Stoke Review: Cheating Crouch, Hidden Hand

Stoke City 1 – 4 Arsenal

Some wins are worth more than three points. Any thumping away win injects a spring into your step but at Stoke? As comprehensive as yesterday’s victory, knowing that Peter Crouch ends his career with the tag ‘cheat’ tattooed on his forehead. I checked The Times for their condemnation this morning, and there was none.

This remember, was the part of the Murdoch empire which eviscerated Robert Pires as they sought to eradicate diving from the game. That went well, didn’t it?

Anyway, it was a match which had it all, including the usual ineptitude from Mike Dean. The only surprise was that he didn’t dismiss Granit Xhaka, despite the provocation during the spell when Stoke Rugby Football Club replaced the supine footballers who previously took to the field. Arsenal rocked before Alexis scored the third whereupon Stoke rolled over. At the heart of all that was a cool-headed young Englishman. The praise rained in on Rob Holding’s head and quite rightly so. His was an outstanding performance and was a line in the sand for Wenger, if he maintains that level consistently.

I’m assuming Arsène will remain in charge for the next season at least, and with a back-three. I’d say only one of them is likely. Next season will be vital for Holding’s development and reducing him to substitute or the Carling Cup sides is tantamount to stalling that progress. That’s an argument for another day and while I think he is likely to stay, it doesn’t mean I think it’s the right choice either; it’s a mistake and while, like yesterday, there will be bright spots, the desperate form which haunted the first quarter of 2017 will resurface once again.

One In Ten

There was nothing to fault with the overall performance. Hector Bellerin found his feet and thrived in the wing back role; statistics showed he spent the most time in the Stoke box of any Arsenal players which is staggering. Even Francis Coquelin played well, preferred for his ability to ‘mix it’ with the home side which has previously kicked us off the park.

Aside from a brief flurry in the second half, it never happened and his contribution to the first goal, bisecting two Stoke defenders, was a joy to watch. Olivier Giroud provided a similar finish to that and the fourth; deserved, I thought, for the Frenchman, who is having one of his ‘responses’ to pressure on his place. If he found that consistently, he would be a world-class striker but it’s too late in the day now.

To the chagrin of the Wengeristas, Alexis was once again Man of the Match. Prompting and probing, kicked and kneed, he still scored the third with a deflected finish. Holding’s majestic run, bringing the ball out of defence and calmly passing when he reached the end of his advance, was in the finest traditions of defensive play. Modern football is quick to compare; it will take a long time and a lot more success to be the next Cannavaro or Moore. Who knows, he might want to be the first Rob Holding.

Even Mesut Özil got in on the act. He and Alexis combined beautifully for the second. The German’s run timed perfectly for the exquisite chip into his path; the finish begs the question why he doesn’t score more often but we know the answer already. It might not be what his game is about but it surely must surface more often.

You’ve Got To Hand It To Him

Which brings us to Crouch. The pall of cheating in any form hangs over football in many forms but the former England international – which shows how low we sank – was blatant; vile because of its calculation –  even though he would have scored with his head, he chose to slap the ball into the net. It’s the sort of thing which comes as no surprise from a Stoke player. If the FA are serious about getting tough on these things, a three-match ban is in order so that it runs into next season and has a genuine impact. Missing next weekend’s game just allows Crouch to go and get drunk in a nightclub a week  earlier than normal.

Part of me thought this morning that I should be magnanimous in victory, but then I remembered it was Stoke and I thought, “Nah; sod it. Gloating is in order”.

It means West Ham or Middlesbrough have to do us a favour if Champions League football is to be reclaimed. Other teams collapsing? It’s very much the Arsenal Way since moving to the Emirates. While the directors and Kroenke filled their boots, from a supporters perspective, it’s hardly been the Promised Land, has it? Anyone who thinks the pattern will change in the future with Arsène at the helm hasn’t been paying attention.

I still think it’s too little, too late and we’re bound for the Europa League. We’re making the leap over the barbed wire but we all know Steve McQueen ends up in a tangled mess.

Finally, there is a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox: Jukebox Classics: #3 The Songs Which Influenced Arctic Monkeys is as eclectic mix as could be found; it’s here while the Record of the Week – Paul Weller’s A Kind Revolution – is found here

’til Tomorrow.

