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Stoke City 1 Arsenal 1

Stoke away has come to represent a fixture I both relish and dread in equal measure. I like the cauldron style atmosphere and the genuine dislike between the teams. But then prolonged exposure to Stoke fans, Stoke players and that wazzock in the stupid baseball cap and his moronic dribblings make my blood pressure go doolalley. Nevertheless, with our four packs secured, we boarded the train from London Euston to Staffordshire. Kris decided that our inconspicuousness would be aided in the Potteries if he wrote "TONY PULIS IS A C**T" in permanent marker on his baseball cap. When two of our party also had the same idea to "surprise" us all with a bottle of jaigermeister, the tone was set.

After a few more pre match beverages in the Staffordshire student union, we were ready to board the park and ride bus to the Britannia. The atmosphere inside was as heated and idiotic as you`d expect; nevertheless, there was a game to win and Arsenal set about trying to win it early on. Crouch gave Arsenal a portent warning when he stopped to head Pennant`s cross wide. But the away side got amongst their hosts. Benayoun closed down the very poor Ryan Shotton (like Delap, his only athletic talent is in his shoulders) and fed van Persie on the lip of the area; van Persie nudged the ball back into the Israeli`s path, but he just couldn`t get enough purchase on his shot which was comfortably saved by Begovic.

Soon after Rosicky eked himself out some space before curling a good cross to the back post, which van Persie met with a downward header. Begovic was down smartly and equal to the effort. Having not taken those early chances, the Gunners were caught cold by the Potters. Etherington was allowed to cross the ball from the left far too easily by Sagna, the ball drifted to the back post where Crouch outleapt Vermaelen to head the ball down into the bottom corner. But far from licking their wounds, the away side set to the business of equalising. Once again, Benayoun ferociously closed down the terrible, terrible Ryan Shotton and played a reverse pass to Rosicky on the left. Rosicky delivered a sumptuous cross into the area, which van Persie read like a book and diverted into the net from close range. The Dutchman`s first goal from open play since March 12th.

Another cross should have yielded another goal for Arsenal, when Sagna swung in a precise delivery from the right which was inch perfect for Gervinho, but the Ivorian feared a clattering from Begovic and took his eye off it, missing the flight of the ball entirely. Gervinho was giving Wilson a bit of trouble at left back. Koscielny`s measured ball down the line saw him outpace Mark Wilson, but off balance the divine forehead blasted the ball well over. All level at half time but you felt the Gunners were trying to win the game that little bit more convincingly than Stoke.

That said, in the second half, despite territorial dominance, Arsenal struggled to break through a well drilled Potters back line. Stoke were happy to force Arsenal wide, and it was from wide positions Arsenal looked most threatening, if only occasionally. Rosicky worked wide to Sagna, he put in another teasing cross, finding van Persie, who headed goalwards, but couldn`t quite summon the power to get the attempt past Begovic. Arsenal had a shout for a penalty when van Persie collected Song`s pass in the area and cut the ball back for Benayoun, who appeared to have been nudged in the back in the area. Replays suggested a penalty would have been a very harsh award indeed. The Gunners toiled to little effect with the sort of fatigue that has been so evident of late looking increasingly like it`s hampering the end of the season. Stoke rarely threatened save for the last few minutes. Jerome forced Szczesny into a save at his front post, before substitute Rory Delap tossed a long throw into the area, Crouch beat Szczesny to the ball, but Sagna brilliantly hooked away with John Walters lurking. Walters then curled Shawcross` long ball wide with the outside of his right foot in stoppage time. Diaby predictably limped out of the action shortly before the full time whistle. I`d suggest this may have been his last game in an Arsenal shirt, which will be a shame but probably necessary at this stage.

