Post Match View – Stoke City F.C.

Abou Diaby was first, Eduardo next, and now the rising talent Aaron Ramsey will have to lose a large chunk of playing time through devastating injury. In all honesty, this tackle was reckless but it also looked more clumsy than premeditated. I could be wrong since I’ve only seen the replay in full speed and couldn’t tell if there was intent to injure.

That does not mean that we haven’t been the victims of hate from a large section of English football fans and players alike who don’t mind Arsenal players being on the end of such challenges. That doesn’t mean that match announcers, other clubs’ managers, and even the FA haven’t been complicit in a sometimes not so subtle anti Arsenal campaign. That doesn’t mean that an atmosphere hasn’t been created and fueled to lead up to this and the two injuries mentioned above.

I received a text just after the foul saying that the excuses from the English media were already in effect. Arsene has been quite clear on what he feels about this challenge. “Spare me the articles about how nice Shawcross is, please,” said the manager.

Can you blame him?

As the scum called Stoke fans chanted ‘One Ryan Shawcross’ after the player’s dismissal, I remembered that Birmingham City fans and fans of other clubs like West Ham for example have been known to echo the same chorus using Martin Taylor’s name. Shawcross has taken a large chunk from a fellow professional’s career. He is probably just as anti-Arsenal as the many who who’ll applaud the injury. Let’s be absolutely fucking clear – the majority of English football fans hate Arsene Wenger and hate Arsenal Football Club. There are millions of people who would love for Cesc or William Gallas or Alex Song or Nicklas Bendtner to lose their leg in a “full-blooded, good old fashioned tackle”.

The EPL trumpets itself as the best league in the world. Shouldn’t that tag ensure protection for the safety of the league’s most attractive team? Shouldn’t the league’s integrity be preserved beyond yellow cards for dissent to shite refs? Shouldn’t thuggery be called what it really is instead of code words like ‘getting amongst them’?

Shouldn’t the league promote flair and fair play instead of standing by and watching Arsenal’s best players have their legs broken? Ok, flair and “pretty” football is not a favorite fare for the robust challenge hungry. I accept that. What I’ll never accept is hiding behind the fact that getting sent off with a three match ban is the only punishment for dangerous acts of thuggery.

More attention is paid to diving then to addressing what most sensible people call assault.

Serious injuries happen but they will happen more frequently and will be nearly, if not completely, career ending when an atmosphere that allows them exists. Nobody can convince me that there aren’t anti-Arsenal sentiments in effect when these types of injuries occur. And when was the last time someone other than Arsene Wenger has stood up to call out the brand of anti-football that we face regularly? You are free to choose your tactics but spare me the hypocrisy. Thuggery is thuggery!

A few seasons ago, David Moyes brought Everton to The Emirates and played with no less than nine men in his own half for the majority of the game. He’d been embarrassed 7-0 at Highbury in May 2005. The tactics he used at The Emirates were designed to prevent another thrashing, but they were not thuggish. You can stop us playing without kicking us out of the game.

I will be among the first to accept that in recent years, we’ve been less than capable of matching some of the over the top physical play we’ve faced. But as I’ve mentioned here before, the FA dulled our teeth years ago. We were more than capable of being physical within proper limits but a) under Wenger, we’ve always preferred to play football anyway and b) the league prefers that only the extremely harsh challenges against us are properly punished. What a great way to promote good football!

There’s a guy reading this saying, ‘Wait, Man United play good football and never complain about being mistreated by the FA or thuggish teams’. That’s part of the problem and it proves the point. Arsenal are hated for who and what they are – a flair team with a French manager and mostly non-English players. Spare me the fucking hypocrisy.

It would be easy to say that we’ve won because Almunia and Clichy have firmed up their game but that would fail to address too many other factors. We’ve stood up to Toilet Paper’s candy striped thugs. We’ve kept our heads and remained focused. We’ve shown desire and determination.

As early as the third minute, Ricardo “Pimp” Fuller pushed Bacary Sagna while the RB attempted to negotiate avoiding running into his keeper. Cheap, sly, thuggery! The pimp would get away with a similar push against Song on 7, forcing a throw-in deep in Arsenal territory.

