To Stoke and back

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Stoke away has become a strange spot on our fixture list. Since Shawcross broke Ramsey’s leg two years ago this game has boiled down into a weird little bubble, existing within itself, fuelled by hatred and anger. Yesterday it looked like that atmosphere is not receding at all. Wenger was relentlessly taunted by them, Shawcross got booed by our boys and most perplexing of all, Ramsey was jeered throughout.

We always seem to struggle up there and our previous performances have epitomised the negative side of Arsenal in recent years. Last year we were clutching at a wafer thin chance at the title when we showed up at the Britannia but we were bullied and out played and succumbed meekly to a 3-1 scoreline, at times throwing our toys out of the pram and looking a bit silly while they kept us at arm’s length.

It’s easy to think that this game should be simple, looking at Stoke’s style of play and their league position. Yet without their home form, they’d be fighting a relegation battle and they rise to the occasion when the big boys come to the Brittania. At home they’ve beaten Liverpool and Tottenham and drawn with both Manchester clubs,  Chelsea and now us. Add to that they were so psyched up for us –yesterday they fought like it was some kind of cup final–and I’m happy to settle for a point away (see the top free bets for this match).

Yesterday we showed some guts without losing our nerve. The more Ramsey was booed the more it spurred him on as he got around well. He’s still taking two touches when one will suffice but there’s enough there to see that his first full season since that leg break has gone OK and he’s on my “ones to watch” for next season.

His shooting has been nothing short of atrocious and that’s something he has to work on considering the amount of excellent scoring opportunities he engineers. I remember a few years ago Cesc–after a bout of goals–revealed that Wenger set him the target of getting on the scoresheet more often and adding goals to his game. I’m hoping Le Boss does the same with Aaron next season and that the Welshman responds in kind.

I add my voice to Andy’s suggestion that it’s about balance in the team as the reason why he has been played out wide so often when it clearly doesn’t suit his game. He comes back inside too much in search of the more familiar space of centre field. But I’d also add that this is a much deployed tactic from Wenger with younger players and something that he cites as being a part of their “education.”

This way–so goes the Wenger theory–players learn more about the game and can adapt better in later years. He did it with Vela and Bendtner and he’s doing it with Ramsey. It’s a hit and miss tactic. It worked with players like Henry and RVP who moved from winger to striker and from shadow striker to the sharp point of our three man attack respectively, but as mooted with Vela and Bendtner, it doesn’t always pay off.

You go near my wife, I kill you.
You go near my wife, I kill you.

It’s getting late in the season and apart from CL qualification we’ve not got much left to fight for. Wigan did us a huge favour in hammering Newcastle and bar a huge slump on our behalf and a massive resurgence from Tottenham, third place should be ours.

This sets up us nicely for a tedious summer of transfer rumours, but behind the scenes our money men can rummage through the higher shelves of players knowing that we are automatically in the pot for the Champions League.

And so my head’s already being turned toward 2012/13. Of course new signings fill the bulk of that thought and instead of big money signings like the much sounded Hazard my attention is focussed on someone a lot closer to home: Yossi. I really like this guy, he looks as though if enough fans blew at the same time it would knock him off the ball but he shows a lot of steel and has some pinache to boot. Making him a quick, cheap, permanent acquisition from Chelsea would be first on my list. It’s good having him around and he’s a fantastic squad player.

Other than that, I’ve no idea. Who actually does? Apart from Podolski there’s not much else going on so time will tell. At the very  least Yossi is wearing our kit, and while he’s not the answer to all our problems he certainly ticks a few boxes.

On a personal note it’s great to be able to watch the Arsenal again, get back onside with the blog and witness RVP’s phenomenal season; they’ve all been a privilege. Off to enjoy the sun, Berlin is scorching…

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45 thoughts on “To Stoke and back

  1. We have not won since we lost Arteta 3 matches ago when we lost 2-1 at home to Wigan. Remember our slump in January, when we lost many matches with Arteta out injured? Arteta is very important because he can concentrate 100% in 90 minutes, is tactically and technically sound. Right now I would say it will be hard to maintain our top 3 position unless Ramsey or Song can step up. Ramsey and Song are not technical players, they need to take 2 touches to control a ball and their positioning is not up to standard as well.

