Stoke City Preview: Progress to be Made and Orcs to be Relegated

A point today and we are officially safe from relegation. Does that say how far we’ve fallen or how tight the Premier League is in the placings? Answers on a postcard please, to:

Is This Really Progress? competition
Mr A Wenger
Arsenal Football Club

It also means that Arsenal will have been in the top flight for 100 years next season and I’m sure Arsène will be around to celebrate his centenary in charge of the club.

I’m just trying to inject some sense of history into this match. An early kick-off with the walking wounded back, against a team we should beat easily; what could possibly go wrong?

Hopefully, nothing. Such is the way the season is panning out there is no surprise if we cock this up. That leaves us just two points clear of Burnley.

Arsène, with an eye on Thursday night’s game, has some decisions to make. How long does Alexandre Lacazette get? Should he start Danny Welbeck? Wilshere and Ramsey from kick-off or one as sub for the other at half-time?

All these questions and more will be answered in the next episode of Soap!

It was fitting that Steve Bould gave a 6½ minute press conference for the game; a perfunctory nod to duties for a fixture which must be fulfilled. The Premier League equivalent of the FIFA brainfart for this summer’s World Cup finals where – and I kid you not – players will be sent to a little box by the side of the pitch to celebrate for 30 seconds while VAR decides on a ‘contentious’ goal.

Of course, they aren’t.

Stoke City at home; a run of the mill fixture with a little frisson from their relegation woes. No matter who is in charge of Pulis RFC, Pulis RFC’s relegation is a moment to savour.

I Prefer a Game With a Better Chance of Cheating

There are some things in football which are worth too much not to relish. It could all backfire on me. Stoke are without a win 11 away games, a run which includes being beaten by Coventry. That makes them ripe for an away win in the Arsenal universe.

Just the right of pessimistic optimism, I think.

It’s an audition for Jack Butland, of course. Not just for the World Cup finals but also his summer move to us or Liverpool. I’d be ‘jolly miffed’ as they say if they are 1960s stereotypical characters in a Michael Caine film if we don’t make a move for the most promising of young goalkeepers. Unless we’ve miraculously squirrelled away £50-60m to sign an established goalkeeper like Oblak.

Which I doubt we have.

Butland will be a cheaper option, probably about half the price, and that in a way makes him a typically Arsenal signing, particularly since we have a midfielder or two to add, as well as a centre back.

As soon as we finish, Super Sunday moves to Stamford Bridge where some people seem to think an important match for us is taking place. Oooh, if only Chelsea lose, we’ll be within five points of them; we might finish fifth. As if; it’s the hope which will kill you. Not me; I’m too cynical.

Me, I gave up some time ago.

Anyway, this late into the post, I’ve hit on the shocking notion that we might actually field the strongest line-up available. Which leaves the XI:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Özil, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang

Why so strong with a big match ahead? Another defeat would flatten the deflated optimism which surrounds the visit of CSKA Moscow on Thursday.

Provoke Him, If That’s Going to Satisfy Your Scruples

Which is, of course, not part of the game plan. While the Europa League is the only silverware remaining this season that we can win, the way it is downplayed…well, it’s as if the hierarchy isn’t really bothered by it. Because it is a means to an end for them.

Oh, they’ll enjoy the moment if Arsenal hands are laid on the old UEFA Cup trophy, but it is a means to an end. The Champions League place which comes with the prize is worth more than another engraving on the club’s roll of honours. Which is the modern game for you hence yesterday’s piece about the ruthlessness we need to adopt if we’re to survive in the upper echelons of the game?

Of course, we have to get back there first. Do we need to be more ruthless because we have to out-ruthle the rest?

Which segues into the ruthlessness we need in front of goal. PEA must, as the first-choice starter, hit the back of the net but we need Lacazette to grab a goal, for confidence’s sake, before Thursday night. For while the powers-that-be may not be bothered by the Europa League but I like the notion of us winning trophies. Because in these grey days, it’s an unmissable shaft of light.

Kick-off is a few hours away so let’s get out of here; I’ve got some fiction to write.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

100 thoughts on “Stoke City Preview: Progress to be Made and Orcs to be Relegated

  1. Yogi, your team selection leaves a little to be desired, I think we need to beef up the midfield with the addition of Elneny instead of Wilshere. Lacazette to play alongside Aubemayang and Mkhitaryan on the right. No place for Ramsey or Welbeck except as subs.

    Winning today’s game will be the best preparation for Thursday’ match.

  2. Hopefully Stoke’s footballing funeral in North London. Rather than Harry Palmer’s Funeral in Berlin.

  3. He would be in his nineties, I suppose.

    Living under s new identity in the Caymans or Bermuda.

  4. On this day Saturday 24th August 1965 Arsenal faced Stoke at Highbury.

    Denis Hill-Wood, Chairman, noted in his ‘Message’ that, “We all appreciate that a long period has elapsed since Arsenal won a major trophy and you may rest assured that this concerns us as much and probably more so than the spectators. The spirit at the club now is as high as it ever was and the determination to do well is as strong as ever, but there have been occasions when injury has set us back and that little something, known as the ‘ability to click’, has escaped us.” Plus ca change.

