saying how much money we had on the bench and how they controlle dthe game (WTF?) not forgetting Crouch at 10 million and 12 million for the other big lad upfront - Jones? RVP 2.5 million, shut up Pulis you tosspot.
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24/10/2011 12:53:00

So glad we beat the Orcs. Chamakh was absolutely awful, very little movement, very little effort, no conviction in anything he does (even when the crowd backed him). if he was sold in January I wouldn't ever spare a second thought for him. We desperately need a new striker, big strong, mobile and knows where the goal is (Moussa Sow being an obvious contender). Bendtner is twice the player Chamakh is and the strange question is why let the better player go out on loan? Or better still, why not give park a game, there's a revolutionary idea!!
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24/10/2011 13:01:00

I think the issues with Bendtner probably revolved around his resolve to leave and the fact that if a player doesn't play regularly at the age of 23, he stagnates and usually goes backwards. But as to why we keep putting Park on the bench when it's clear we have no intention of using him- baffled. It made me laugh that the Stoke fans were chanting "boring" at our passing, but obviously found the 45 second gaps for goal kicks and the agonising 2 minute stoppage every time Rory Delap waddled his fat, usless arse over to the touchline to take a throw in really did amuse.
Little Dutch
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24/10/2011 13:28:00

The "boring" thing goes a little deeper than that i'm sure you're aware. That was fkin frustrating in the away fixture them chanting it non stop. As it was amazingly true!
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24/10/2011 13:40:00

Delap is a shockingly bad footballer whose throw in's are a complete waste of space now. To give those not there an idea of how utterly cynical Stoke rare, their keeper was time wasting from about the 3rd minute, it was quite frankly absurd. We even took to chanting "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on" when Stoke were time wasting and we got up to 40 seconds for one throw in. Just why the ref let it go on so many occasions is ridiculous, he also from the 30th minute onwards gave every single thing he could to Stoke decision wise, good job we made that a total irrelevance. Pulis has a not so cheaply assembled side that cannot play football and cannot stick to the rules, how long before TV stations/commentators stop humouring this talentless bunch of clown and show them for what they are worth? LD - as for Park, I really do not know what is going on with him, or any potential "easing into the British game" style of management.....
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24/10/2011 13:41:00

Of course and I acknowledged that in the report for the away game. But it's rich to say we're boring when Stoke must have eaten almost a third of the game with the ball either sat stationary on the edge of their area, or under Rory Delap's shirt.
Little Dutch
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24/10/2011 13:46:00

If the referees are quite happy allowing the ball boys at the Britannia stadium to give Delap a towel to dry the ball before throwing it, perhaps our ball boys should be allowed to squirt the ball with water before one of his tedious throws. Perfectly legitimate, surley?
Sir Henry
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24/10/2011 14:14:00

No offence but Stoke have no idea what football is. Theirs is a mixture of b\ball, handball, rugby and something else. I'm always delighted with a win over the rugby boys of the Premier League. They do take out the shine off the League. Amazingly they seem to be managing well in Europe. But its telling on their league form. (Pulis et al). We have to accept that long throws like Delap's have become part of the game and amusingly have been called "tactics". Good stuff from the crowd not getting on Shawcross's back. I mean its not like he does that in training, breaking legs (Pulis et al).
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24/10/2011 14:39:00

On another point, Its pleasing to see we could manage without RVP, though he still appears indispensable right now. I think the Boss should begin to rotate the forward line a bit especially Theo. Someone rightly observed that Arsh is seemingly becoming an impact sub. If it works for the team, then he should play that way. On why Park has not been given a call up, its for Arsene to know and the fans to find out. He'll get his chance surely.
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24/10/2011 14:44:00

I don't have any problems with Stoke playing a long ball or a long throw in. It's effective for them so they'd be stupid not to use it. Many different ways to skin a cat and all that. In fact, I think Stoke do have entertainment value because the throws ins etc generate a sense of excitement and it's positive play. My only gripes are when they push the limits of gamesmanship- taking an eternity over goalkicks from the first minute, taking 2 minutes per throw in. Basically, anything that is inside the rules of the game is all gravy. It's just when they break legs and make the eyeballs bleed as another section of your life disappears watching Delap towel a ball off that grates with me.
Little Dutch
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24/10/2011 15:56:00

If it works then fair enough doesn't make it fun, entertaining, clever or palatable (it wasn't when we did it!), but pointing out the cost of players on our bench when their strike force cost an absolute fortune compared is frankly ridiculous. I have come to expect nothing containing any sense at all from Pulis.
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24/10/2011 16:06:00