53 thoughts on “Stoke Review: Cheating Crouch, Hidden Hand

  1. great write up thanks YW

    Stoke were supine, and then became very physical – we got no protection but survived it and even clawed our way back on top.

    maybe too little and too late and frustrating given so many abject performances this season – but surely we can all enjoy slaying the orcs…

    come on the irons.

  2. Enjoyed the game…it all comes down to West Ham…if Liverpool don’t win it’s ours if they do they do…….

  3. @DALM,
    Couldn’t agree more. Let’s enjoy demolishing Stoke, a marvellous performance, appearance in the Cup Final and a good chance of qualifying for next term’s CL. The immediate horizon looks quite bright after all.
    I now await the regular doom and gloom merchants who will no doubt see things quite differently. They always do. 😉

  4. actually Nicky

    Add the orc slaying to beating the mancs and their evil leader and the unusual win away at Soton, make the last week to be ‘reasons to be cheerful, part three’

    Sun is out think I’ll enjoy the day !

  5. Rob Holding. The back 3 has been worth it just to give this kid a chance to break into the team. What a game.

  6. Only caught highlights but this seems one to watch back. Uncanny how similar every season is.

    Late run after February collapse in Eutope and league. Late run fueled by an injury returnee or young player making a breakthrough.

  7. @DALM,
    Yep. And looking further ahead we have the Summer Transfer Window, the Overseas Tour, and the Emirates Cup. Our cup runneth over. 😉

  8. Hi Nicky,

    I have always been impressed with your never flagging enthusiasm and support of the Gunners, especially as you are into your 10th decade. Fantastico. 🙂

    Long may that continue, even after the Queen sends you your ‘100 not out’ birthday card!!

    I will always be an Arsenal fan — and I am also a fan of yours!! 😀

  9. I thought Coquelin was absolutely superb playing in advance of Xhaka. Made good runs into the box (he actually can dribble) and really puts steel in the press. Then, if there was a break-out he motored back into Arsenal’s half to help clean up.

  10. Afternoon,

    One of the best performances in the league this season, along with the wins at home against Chelsea and away against West Ham.

    Martin Atkinson has apparently made another disgraceful mistake in the game between Palace and Hull. Apparently a blatant handball from Puncheon, although Palace were already 2 up. If given it could have given Hull a foothold in the game. How many mistakes will the FA allow Atkinson before he is relegated to Sunday League football? He is completely inept.

  11. Nicky-noo.
    Do you include YW in the tag D&G merchants – which you now seem to be incapable of not including in every single post?
    Happy as I am for you, that you’ve found a form of limp inner-peace which allows you to draw pleasure from the repetitive soulless, characterless, corporate drivel we are being served at top dollar wallet-raping prices, I am (admittedly) poor at tolerating those who are more interested in berating their peers for not being happy consumers.
    We are not ‘D&G merchants’; reducing us to such so frequently, and with the kind of dull aimless repetition that rather fits an AW acolyte, well it say’s more about you than it does us.
    By all means be positive about enjoying your football but surely better to stop being negative about all of us.
    I think that we all want to enjoy it (like you seem to be) but this is not some kind of wilful negativity, it’s genuine disillusionment at what has become a rather painful, sterile, corporate product. And not even a good one.
    We are not much more than a badly judged Pepsi advert.
    Rudderless, aimless, charmless, soulless.
    ‘Less’ in every sense.
    Labelling us and placing us in boxes marked ‘bad fans’ is just bad practice – we are allowed to expect better. We are not to be denied the right to mourn, complain and decry the direction this club is going under the shit-shower of ownership and right down through the gears of toxic, terrible management.
    If you’re that happy with the status quo why do you care what other people think anyway?
    Allow us our misery – maybe we actually need it to still be happy.

  12. Jonny,

    One of the best games I’ve seen in a while, two highly skilled and committed teams playing to their strengths with just the right amount of needle.

    I love the way the ref handled the game, a quiet word or two with the captain’s about decision queries, “when I need your help refereeing the game, I’ll ask for it” priceless.

