Arsenal Find The Light In A Sea Of Darkness

Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City

1 – 0 Podolski (76)

A biting, chill wind and a grey sky overhead providing an entirely appropriate welcome to The Emirates for Tony Pulis’ desolate and distorted view of football. That they went home with nothing was just reward for a destitute performance, one which relied purely on putting men behind the ball with the hope that one long ball might provide reward. Little wonder Pulis is vilified, a soul destroying exercise in futility laid its’ vile cape across the turf and sapped the will from the soul of the game.

Arsenal struggled to break free of the insidious grasp in which the visitors held them but there was a strength of purpose evident in the much-changed line-up from midweek. Nacho Monreal made a sterling debut, solid in defence, offering support on the overlap. He did not face much opposition in truth, the rationale for the swiftness of his first appearance evident as Stoke failed abysmally at any attempt of attacking intent. There was a confidence in the Spaniard’s demeanour, a sense that he felt he belonged and was comfortable in his new surroundings, bringing assurance in his distribution and to colleagues in the back four.

From kick-off, Stoke’s intentions were made clear. Attacking was entirely absent from view, long passes to Crouch brought sporadic efforts, never troubling Szczesny in the Arsenal goal and more frequently returning possession to Arsenal. All gifts are greatfully received but the hosts toiled and when openings appeared, inexplicable nerves or good goalkeeping – and combinations of both – saw fit to deprive Arsenal of a deserved lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left in place of the rested Podolski, thrived in the space afforded himself and with the distraction of Monreal overlapping, was able to pull his markers out of position. Stoke are nothing. If not well-drilled, with bodies quickly filling the spaces left. Any aerial threat was quickly snuffed out with defenders willing to put limbs in the way, head bandages bond not just split skin but a commonality of cause in the darkest recess of English football.

Chances after a fashion appeared in the opening stages, the England youngster shot wide as did Wilshere whilst not for the first time Giroud did not bring a save from Begovic. The pain of previous first half catastrophes was apparent, caution taking precedence over overwhelming attack; there was a strong sense that not conceding the first goal was the first thought going through Arsenal minds. It need not have been so; Stoke offered little beyond exceptional ball control from Crouch but then he has so much practice, it should not be a surprise. Where the Arsenal defence played very well was to put him under pressure but not to commit to the challenge, letting Crouch win the first ball before putting the player in receipt of his lay-off under quick and often tackle.

At the other end, space appeared in the Stoke area as markers shackles were broken. The media-driven futility of crosses into the area was broken as Giroud found space and with a goal gaping, inexplicably chose to head across the area; from the ensuing scramble, another cross found Koscielny with his back to goal, drawing a save from Begovic. Oxlade-Chamberlain had previously tested the Stoke custodian, his shot at the far post followed good work from Walcott.

The England international would have the best chance of the half as the interval approached. The years rolled back as open spaces opened on the Arsenal left. Oxlade-Chamberlain gambolled into the area, picked his spot with an Henry-esque finish, foiled by the fingertips of Begovic as his shot contained too much loft. Arsenal were turning the screw on the visitors, the half-time break affording them no respite when the action recommenced.

Giroud offered the immediate threat in the second half as the visitors became increasingly ragged with the physicality of challenges rising exponentially. Free kicks were becoming more frequently ignored by the appalling refereeing of Chris Foy, begging the question of whether the coaching revolution that English football needs is still light years ahead of that of the officiating? Are the quartet of officialdom on the pitch and touchlines so imbued in the culture to notice the cynical foul play employed by Pulis’ army of darkness?

Walcott was singled out for treatment by the Stoke defence and consequently, Arsenal’s medical staff. Unbelievably, a denizen of the Clock End stated with some authority that the England striker needed to “Get up or get off“, following some further harsh buffering which left him prostrate on the turf. But Arsène knew change was needed to effect the desired result. In the age when magicians thrive, they hid themselves from view, content to lurk in the shadows before emerging into the open, to push the dark forces further back into their shellsuits.

And they emerged onto The Emirates turf, the Knights of the Comfy Bench. Podolski and Cazorla strode into battle, impacting immediately with a sense of urgency injected into the Arsenal game. The Spaniard scurried through the Stoke tackles but still the bodies were too numerous to breach. In the end, the pressure told on the defence and officials. For the umpteenth time Walcott was upended, this time on the edge of the area. Podolski took charge and as the wall elevated, the ball remained low and clipped the trailing foot of Cameron, deflecting into the net. The controvesy only began at this point with the Assistant Referee signalling offside; Walcott on the far left of play was deemed by this errant flagmeister to be interfering with play. In a rare outbreak of commonsense, Foy overruled him and the points were won.

The final minutes descended into petulance. Signalling his complete fall from Grace, Michael Owen reacted with swinging fist and boot to a challenge from Mikel Arteta. It encapsulates everything which is wrong with football; a former darling of the English game reduced to a bar-room brawler by an insidious interpretation of the beautiful game. A salutory warning to all who enter the citadel of Evil. Thankfully, they shall not sully our paths again this season.