It's true, Stoke have no right to play pauper when they're paying the likes of Kenwyne Jones and Peter Crouch not insiginificant salaries. But I suppose entertainment is entirely subjective. Personally, I can appreciate a blood and thunder style that's positive and tries to get results over a team just parking ten in front of their goal. (Though I understand why they do it). I suppose the analogy I'd use is that I like a bit of mindless, thrashy rock n roll, but can also listen to classical music. But not everything is to everyone's tastes. There are people that, understandably I think, find Barcelona very boring to watch.
Little Dutch
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24/10/2011 16:39:00

I also on occasion find Barcelona boring to watch, we as a club have fallen into the trap of thinking passing football is always exciting, it isn't. Do you honestly think Stoke's style is "blood and thunder" rather than cynical rule stretching and dangerous foul play? I suppose "blood and thunder" would be akin to a lower league team running their a***s off trying to close a team down and give them little space no? How did you find the atmosphere on Sunday? Thought it was one of the best this season (not saying much I know).
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24/10/2011 16:53:00

It isn't when they play us, but in general I think they're a positive team that can be entertaining to watch- even if it's not in a chin stroking kind of way. I think the atmos this season in general has been very good. Whether that's a sympton of lower expectations I don't know. But in a peculiar way I think the 8-2 shellacking cleared a few storm clouds from the fans.
Little Dutch
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24/10/2011 18:10:00

I have watched Stoke play against a few other teams and interestingly, I find they do play positive football on occasion. It is not implausible that our style of play brings out the Orcs in them; we basically, out-possess and out-play them leaving them with only scraps to go for; caveman instincts then take over. They held Chelsea to a draw and that game was exciting, for me (or could it be the joy of seeing the chavs held?).
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24/10/2011 20:00:00

The 8-2 trouncing completely took away any pretentions of this being a "double winning" season so the match going fans seem to have accepted that we may not have a feast of football each week and dare I say relaxed? I'm still paying for Sunday's game 2 days later lol Interesting point about Stoke, I make it a rule not to watch them as I detest them as a club, but then I only see them play us and when smaller clubs play bigger teams they usually go ultra defensive, maybe they are more attacking against "lesser" teams, but you still wouldn't catch me paying to watch them!!
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25/10/2011 10:07:00

My mates and I were discussing this on Sunday. It looks, to me, as though we're a team that'll come up short against the likes of Chelsea, Citeh, United against Liverpool we were severely depleted and unable to cope (if we played them now it'd be a different story I think) and away at Spurs, but we'll probably beat just about everyone else. Some of my number were saying they find this infinitely preferable to pulling out all the stops v Chelsea, Barca and United, but then bending over against Villa and Stoke.
Little Dutch
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25/10/2011 11:14:00

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, beating times like Blackburn is hardly a given, who are bottom, is it? I'd take that as well as long as expectations were lowered from the top down
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25/10/2011 11:46:00

Utd won 7-8 titles by beating the best of the rest, we'll get more points from the rest of the league teams than we would from Chelsea, Utd and City. I also think we can beat Liverpool and possibly Sp*rs now but the other 3 are on a different planet. Haven't been to the Bridge in ages, (it's still a dump, I know) but i'm looking forward to it.
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25/10/2011 11:49:00

Of course there'll always be exceptions. Hell, we might even get a result at the Bridge to even it out! Not saying it's a given at all, just a feeling I get generally speaking. If we can talk generally about the Invincibles being perfect, all conquering and all sweeping (they weren't, see their CL record which is seldom spoken about through the mists of nostalgia), then we can talk about this team's abilities in general terms too without being too forensic.
Little Dutch
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25/10/2011 11:52:00

The invicibles were bolloxed tho by the time that Chelsea game came round, we should've put em to bed in the first leg & first half of Highbury. We would've beaten Monaco n all, so frustrating. But Wenger probably would've lost to Mourinho in the final :-/
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25/10/2011 12:15:00

shewore - That was the most frustrating CL game ever I had to watch, we spanked Chelsea in both matches and got nothing for our endevours.
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25/10/2011 13:38:00

I think it was a solid win, and the thing is - the supporters (or at least me) are also growing in confidence, along with this team. Sure, I was disappointed that we let Stoke score (they had 4 touches on the ball inside the area which is poor defending), but at half time, I believed that this side could go on and get 3 points. The chances of a top 4 finish are looking better now, but this side needs to continue getting the results.
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25/10/2011 20:51:00


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