In the end, a point was just about fair with neither side really showing the necessary spark to win the game. Arsenal offered more as an attacking threat, but we just don`t have enough players that look like scoring goals at the moment. The likes of Ramsey, Rosicky, Benayoun and Gervinho are performing to varying levels in the build up, but none really look like helping van Persie out with the scoring burden. We showed a slightly increased propensity to shoot from rage with Ramsey and Vermaelen coming close, but the impression that we`re crawling over the finishing line remains. Newcastle`s defeat made it a better point and we keep our destiny in our own hands at least. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS, 17.SONG, 16.RAMSEY (2.Diaby `73), 7.ROSICKY, 27.GERVINHO (29.Chamakh `78), 30.BENAYOUN (11.A.Santos `83), 10.v.PERSIE (c). Unused: 15.Chamberlain, 18.Squillaci, 21.Fabianski, 39.Coquelin.

1.BEGOVIC, 22.SHOTTON (20.Upson `56), 4.HUTH, 17.SHAWCROSS (c), 12.WILSON, 16.PENNANT (33.Jerome `74), 6.WHELAN, 18.WHITEHEAD, 26.ETHERINGTON (24.Delap `84), 19.WALTERS, 25.CROUCH. Unused: 9.Jones, 10.Fuller, 29.Sorensen, 33.Palacios.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday April 29 2012

Time: 3:10PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
We continue to miss the artistry and long range threat of Arteta. Almost by accident the spaniard brought a Plan B to our game because teams had nullify his shooting potency as well as his creativity. Having said that it was good to see Rosicky swinging in some tasty crosses. we do need the variation in our attack if we're to get past the most stubborn defences.
Wyn Mills
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29/04/2012 15:58:00

just watched the Spurs Blackburn game. The spuds will never have an easier game all season. Nay, the entire decade. Blackburn were totally abject. When was the last time any team failed to mount any attack whatsoever? Deserve to go down. Wish they were our next opponents.
Wyn Mills
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29/04/2012 18:07:00

It's annoying that teams constantly raise their game for Arsenal and not for other big clubs, Manchester United especially. In any case, yesterday we played ok, we just could not find the winner. Annoying it may be that we dropped two points, we hardly get anything from Stoke away anyway. We should be able to wrap up 3rd against Norwich and WBA away rendering our London rivals' upturns meaningless. ...Hopefully anyway!
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29/04/2012 18:48:00

As long as we end up crawling into 3rd place, I don't really care but we now need 2 more wins to make sure. I just hope the players can dig deep, coz some of the have played a lot of games this season (Rosicky and Benayoun should be fresher). I am concerned about Song, RvP and a couple of others. Finishing 3rd is still not guaranteed.
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29/04/2012 20:15:00

It's just two games to go and the players need to be speaking to one another about what's at stake and the need to dig deep just to go over the line. We cannot have any excuses for missing out on 3rd place. After the last league game, they have time off; eyes must be on the ball now instead of feeling sorry for themselves.
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29/04/2012 21:47:00

Despite the disappointments of the past two weeks, culminating in their ouster from the CL and losing out on the title, Barcelona still summoned up courage to make the effort to beat Rayo 0-4; now, that's what I am talking about. Our team must man up to certain situations so as to build a reputation that could serve the side going into the next season.
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29/04/2012 21:57:00

Diaby is a concern. How much longer can we suffer with him spending more time in the treatment room than on the field? Of course,there is the thought hat we let him go and he miraculously recovers and turns into a key player for a rival side and achieve the potentials we know he has. PS: Barca game ended 0-7! .
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29/04/2012 22:29:00

I would give diaby one more season. If he has another injury ravaged season then I think we must cut our losses. Very frustrating as he has a wealth of potential. Watching him in his best games for arsenal I liken him to a young viera. With his big stride, gliding past opposing players like a gazel, very hard to shift off the ball and he has goals when he has his shooting boots on. I am in no doubt if he were fit and playing well he's a starter every game.
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29/04/2012 23:19:00

I feel Diabi has a lot in him to give to the current Arsenal team. We should recollect that Robin also used to last only 3months in a season appart from this season that he has been able to stay injury free. Let us hope that next year we get a full season from both RVP and Diabi.
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30/04/2012 02:00:00