’til Tomorrow.

153 thoughts on “Arsenal Find The Light In A Sea Of Darkness

  1. Watching the Pool vs. Manshitty match, I must admit this ref is shit too haha.

    O well, I say we can grab 3rd to tell you the truth. We are only what 5 points off 3rd with a shaky Chavs and an even shakier Spuds(who lost their only striker today).

  2. Ivory Coast are out of the ACN.

    Apparently Gervinho has not left the dugout and is crying. Poor guy.

  3. Fantastic write up Yogi.

    Can’t tell you how proud I was to see young Jack spring to Arteta’s defence. Even if it did mean getting up close and personal with a former England legend.

  4. Did anybody watch d match btw ivory Coast vs Nigeria?
    That is wat supporting ur team against all odds can do.
    LESSON: get behind the team you claim to support or get the fuck off!!

  5. Didn’t Gervinho come back from the ACN last year in a complete mess when Ivory Coast got knocked out? Blamed his poor performance in the second half of the season on the fact that he never got over the Ivory Coast’s ACN disappointment.

  6. That ref must have the smallest feet on the planet. Not one of the free kicks has had a wall anywhere near 10 yards away from them.

  7. Great game of football to watch. Haven’t had Suarez getting on the sheet yet, so I’m guessing its going to be 3-3.

  8. @Wavey

    Yea he did but last term was because he missed one of the penalties in the final that cost him the match. I do get what you are saying and apparently he is devasted by all accounts that I have read. Hopefully though he will have some time off to get his head back because he was brilliant the whole tournament scoring goals and setting up assists.

    If somehow he could show the level of confidence infront of goal that he shows for country, my god he would be simply unplayable but only on the left.

  9. I don’t know if this is good attack play or terrible defending that these 2 sides are showing. I mean even by some of our standards the defending have been piss poor.

  10. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that with the way we’ve started playing better and the likelihood of increased stability and consistency – 3rd place this season is still up for grabs for Arsenal.

    I think what is disappointing is the fact that we’re about 20 points off United. I want us to beat them simply for pride when they come to the Emirates.

  11. Cote d’Ivoire getting kicked out might be a good thing for both Arsenal and Gervinho.

    By all accounts, I gather he’s had a decent tournament, but it means a lot to African players to win that tournament. The Elephants have been seen as the golden generation for years with key players like Drogba, the Toure brothers, Tiote etc, so each time they fail to win, it’s a very big deal.

    Perhaps Gervinho can channel that frustration and come back with some good jiggery pokery to help Arsenal crack defences and win the FA or CL (he says) and push us up the table.

    Even with Podolski and Walcott almost certainly nailing starting places, Gervinho is still a very good option off the bench, or as a different alternative if say Podolski is played up front and Gervinho out wide.

  12. I wouldn’t put much hope on that happening, Darius. He was shattered the last time, and I fear it might be the same this time around, especially considering everyone expect them to beat Nigeria. Also, this is possibly the last competition Drogba and some of their other main guys will play in.

    I wouldn’t put much expectation on Gervinho this season. A few cameos here and there maybe and if he looks good we take it from there.

    Being Nigerian I’m ecstatic we’re through to the semis, but I really do feel sorry for Gerv and the other poor guys.

  13. SA

    Gervinho is crying.He’s not the only one every Gooner is in tears.It means he is coming back early
    Is finishing 3rd 25-30 points behind Utd anything to cheer about

  14. Lots of Nigerians are pissed off at Eboue on twitter for some reason. He has been getting a baptism of abuse, Naija style. Poor guy.

  15. Top Post Yogi.. As always.. Didn’t know we’d sign Nacho at all b’coz was busy with my brother’s wedding (Thank you very much) and I was like.. Huh?? For real?? Anyways.. Lots of positive’s all round.. COYG!!! Cut short.. Third world.. Lights out.. SLeepy head!! Bonkers!! I’ll get me coat!! Adios!!

  16. @Darius

    Yeah mate, I’m not from Africa but do know that this tournament ment the world to him and his teammates because of what happened last time around for them. For them to bow out the way they did is going to be devasting(even though like you I hope he does come back pissed off and takes it out with loads of goals and assists on the PL).

  17. Don we should welcome back anyone who adds to the squad (despite what value we may think they offer). Unfortunately you’re right in saying that this club finishing even 4th (never mind 3rd) is seen by many as a trophy! I look forward to the day when we will once again be genuine championship contenders. Alas I feel under the current board/management set up it is unattainable in the near future.

  18. Great win yesterday. There needs to be a serious look into the incompetence of referees as its just unbelievable what is and isn’t punished on the pitch.
    Gervinio coming back early ! As long as he is a Arsenal player Ill support the lad, but its not his fault if he is just not good enough.

  19. Meanwhile, in America,the Superbowl this evening (no 47) is brought to you by opposing team ‘head coach’ brothers – Jim & John Harbaugh.