    Wenger really need to buy 2 more midfielders this summer – one defensive and another attacking one. Hopefully we can get Yann M’Vila, Mario Goetz! (although he has just signed a contract extension with Borussia Dortmund) or Kagawa. It would be too risky to depend on Wilshere to remain fit for the whole of next season after being out for this entire season.

  2. Stoke has never been a particularly hospitable venue for the top clubs, none of the top 5 won there this season!
    So I am not too down for coming away with a draw.

    P.S. Looks like everyone has an opinion as to what Wenger needs to buy in the summer! And they can label a player as not being “technical because they take 2 touches to control a ball” Very deep, wow.

  3. Good posting Mark.
    Agreed the Stoke away fixture has become it’s own little microcosm of tension and dislike. A point there would have been a more welcomed result had we picked up more against Wigan and/or QPR but that’s spilled milk now.
    Despite Wenger’s good intentions playing Aaron out wide doesn’t seem to be helping anyone and the experiment has been conducted enough times to make sense of the results and the needed adjustments.
    BTW: Koln stated this morning that Podolski will be coming to us so one down.
    Will Robin stay and who else will we add to the squad? Guesses anyone.

  4. Both Patrick Viera and a rep from Manchester united were on the stands during Hazard last Game. Ferggie has been there in person this season to watch him.
    Has Wenger made the effort ? Showed Any interest?
    I am reminded that Ben Arfa was also available when we got Nasri. We need a players like Ben Arfa or Eden Hazard to keep RVP, he knows that he won’t win major trophies , playing with these Ramsey, Benayoom, Rociski and Arteta.
    We are more than 15 points behind the second place team, am I the only one concerned that we have become irrelevant to the title race in the last few years?

  5. Excellent post, and good to have you back.

    Stoke are about as risible and dislikable a club as there is in the league. Much has already been expressed on other blogs regarding the booing of Ramsey so I’ll keep it short with the old cliche that form is temporary while class is indeed permanent and additionally, never to be found anywhere near the A50 and Stanley Matthews Way. Ever, never, to paraphrase my son.

    That being said, Ramsey does present some difficulty. Many of us who support him and applaud his bravery must also acknowledge his complete lack of form. Wenger will stick with him into next season no doubt, but I wonder if he might benefit from a loan spell? I really want the lad to succeed in the red and white, and I am confident he will do so.

    Good news on Podolski. An early signing at Arsenal? At this club we must expect the unexpected, sometimes even for the good.

    RvP should be royally rewarded for one of the best seasons of any striker in Arsenal history and be locked down for the remainder of his career. But his market value right now may be the highest it will ever be. At age 28 he is at his peak. It could all very well be downhill from here – I mean a season like this will be difficult to replicate anywhere. His agent wouldn’t be doing his job he wasn’t uncovering every stone and look at any and all options to maximize his client’s earnings. And we all know that “maximizing earnings” and “Arsenal” typically don’t belong in the same sentence. I predict another long drawn out affair before things are settled.

    I’m interested in what people predict regarding the fate of our loanees like Vela and Bendtner. And what of our loaner Benayoun?

  6. Well Podolski signing is a good news and will be great news if Van Persie stays.

    I am not against wenger’s experimentation but i think it is not required with an out of form player and when we need good runs for our champion league qualification which led us to depend on other team’s failure and holding our fingers crossed for the last two games.Otherwise i am happy if Arsene would have secured the third spot and experimented with Ramsey in the last two games.

    I still believe Ramsey is a very good player and he will come good in the future, but he doesn’t have the age or flexibility or attitude now to come good like Henry or Van Persie in different positions and noone would like to see him the end with the kind of fate Vela ,Bendtner or Denilson experienced.

    Of course players benefit a lot when they are high on confidence in their current position like Henry ,Van Perise,Nasri ,Fabregas but not when they are learning to adapt in their current position.