    Arsenal played in a ‘new strip’, in fact reverting to the original one of plain red shirts, as originally donated to the club by Nottingham Forest, because, ’The Voice of Arsenal’ informed us, it was felt that it would”…look nicer and be more practical from a players’ point of view.” While reminding us that it was Herbert Chapman who introduced the white sleeves to the shirt originally. The Voice also thanked fans for supporting an initiative to give one point for every four goals scored which unfortunately at the FA General Meeting failed to garner enough support.. A rule change to allow substitutes for the first time was approved.

    Bob Wall highlights a problem with fans leaving the stands early and blocking other spectators views although, he tells us, the locals don’t mind people living a distance away leaving – just don’t stand in the aisles. He also tells us that “..bad language is part of the modern scene and that…on reflection I am sure all our male supporters will agree that it is not only unpleasant but embarrassing if a man brings his wife or girlfriend and has to endure the sound of a man nearby constantly using foul language. Arsenal, he says don’t “..wish to be stuffy”. Apparently, this is only a problem in the Enclosures, not the Stands.

    Reminds me of an afternoon on the ‘new’ North Bank when I sat with consolslel behind a woman with her two children all decked out in Arsenal colours. How sweet we thought, and then Wrighty missed a penalty. Whereupon the aforementioned mother bellowed out a stream of foul abuse that would have made my Dad blush, and he was a Marine.

    Elsewhere we learn that of the 32 players retained for the season, only 6 were born in London. Three were signed from ‘Glasgow Utd’, three more from ‘Possilpark YMCA, also in Glasgow.

    A glance at the ‘Apprentice players, shows that of the eleven then on the books, only one, Pat Rice, went on to have a career at the club.

    The Arsenal team that day:

    Furnell, Howe, McCullough, Neill, Ure, McLintock, Skirton, Eastham, Baker, Court, Armstrong.

    While the Stoke side included Dennis Violet and Maurice Setters, both signed from Manchester Utd This was their first season without Sir Stanley Mathews who retired at the end of the previous season.

    Fancy a trip to Burnley for a game? An excursion train was available for Saturday 28th August for only 47/6. (That’s £2.37 in today’s money). Hurry though, only 100 available.

    The Programme of Music provided by the Metropolitan Police Band included ’March of the Guns’, a selection from ’Mary Poppins’ and in the ’Pop Parade Selection’ ’Tis the Day’ sung by Constable Alex Morgan.

    Here is yesterday’s football result: Arsenal 2 Stoke City 1

  5. Well, I don’t know if he’d need to assume an identity since Harry Palmer is assumed to be his identity yet in the books, he never admits this.

    On a different note, Dave Sexton was fined by the beaks at Stoke in 1967 for using foul and abusive language on the touchline. So, the problem extended from the enclosures to the bench, it seems.

  6. And no, Palmer isn’t dead nor has anyone involved with the film corked it in the last few days, as far as I’m aware.

    It just so happened I was half-watching it while I wrote the blog.

  7. consolsbob,

    That’s a different world you’re describing, one that I dearly remember.

    I’m pretty certain I was at that game, if I was then the match programme is somewhere in the loft.

  8. Here’s the starting line-up. Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal, Elneny, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil and Aubemayang.

  9. Is Cech injured? Or can it be the result of his less than ringing endorsement of Arsene recently?

  10. Nope, according to the commentator Cech picked up an injury in training. How often have we heard those words in the past when referring to a soon to be gone player?

  11. It was rose telling me of “Harry Palmer’s funeral in Berlin”, YW.

    Just a sad attempt at humour that obviously went over someone’s head.

  12. Good to see we have forgotten how to pass the ball to each other over the international break.

  13. Plenty more empty seats today. Got another email from the club earlier trying to flog tickets for the Europa League game too. Looks like apathy could see Arsene off rather than protests.

  14. This is absolutely fucking rubbish, seventeen minutes gone and we’ve completed more passes to Stoke players than our own.

  15. Do we have any youngsters we can throw on that actually give a shit about putting in a good performance.

  16. Looks like we are back to our usual crappy-self again…..

    This is a team that we should be making 100% sure they get relegated, yet we may end up giving them a point or three.


  17. That must be one of the worst first half performances by an Arsenal side for ages. The only consolation is that Stoke are hopeless in attack and have been totally unable to capitalise on our dreadful waste of possession.

  18. I’m trying to work out in what version of reality this drivel could be useful preparation for Moscow.

  19. Brand Arsenal spirals steadily downward this afternoon. But enough to awaken the slumbering Kroenke-dragon?

  20. I’m often critical of Welbeck but the first time he has been given the service he’s been asking for all afternoon, he gets us into the box. Of course, when he gets there, he bounces it out of his shin…

  21. Welbeck was ruining the game plan by getting past the last man and has, therefore, been withdrawn.

  22. The fact we’ve had 80% possession in this half and done sweet f.a. with it is just embarrassing.

  23. This may be the most dreadful game of football I have ever watched in the premier league.

  24. Auba hasn’t had the easiest job since he joined but he’s missed a few one on ones for a player of his price and reputation.