    Their parents? Jack and Jackie.

    In America.

  20. Jonny, you’re a fount of knowledge. Answer this one. I’ve 2 coins in my pocket that add up to 12p. One is not a 10p coin. What are the 2 coins?

  21. Disappointed with todays results but overall it’s been a decent weekend gaining points on both Everton and Chelsea.

    I thought Chelsea had 3rd all sewn up but their wobble seems a touch more serious than it appeared at first – they’re still favourites for 3rd but it might give the boys a little more hope. Everton and Spurs are our real rivals for 4th but I’m starting to accept that we just might not make it this year – shame because I think we genuinely have a good team, they just need to find that confidence and consistency.

  22. C,
    It’s turns out to be nothing really. Eboue is not on twitter, but someone parodying him called the Nigeria team (known as the Super Eagles) chickens or something like that. The account has been getting a lot of return abuse as you can expect.

    The only worrying part is that not everyone knows Eboue’s not behind insult. He could end up becoming a hate figure in Nigeria and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  23. Of course I did Bob? I was in DC last year and saw the 49ers hammer the redskins. I think tonite I will be supporting them

  24. Watching Athletico Madrid v Real Betis. Joel Campbell gets yet another run out on the left hand side and is looking very lively. The commentators are very appreciative of his endeavours. Still needs to have the rough edges knocked off a bit in the Prem, but is shaping up nicely and his williingness to work back is impressive.

  25. I saw that about Hartley and Poole on Sky Sports News yesterday as they were watching the games on Soccer Saturday. Believe or not, it was actually Paul Merson who spotted it and pointed it out to Jeff Stelling. For those who don’t know, Jeff Stelling hosts it and is a massive Hartlepool fan.

  26. Ivory coast out but over all GERVINHO did have an outstanding tournament.
    The elephants had a very good chance last year to win but DROGBREATH missed a penalty in regular time.
    If anyone to blame for not winning it’s him not 3Gs,

    If anything this game shows us is what a sensitive soul gervinho is from his reactions at being knocked out.
    I agree with LANKYLORDE above. If you want to see the very best of our guys and specially 3gs make sure they get full unconditional support at all times. Y also agree with DARIUS. 3rd place is definitely doable and 2nd is not impossible. Maybe improbable but can be achieved. With some luck and good performances like we know ARSENAL is capable of.
    By all means rip the red devil scum to pieces at the New HIGHBURY and wipe the floor with them.
    The future is pregnant with much hope and its color the RED&WHITE.

  27. Half time, its 0-0. Betis doing a really good job so far. Campbell looks okay, not awesome but does his job.

  28. ATM v Betis is not particularly good entertainment. They seem to be cancelling each other out. Most of the play being stopped well outside the areas. Not a good one for the neutral.

  29. Adrian substituted after 56 minutes. Didn’t see much from him again. Having watched him three times now I don’t see that he would be the great young striker we should be desperate to bring in.

  30. @waverly was not Thierry Henry an equal misfit when he came to us? bags of potential but not really getting it out?

  31. oh god if we get Adidas as a sponsos we will share with Stoke. Imagin if they make us do joint comercials n stuff? eeeeew!

  32. This was a big win for us. we needed it badly. We now are in the hunt for the third and fourth place. We have great shot at making the Champions League. The Potters keeper was brilliant in net. The match was shown on TV her so i followed it on ESPN soccer net. We still need to get some fire power up front.

  33. Goonerkam,
    Adrian is a unique footballer that’d merge very well with our present team.
    Technique, trickery & enough guile for AW to build on.
    I’ll be happy to see him in the red & white.

    Poor Gerv…sorry I had to switch allegiance once they were drawn against the Super Eagles….oh well,
    Up Naija!

    Some of the goals scored over the weekend were absolutely delightful.
    Emenike, Mata, Gerrard, Aguerro, Fat Frank, Akpan, Sturridge..take a bow!
    a very entertaining weekend

  34. Sorry, watched Superbowl after footie so missed comments. Diego Costa came on for Lopez, a real brute and a trouble maker. Plenty of fouling and plenty of rolling around. Somebody spat in his face, which wasn’t nice.
    Maybe Lopez just needs a chance, but he doesn’t appear to get involved in the game. Falcao was back from injury, so perhaps that didn’t help but I’m hoping we don’t take a chance on a new striker in the summer. I’d rather we sign a goal scorer rather than a development project.

  35. Wavey,
    Oh, he’ll score you some goals but not on a thug-fouling ‘n rolling team.
    He’s just not that type of player.

  36. why is GLEN WHELAN allowed to get away with his assassination on JW10 (same as LUCAS)?
    in the words of William Shakespeare…..GO FUCK YERSELVES STOKE assassins! sorry for the use of such language!

  37. WTF?! who what where are you guys talking about?! have you ever played or watched a complete live game? it is so embarrassing reading your ……gnight!

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