    But i am happy that Arsene have changed a lot. After Fab & co departure his signings age showed the difference. Also he is now too cautious in playing his younger players(Ox,Coquelin etc) too much and doesn’t want them to lose them for seasons in injuries.Let’s hope that Arsene will change with his experimentation style too.

  7. The next two weeks are massive for us as RVP is more apt to bolt if Champion’s League is off the table. Chelsea and Newcastle play each other and then both have other difficult fixtures. I’m worried about Totteringham though as it would be really cruel to be nipped at the end by the spuds.

    Podolski signing is great news and surprising that it happened so early. Perhaps the Arsenal brass felt that it would help keep RVP in town if reinforcements were on the way?

    We had some great wins this year (Chelsea away, Spuds and City at home) but I’m already looking forward to next year. Hopefully we nail down third, sign a couple of players and get Wilshere back healthy for next year. We need to nail down 3rd place though…


  8. @one-nil

    I personally would be happy to have Bendtner back as back up to RVP and Podolski (which is a done deal now apparently). Would prefer NB52 over Chamakh and the Korean man of mystery – Park the Bus or whatever his name is! No doubt I will get howls of derision from some people on this site for even contemplating this scenario. But we ain’t going to get a recognised frontline striker wiling to play third choice behind RVP and iPodolski. Whether Bendtner is willing to come back is another matter.He may prefer to stick with a lesser team and play more regularly. Vela by the sounds of things wants to stay in Spain and they are welcome to him and his one good foot.

    As things turned out with Wigan beating Newcastle it wasn’t a bad weekend. Not as comfortable as we would like for third place. Norwich up next and they have had a great season but a dip in form recently so I would hope and expect three points. Spuds play a desperate Bolton and Chelski play Newcastle who will be desperate to cling onto that champions league spot and the Most Expensive Bus in History will have an eye on Wembley and will probably rest some players. Have to say though that Torres finally remembering where the goal is is a bit of a worry for next year.

    Also, I heard somewhere that if the Terry Bus wins the ECL then they would get automatic qualification over whoever finishes third. Is this the case? Can anyone shed light on that?

    Also to whoever it was who chastised me a while ago for prefering $hity to win the title over Manure I have changed my mind! Manure were garbage and even though it will be hard to watch Nasri accept a league winners medal they deserve it this year. Manure are really average.

    Nice to have another post at last Mark!

  9. @Terry,

    IF Chelsea continue their Mission Impossible and actually manage to beat Bayern at home in the biggest annual match of European football (no doubt with only ten men, and behind a goal), then YES – they automatically qualify.

    As far as 3rd place, I’ve heard: that if Chelsea win the CL AND are out of the top four, then the 3rd place team in the Prem must play the qualifying match, normally meant for the 4th place team. If that is indeed the case, then go Bayern and COYG! Of course, it is not impossible that Chelsea could grab 4th/ If they do AND they win the CL, then the 3rd place team will NOT have to play a qualifier (I think – but only on a Wednesday and only IF Wenger has had Crepe Suzette for breakfast).

  10. I would prefer Man city to win, am tired of watching united win year after year.
    They feel that the league title is God given right, I hate that team!

  11. If Chelsea win th Champions League and finish outside the top 4, 4th place goes to the Europa League, while Chelsea play the qualifier. 3rd place gets automatic qualification.

  12. I always feared Spurs to be the one who can catch us rather than Newcastle.Newcastle will surely have a tough time against chelsea and mancity.
    Spurs on the otherhand is a threat if they can put a decent form clubbed with our lack of form. But i have a strange feeling that we will make it through.

    I agree with you @Terry that NB52 is always better than Chamakh and will be good if he is played in central role and also arsene can get rid of Park .

    As for the title place i wish ManU to win, otherwise Nasri ,Clichy exit will become an example for Van Persie ,Walcott and other players in future to exit Arsenal for honours.

    Torres form is a really a concern for Champions league final and next season as even David Villa looked just a normal player alongside him when he is in form.

  13. @Voley – I share your concern. So just a reminder to all, that Fabrice Muamba will be in attendance at the Reebok to watch the next match. Please cheer on Fabrice (ex Arsenal and truly one of the good guys) along with Bolton. Should be easy for all Gooners given their opponents. Go Fabrice, Go Bolton and above all…COYG!!!