  25. I’d say it was like a playground game but I’ve played in a few of those that were going this way and someone was like “lads we’ve got to pull this together!”

  26. What does it say about our team that we found no way to rouse ourselves to even a halfway decent performance in front of our home crowd for a full 70 minutes? Our collective sickness is so far from being addressed, let alone cured.

  27. Started watching at the 60′ and not sire about before that but since I have been watching its been a joy.

    Really glad for Aubameyang to get a brace and then Lacazette to bury one to help get his confidence going.

  28. Two penalties and a lovely strike from Aubemayang put a coat of primer, if not gloss, on a shoddy performance.

    Any more like that and we will be playing to a very far from full Emirates.

  29. C,

    Glad you felt the joy, C. I started watching at 25′ an by the time we scored at 75′ my mood was irretrievably low. We so clearly have the players to play classy, effective football. It frustrates me beyond measure that we’ve spent so much time this season (add last 10) unable to catalyze that.

  30. 3-0 is a highly flattering final score but we certainly deserved to win. Not hard to see why stoke is in real danger this year.

  31. We woke up around minute 70 and despite the abysmal performance for big part of the game, beating those bastards and maybe have a hand in relegating them is satisfying enough.

    ** Two penalties for Arsenal in one game, who would have thought?

  32. Auba seems a very confident, generous-spirited guy. In the post-match interview he not only politely shrugs off the interviewer’s question as to why he surrendered the pen to Lacazette “…he needs confidence…it’s normal…” but also explains the ‘Marina’ etched into his hairstyle – it’s his grandma’s name and she just passed away, so it’s a tribute to her. What’s not to like, especially on top of two goals, one of which was a peach?

  33. I don’t think there can be any doubt about the second penalty. A shove in the back, that’s a foul, in the box, that’s a penalty. Not denying a goal scoring opportunity, so no caution.

    The first penalty, there must be an element of doubt. The defender did get a touch of the ball, but caught Ozil with the follow through. Could have gone either way.

  34. Relief all round then, we got the point, to which Yogi alluded at the top of his post, which confirms our top division status for another season.

  35. Dunno if 3 – 0 is flattering, Bill. You’re right, of course, Stoke are so poor that they need to be relegated to reorganise.

  36. Noon Gunner,

    Sorry for ya mate, yup I enjoyed it and your spot on. Clearly we have the players and the finishers just have to do it consistently.

    Anyways, 3 points and a truly enjoyable match, wrll at least what I saw.

  37. Yogi.

    Fair enough. We certainly simply dominated possession and we looked dangerous in the last 25 minutes


    With multi angle ultra slow motion you can question almost any penalty but in real time I thought the first one was a penalty.

  38. Orson Kaert,

    I actually thought Chambers had a better case for being held down in the box. I’ve played as a CB since I got the wrong side of 30 and I never understand why those aren’t given.

  39. Cripes.

    What other quaint English words for a shock can we use.

    And can someone tell me what we’re shocked about

  40. The one thing that was a joy was watching how well Aubameyang and Lacazette played together. They both came through as wingers and were transformed into CF’s but both are willing to swap which bodes well for the future.

  41. “Fan me with a bleedin’ kipper”

    Ah, the opening line from the rejected Pinewood script for Game of Thrones.

  42. YW,

    Was somewhat surprised by the young Spudsman’s strike. Not so much as Caballero, perhaps.

  43. Orson Kaert,

    Ja, lekka lekka kaka luck jou donder naaier eter poes hoender kak en perde piss met snot soep!

    That’s all truly vile btw!

    Strike a light?

  44. Orson Kaert,

    Afrikaans is a very expressive language.

    There are phrases that simply don’t have good translations in English.

    Hy eet met lang tande – he eats with long teeth – when someone doesn’t like what they’re eating.

    Hy’s voor op die wa – he sits in the front of the wagon – when someone is cocky and arrogant.

  45. I’m currently in Birmingham, wow….and to think greats like ub40 and led zeppelin are from here…..

  46. Spuds players get away with so many fouls and never get carded, its fucking odd.

    Vertoghen goes studs showing ovet the ball clearly gets Hazard below midway up the leg and the ref tells Hazard to get up.

  47. O yea, and its funny people always talk about Spuds not spending money but fail to mention the 50m they spent on 21 year old CB Sanchez this past summer.

  48. Aside from the fact that it was Spurs who beat them, Chelsea’s defeat was a good result for us. It means that fifth place is not entirely out of our reach. That could be significant for Arsenal should we fail to win the Europa League, as it would guarantee us European football next season.

  49. My father and grandfathered both lifetime Arsenal men, Orsen.

    My grandfather had some connection with Bob Wall but I never got to the bottom of it. He was killed in the last war having served all through the previous shindig.

  50. UEFA rules allow a maximum of four clubs from the same country qualifying for Champions League.

    The interesting thing being, if Arsenal win the Europa League we will take the fourth place regardless of our final position. That would mean the fourth place team, currently Spurs, would miss out.

    Now wouldn’t that be a bonus?


    The Europa League winners don’t take one of the PL places. They create a fifth place for the nation.

    For example, in this years CL, England had Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United.

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