For me, we've given Abou chance after chance after chance, the bloke has been ruined by that clogger who is now probably delivering milk in the north east. A real shame but we just can't carry passengers, this squad is crawling over the finish line dead on it's feet as it is. Gotta be ruthless here and cut loose, Diaby himself admitted recently he has considered retirement a few times and I think that's not far off really.
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30/04/2012 04:17:00

Our fate is still in our hands but potentially only by 1 point and a small goal difference which the Spuds could effectively wipe out over their next game or two. If we win our next two, we will finish third and it has come down to two cup final games. The finish line is in sight but a final sprint is needed.
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30/04/2012 06:01:00

I mostly agree with Niko on Diaby but I'm hesitant only bcoz this season, we've seen RvP and Rosicky enjoy their best seasons for Arsenal after seasons of injury. Tempted to give Diaby one more season only on that small sliver of hope.
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30/04/2012 06:50:00

The medical team's opinion at the end of the season could decide Diaby's career. If they deem him not ready for even 20 games in a season it would be a crying shame but time to cut our losses.
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30/04/2012 07:11:00

i think Diaby should be given at least next season. I think he has the ability to be very good for us and his hight and strength is a genuine attribute that gives us different options. Even for a fanatical point I think it makes sense: if we sell him now we would probably get £2-3m but even a mediocre season from him would see that figure go to nearer £10m and a good season something between £15-25m. Even sending him on loan if we want to free up wages.
No 10
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30/04/2012 09:18:00

Diaby's currently on in or around £60k a week, keeping him for another year costs us £3m. Plus, another year off his deal (which I believe runs till 2015), means the shortfall probably wouldn't be made up unless Diaby had an exceptional season. In which case, we'd probably end up keeping him anyway. Really, we have to make a decision this summer. A loan could be a happy medium, but I think the club will be reluctant to do that.
Little Dutch
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30/04/2012 10:25:00

Diaby suffered repetitive injuries even while playing in France before joining us. Its fair to say its been a feature of his career and frankly I don't see the situation improving with age. Indeed, I would expect it to worsen.
Wyn Mills
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30/04/2012 11:23:00

Diaby's had a similar injury record to Theo and Robin. And Rosicky. Good thing we didn't get rid of them, eh.
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30/04/2012 11:31:00

Damiano, as a matter of interest do you have any stats for this?
Wyn Mills
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30/04/2012 12:09:00

Hey Wyn. I can't find any definitive injury lists on line (and I'll be damned if I'm going to check every article on these players been injured ,they've had so many injuries!) but I can easily list the year that these players joined and how many appearances they've made:

Rvp - 2004 - 192 app.

Walcott - 2006 - 148 app.

Rosicky - 2006 - 116 app.

Diaby - 2006 - 112 app.

Given Rosicky and Diaby are used similarly within our squad (left and centre midfield), they bear the closest comparison; and Diaby's featured in only four games fewer.
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30/04/2012 12:22:00

Cheers. The thing that worries me about Diaby (when you compare him to players like Rosicky, RvP, Jack and Vermaelen) is the variety of his injuries - ankle, thigh, calf, hip, name it Abou has had it at one time or another. His problem isn't a persistent glass ankle or a rare tendon injury - its his propensity to pick up muscle strains. He's a 'crock star' as some rag wittly put it. And he's been like this for some considerable time, even before he joined the club. I think that points to a deep underlying problem.
Wyn Mills
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30/04/2012 12:56:00

Good to see Podolski's move to the Arsenal confirmed
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30/04/2012 13:51:00

Could be, Wyn; maybe grew a bit too quick. Maybe it's just that one injury compounds another? You often get that don't you, when a player recovers from an ankle injury but the other muscles have deteriorated so h suddenly gets a hammy.
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30/04/2012 14:01:00

Damiano, re the stats you've posted. Were appearances in the current season included?
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30/04/2012 18:57:00

Not sure Naija, it's taken from Wikipedia so it plus or minus 60 appearances...!
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02/05/2012 10:02:00


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