  13. They are unbelievable monsters.
    So quiet in person – freaks of nature on the pitch.
    Thought Billy was their best player on the park but Mako’s quiet, unflashy, efficient work always goes unrewarded and is mostly unheralded.
    Good has been patchy this season (after the ridiculous heights of last) but his vision and authority (the pass for the first try was textbook Saracens but it was a Berkampesque pass into a narrow window of space – we will miss Ashton).
    You’re right about it being enjoyable – this team plays with heart, commitment and courage and needle when necessary.
    The Exeter game will be another thriller – I fancy.

  14. Jonny,

    Have decided he is a bit of a WUM. He nips in, has a dig with a wink on the end (coz that makes it alright) and sods off.

  15. Great review Yogi

    Don’t look now but we have won 8 of 9 with the only hiccup being the Spurs away. What makes this run even more impressive are wins against ManU, Man City and away wins at Southampton and Stoke. If we win the last 2 games as expected I would say this will easily top the run of form we had in Sept/Oct of this season and it will have to be our best run since Jan-March 2015. The one thing we can say with certainly about the Emirates era is that we are predictable and do whatever is needed to maintain the status quo.

  16. Hi Jonny,

    You watched the Sarries game and there is nothing I can add to what you saw/said.
    What a contrast to the dire fare offered up by so many football matches – altho watching the best Rugby team in Europe, a team capable, in my opinion, of beating not only club teams, but probably any European national team too.

    I think the ref Nigel Owens made a couple of potentially serious errors during the course of the match, including one where Wiles was ‘one on one’ with a Clermont back, with an easy pass to Ashton to score a beautiful try, only to award a foul to Sarries instead of the cast iron penalty try that it was. [He decided that the foul was not a deliberate knock on, to stop a certain try, because the offender’s palm was pointing in the air. Utter bollocks!]

    Nigel is actually a top referee and I have a lot of time for him usually, but he allowed the French to kill the ball on their line too often without the appropriate punishments — yellow cards.

    Great game – great result. 🙂

    [Exeter semi-final next Saturday, after this game, might be a bit too soon. Hope not]

    Trust you are enjoying your North American sojourn.

  17. Yes, yes Wavey.
    That wink is betrayal.
    It also confirms a lack of conviction.
    Any similarities to the club are, I am led to believe, entirely coincidental.
    😉

  18. Totally agree with all that you have said there.

    Very good referee had a total stinker – thankfully it did not ruin a keenly contested game.

    In some ways it inadvertently made it a tighter contest.

    Sarries are an unbelievable unit – and so fucking young – you’re spot on i placing them neck and shoulders above the rest of Europe.

    The comprehensive dismantling of Toulon, a side that had never lost a home game in Europe, and yet found themselves 28-9 down and looking totally bewildered, was extraordinary to behold.

    This is debatably better than the 2002 Leicester Tigers – even if that’s disputed or repudiated, I would suggest (warn) there is a lot more to come.

    HenryB:
    Hi Jonny,

    You watched the Sarries game and there is nothing I can add to what you saw/said.
    What a contrast to the dire fare offered up by so many football matches – altho watching the best Rugby team in Europe, a team capable, in my opinion, of beating not only club teams, but probably any European national team too.

    I think the ref Nigel Owens made a couple of potentially serious errors during the course of the match, including one where Wiles was ‘one on one’ with a Clermont back, with an easy pass to Ashton to score a beautiful try, only to award a foul to Sarries instead of the cast iron penalty try that it was. [He decided that the foul was not a deliberate knock on, to stop a certain try, because the offender’s palm was pointing in the air. Utter bollocks!]

    Nigel is actually a top referee and I have a lot of time for him usually, but he allowed the French to kill the ball on their line too often without the appropriate punishments — yellow cards.

    Great game – great result. 🙂

    [Exeter semi-final next Saturday, after this game, might be a bit too soon. Hope not]

    Trust you are enjoying your North American sojourn.

  19. I think we will take Exeter but it’s a stiff ask, and no mistake.

    Travels are excellent – confined to Montreal, so far, but properly catching up with some of my favourite people and loving every minute.

    On Tuesday I shall be bussing to Kingston (not the Jamaica one) to visit Mister Limestone (and family) and watch the Sunderland game and catch up.

    Unless I missed a trick, this might well be the very first overseas ACLF meet up.

    Bravo Stuart, bravo.

  20. Does anyone know if spurs will take those cheesy delboy catchphrases they have pinned around white hart Lane to the new ground?