  14. Come on guys, we have a 4 point gap on 4th and 5th place Norwich at home and the Baggies away. A win and a draw do it. We can’t possible miss…
    Unless of course…

  15. @leftcoast – well put. Wenger’s latter day squads never take the easy way, do they?

  16. Let’s put my imagination to arsenal’s favour and predict the results for us.

    Chelsea and Newcastle settle for a draw. Draw is sweeter than neither of them winning.

    Bolton and Spurs settle for a draw .I am happy if Bolton wins too.

    Chelsea lose to Liverpool , Newcastle lose to ManCity,Spurs lose to Fulham.

    These results are more than enough to win with our current points even if each one of them win their remaining game without a goal difference of 4.

  17. Supporting Bolton tonight that’s easy, but the Chelsea v Newcastle game is on the box and I guess the result we Want is a draw. Cant stand Chelsea, hate Cole, Terry etc, but the worst result is a Newcastle win. Can’t enjoy a game like this.

    Nice to see Muamba at the game hope he lifts Bolton

  18. G’day Retsub
    What about Cisse’s goals thought?! Talk about corkers. Spuds won also so only one point separating us them and the Geordies. Spurs have two very winnable games so we have to get 6 points from our two games. Can’t see Newcastle beating $ity. Ideal situation – we win, newcastle 4th and chelski thumped in the ecl final. Next best, spuds 4th, chelski win and take their spot. However I can see us finishing 4th and having to rely on the Germans. Bloody hell – it’s the loss to QPR that will come back and bite us…
    Next up Norwich and its a midday kick off which never seems to suit us. We usually play like we only just got out of bed and skipped breakfast. Hope I’m wrong.

  19. G day Terry
    I think you are right its going to be tight Maybe its time to feed the spuds a dodgy lasagne again. Wow that was some goal by Cisse. I really hope we dont finish 4th and have to rely on Bayern.
    I was really hoping we wouldnt have to go to West Brom and have to get something, but as usual we are going to have to suffer.

    Arteta and Walcott are going to be missed in the final games. Oh well at least our fate is in our own hands

    At least you get to see the game at an earthly hour this time. I have a brother in Perth who is always complaining about it.

  20. Well we have our own fate in our hands , we should easily win these 2 games. Frankly we can not rely on any body else, but ourselves. Do we have the talent to be a team that can win the league or compete for the champion league/ or have we been so depleted a world class talent that we now foind ourselves with Spurs, Newcastle…
    Maybe Arsenal needs a real wake-up call , I do hear from fans the need to really make the changes to improve the team.
    Maybe finishing 4 th or missing the CL will force us to make the necessary change.

  21. Interesting times, the tension and uncertainty about holding on to this 3rd spot will have you thinking that it’s a trophy. But the advantage is that it’s still in our hands….let’s keep it there (in our hands I mean)
    Good buy regarding Podolski transfer, he’s a quality player.
    We have enough benchwarmers at the club already, Bennayoun needs to go.

  22. Podolski is a gooner!!!!
    Well done Wenger on signing a proven International, and at good value aswel…its just as encouraging that he seen how vital it was to make an addition(s) of this kind where he has failed so many times before…its is a clear sign of ambition and intent. It was great not to be beat to his signature or havd a saga but I think whats also clear is Lucas wanted to come to us…also a good sign as I feared we were losing our appeal when bigger teams competed with us.
    So thats Podolski done and hopefully Robin will hang about to give us a deadly trio of lefty rocket launchers over our frees with the verminator also able to whack a few!
    The big news goin around now aswel is that were at advanced stages with Verthongen…lets hope this is true…lb, cb or cm…the guy is a serious footballer and obvious Arsenal candidate…he is everything that
    Vermaelen is and look how well he has done for us, it would be so satisfying to not only add his name to Podolskis but to see Wenger set targets and acquire them before the euros really tells me we are ready to compete again….Iv heard bits and pieces about yann m’via but I really believe if we get verthongen we can play him in the anchor role and push song on where he can create more and foul less.
    I was a bit dissapointed we missed out on Montolivo to AC Milan..and even Cahill and Marin to Chelsea for 7m each but if we seal the deal for the Ajax man and can add a link man in behind the striker(s) I feel we will be hard to stop next season.
    So long story short well done keep it up..two more quality players in…6/7 deadwood out, promotion of Ryo and Joel Campbell and more of Coquelin would be the business for next year!

  23. I’d just like to say ‘Thank You’ to a proper Arsenal legend, and someone who deserves huge respect for his more than 4 decades of involvement at Arsenal. I know it’s not been confirmed yet, but it appears today is going to be Pat Rice’s last home game with Arsenal, and I hope the crowd give him the send off he deserves. Thank you Pat..

  24. If Wenger can only save us Ramsey then third spot is assured. This is not time for experimenting. Ramsey chemistry has absolutely failed and the previous results speak volumes about his contribution to the game. Ramsey is better played as a substitute when the game is already won ,done and dusted.
    @Wayne Ronney’s goal does it deserve all the accolade!! Does any one remember the Robin V.p volley against Charlton about 2007, 2006 not so sure. Try checking it out. It was an absolute master piece. Hope the Ox starts the game for 85 minutes.

  25. Good morning all,
    04:45 start out here, at least we’re near a full moon.
    Well will we or nil we? A team we should handily beat at home in a situation where the points are vital. The lads should come out firing on all cylinders.
    But, often in just these situations they don’t. Will today be a drama day or will we just go out there and get the job done right?

  26. Are we capitulating again? Is the favouritism thing with Ramsey coming back to haunt us? Have we seen the real Ramsey yet again? He was supposed to be the last midfielder, not the furthest forward. Ramsey will not help us win the UCL next season, he is at best mid-table stuff. Is he pulling the club down to where his true status is/lies? Can Wenger stop playing him, so we are sure he only comes on when it is absolutely necessary? He cannot even perform against Norwich… For the idiots who want to argue otherwise, I say has he stood out? Is his performance commanding?


    We can pick ourselves up and win this, but the fact that we are struggling yet again means something is wrong with our set-up. Is it surprising that with Walcott out, Benayoun and Gervinho are starting on the wings?

    We seriously need to sort ourselves out soon(before next season), we certainly cannot carry this rubbish method of playing into next season.

    I said we should’ve won against QPR to be a bit comfortable and honestly playing Ramsey instead of the Ox and Gervinho on the wings really looked very foolish at that point in time. The manner we go about getting a result today will totally justify my apprehensions. Today, we play for UCL rights…but, we just cannot seem up for it. The manner of heartache game-in, game-out is becoming absolutely ridiculous. The fact that i feel our best 11 on the day(barring injuries) do not often turn up is disgusting to say the least.

    Half-time now and fingers crossed…

    Is Chelsea gonna win the UPL, while the spuds and Newcastle overtake us?
    Even if chelski do not win the UCL, we have a very good chance of being 5th on the log at the end of the season the way we are going about business.

    Some will say coming from 17th to 5th is an achievement….

    @Shard – Shame on you and ur assholes for not seeing what is very obvious for all to see. For all our sakes, let us hope we win all the remaining games as any top club should…

  27. The game seems to have disintegrated after a positive start. Clueless defending, bizarre notice from Cheney with that clearance. Well RvP has scores a superb one now, let’s hope they score more and take three points.

  28. Is it a coincidence we score after Ramsey leaves? Forget Chezney, is this how he performs week-in week-out? Putting roung pegs in round holes is the only way we can perform efficiently…

    30 goals for VP and cheers to a deserving win

  29. This is not an issue of penalty decisions not given, this is an issue of us not setting up to win in the first place.

    Into injury time and as nail-biting as it could ever be….