  21. Wenger’s status quo now requires Liverpool to slip up in the final game and Arsenal to win both of the home games. Still looking good for that end of year speech about the brave fight to finish in the top 4 and how unlucky to just miss out. Nothing to do with the disasterous performances we have put in from November through to April then?

    I thought history was written by the victors, but Wenger seems to be able to rewrite Arsenal’s history whenever he feels like it.

  22. Dukey,

    What new ground? I thought it was just the old ground redeveloped? Amazing amount of fuss in the media given that they are just moving out whilst the decorators are in.

  23. Think Spurs are going to get a stark reality check in the soulless bowl of shit-town Wembley.

  24. Jonny,

    Glad to hear you are enjoying your Canadian tour de force, especially meeting up with LSG and family! 🙂

    Exeter have been fantastic this season — but if both teams were fresh, I would think we would win by 21 points — however, ………..

    We will see, but we are blessed with the wonderful Vunipola brothers, and if they are fit, anything is possible. They were joint MoTM for me yesterday.
    A final with (probably) Wasps would be a delight and I don’t suppose tickets will be easy to come by, and I have not started begging in case I wreck our chances next Saturday, but all bets will be off when we win. Ooops. 🙂

    Speak to you anon – so keep us posted on your journey adventures.

  25. Wavey,

    I thought it was a new development but practically right next door. So shite hart Lane will be bulldozed.

  26. Wavey, what do we know. We’re gooners, we couldnt give a shit. All I know is they said it will be better and bigger than ours.

  27. Dukey,

    By all accounts it’s going to cost a bucketful more – and that’s got to hurt them in the long run. On the flip side they have a very young side which if they can keep it together will mean that they aren’t going to have to be big spenders for a few years.

  28. Andy,

    I think they are going to try to copy us(again) and offer Potch all sorts of perks for keeping them up near the top and under budget. They want Potch to be their Wenger.

  29. Dukey,

    But did he make Spurs what they are (you’ve gotta blame someone right?) Did they even exist pre-Poch? Wenger knows that he built the club and we were nothing before he arrived.

    Where they may get one over on us is that according to The Independent the cost is about £800m, they are going to get £350m from the banks but will cover the other half of the cost mostly from stadium naming rights. Makes the Emirates deal look like chicken feed by comparison.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/tottenham-white-hart-lane-farewell-new-stadium-london-nfl-aia-a7735061.html

  30. Gripes with AW aside I will be very surprised if Spurs retain even a top 6 spot, when they undergo this transition.
    AW was incredible for outperforming most, on a comparative shoestring, in the nascent money-doping years.
    I may have tired of his increasingly stale offerings but I will always give that remarkably consistent record due deference.

  31. Having 20 years of top 4 finishes is an achievement, but the competition was not that tough. In some seasons, 60+ points was enough. In others, clubs like Aston Villa could not last the distance. This season though the big clubs finally got their acts together, and a normal by our standards finish with 70+ points sees us left behind. Wenger’s old trick of pretending to challenge for the title, and in the reality doing just enough not to lose more than 10 games a season, is not working any more. Cought off guard by improving cometition! So, now, with many important players leaving, it’s another rebuild, but from a much weaker position. If ManU win their final, also getting into the CL (directly!) , our company will be Everton and Southampton.

  32. Jonny,

    Hey Johnny hope you’re enjoying your world tour. Fact is for most of those seasons he had the third highest budget then 4th when Citeh were bought out. He can’t claim Chelsea do better purely because of “financial firepower” then claim he’s performing a miracle by coming ahead of teams with a fraction of his resources!!

  33. I thought Liverpool might choke today and finish with a draw but they were solid and it looks like our top 4 hopes are very dim at best. Anything is possible but I don’t expect Liverpool to drop points at home against Boro. Arsene needs to find someone poison their pasta.

  34. I think Boro are just as likely to take points from Pool as anyone. Didn’t Newcastle beat Spurs last season ok the final day when they were already down?

    Still, unlikely at best

    I know there are a million ways you could spin this, but if we do miss out to Pool by a point, I’ll find some amusement in it. If we’d drawn with them on matchday one rather than lose, the suits all get their bonuses next week. Their season was fucked all along, it just took nine months to reveal itself

    Whoever would think a proactive summer that facilitates a quick start out the blocks would be a clever thing to do eh? 😉

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