  30. The game is 3-3 what a joke. Is Wenger the right man for the job. Can’t the team hold on to a win.Hope things change in added time

  31. This result is bad by all standards and no one has an answer for this. We have not won any single game in the last 5 matches is just a sign of a relegation bound team and not a team deserving to play UCL football. I doubt whether we shall win our last game away from home. The whole system needs to change next season and we focus on safety first at the back before attacking. Totenham seem so good for top three unless Aston Villa does us a miracle which i don’t think will happen. Top three was for us to take. Newcastle isn’t a threat as i expect City to thump them at their grounds.

  32. We draw the match, all kudos to Norwich…..

    We do not have it in our hands anymore…..

    Could we not have set-up better first-half?


    Win the game and bring on RAMSEY, not before…

    A lot of people will now come in here and vent as if they never saw all this coming….with all the favouritism with Ramsey, unjustifiably benching the Ox etc
    I complain about what i see us doing wrong whether we win or not, has it not come to haunt us now….i hope it doesn’t, because 5th place will be absolutely disastrous..

    Here’s hoping we remain third till the next round of games…

    Very sad moment indeed

  33. Another self inflicted defeat, well this draw does have a defeatish tinge. Poor defending. Missed chances. Cunty refereeing. Fuck. Now we have to hope the rials lose points.

  34. There will still be some people saying ‘In Wenger I trust’ even if we drop to the Europa. Pray tell me how we can justify Wenger’s position when the team has not progressed in any way the last few years. Same old mistakes, same old choking. You’ll need to be as blind as the ref was today if you don’t see that

  35. Wenger has done a lot for the club, and built a great foundation. Give him credit for that. But his time is done. He needs to hand the reins to someone else who can take the club to the next level.

  36. A pathetic first half performance set that one up for us. We were better in the second half, but the defending was still poor. It is intensely annoying that we, despite starting brightly with a goal, then panicked. And then panicked again when we went 3-2 up. Their keeper kept them in it as well. Our keeper had a horror game. 3rd place (even 4th place) is out of our hands at the moment. And now we need to rely on others to drop points, as well as hope and pray that Cheslea’s luck runs out in the CL. Not good. Not good at all, and the squad definitely deserve to be kicked up the backside. Unacceptable.

    Not an excuse (as I’m sure someone will say it is) and we definitely should have conceded a penalty when 2-1 down, but the refereeing in this league is just.. well… shit.. And Arsenal seem to be among the most harmed by that, while ManU seem to be the most favoured..

    Anyway.. I’m pissed off with my team today, and although they showed spirit, they let themselves down.

    And Gunnerboss… simply.. fuck right off!

  37. Talking with you Shard now seems like talking with a blind person.

    Admit it Shard….

    How do you feel now, knowing we could have beaten QPR and co, but the manager decided to play Ramsey on the wing …with Gervinho and the Ox on the bench…

    I was a mad man when i said it, wasn’t i?

    Who is the blind one now?

  38. We were better only when RAMSEY departed., all our players seem to see right thru this shit. We lost only Arteta and we cant seem to string any sort of rhythm without him…BECAUSE RAMSEY CANNOT SIMPLY STEP UP. Big question is “Why must Ramsey play?”.

    No matter what we want or whom we would like to blame, it is very obvious what our problem is, isn’t it? Only the blind will not see it.

    Since you Shard seem to close your eyes to this, then i will term you blind. You come on here and confuse fellow deluded fools like yourself because they know no better….you write sweet rubbish and confuse even yourself too.

    There is always a side to every story and THERE IS THE TRUTH too. Even a blind man will know what our problem is…
    A robot will know what our problem is…
    You are probably blind Shard, you could also be a robot for all i care, but stop telling others black is white cos no matter how we want to believe it, we can actually see the truth. Right now the truth hurts badly, will probably kill some people when we do not qualify for the champs league.

    I’ll be supporting the chavs for the UCL, not that it matters, but tis good to see a coach understanding his players and actually putting round pegs where they belong. You do not beat barca the way they did and not win it. In Wenger i do not trust, Pep is saying his goodbye right now after a Messi 4 goal craze in their last league game at home. So, FABs took a pay cut, buys away his deal with us and leaves to rejoin Pep..only for Pep to leave him….

    @Shard – Since you feel calling names should be the order of the day, i will feel free to too…

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