The Rory Delap throw-in resulted in a (very poorly defended) Stoke goal. What was Eboue thinking, moving away from the prolific Danny Pugh as he waited to punish us at the far post? Not the kind of start we needed.

1-0 Stoke

Stoke played a very tight and disciplined midfield pressing game. We hardly troubled them in the first 20 minutes. Before a Cesc volley was forced wide for a corner on 26, the notable action from our end was a brave Sol Campbell header at the pimp’s raised foot. When we lost the ball, I wondered why we weren’t pressing higher up the pitch as Stoke seemed more content to battle us in midfield. They were never going to split us open with precise passing or neat football, so it was a matter of remaining calm, playing our passing game, and making them chase and expend energy.

A goal would help too.

It came on 32 after a more composed spell of Arsenal possession. A Cesc cross was headed inside the far post by Nicklas Bendtner. A good striker’s goal! That’s two in two.

1-1 and game on.

On 33, the Arsenal hating commentator Gary O’Reilly said, “Stoke won’t change their game. They’ll just keep grinding away at Arsenal”. As if Arsenal were suddenly going to stop attacking and let the “grinding” stop them playing. The man’s anti-Arsenal edge comes through clearly – he’s more concerned with what Stoke have to do to stop Arsenal than he is in the changed tide of the match. Arsenal had clearly reversed the flow to take control of the game.

Just as I was thinking that Clichy was playing with more focus and purpose, Delap turned him on 39. No harm done however. The man is in the All-Time World XI of throw-in takers but football isn’t his main strength.

The First Half ended with Arsenal in the ascendency as Stoke began to tire.

On 49, Ramsey was fouled inside the Stoke box but no penalty was given. Even O’Reilly found it odd. Not too long after, Clichy forced a save with a good right foot shot from outside Sorensen’s box. On 52, we survived three successive Stoke corners. To their credit, they weren’t being overrun by our football, but nor were they convincing me that we couldn’t match them physically and go on to win the game.

Eboue’s low cross on 55 found nobody at the far post but goalkeepers don’t like to see balls flash across their goals. On 57, Clichy did well to keep a stray Cesc pass from going into touch. Good work by the LB. The obligatory Almunia scare came on 58 as he dropped a cross but Sidibe had made illegal contact with him as he rose. We were spared.

Eboue began to look more effective. On 59, he peppered Sorensen’s hands with a well struck drive from distance. The pimp made space for himself to get off a quick shot that Almunia saved on 65. One minute later, Aaron Ramsey was the recipient of a very bad challenge from Ryan Shawcross after a sloppy exchange of passes in midfield. As Ramsey trapped the stray pass, the Stoke defender put an awkward boot in. The players’ reactions and the dangling right ankle was an all too familiar sight.

Straight red for the England defender. A stretcher plus a very long time out of the game for the young Arsenal midfielder. Will the FA take action beyond a three match ban for Shawcross? I wouldn’t bet on it.

The game slowed a bit as both sets of players looked to regroup and refocus. On 77, Whitehead put in a dangerous low cross. We dealt with it. There was very little notable action from that point. Not by Arsenal and certainly not by Toilet Paper’s side.

On 85, it occurred to me that Stoke are horrible to watch. I know they’ve done well against us recently but they really are not worth the price of admission. And in advance of their cement-headed fans responding to this post, I’ll state now so I won’t have to later – shove your comments up your smelly troglodyte arses.

I can’t imagine that the additional time from the lengthy injury stoppage made Stoke supporters feel very good about their chances of sending us back home empty handed. We refocused and were all over them. On 89, a Nicklas Bendtner pass met with a candy striped thug’s hand. It was ball to hand and maybe the ref could have waved play on but no, he pointed to the spot. Cesc duly obliged.

2-1 AFC

FUCK OFF STOKE!!! I could have jumped through the ceiling. But it wasn’t over yet. Vermaelen was on the end of a Cesc square pass across Sorensen’s goal to tap home the third.

3-1 AFC and three points for sure.

FUCK OFF STOKE!!! Throw in a retribution tackle by Cesc on a candy striped thug on 97 for good measure. At the final whistle, our team huddle before exiting the pitch was met by boos from Stoke’s filthy racist supporters. Nothing is decided but what a fabulous way to capitalize on Chelsea’s debacle at The Bridge.

I’m just saddened that Aaron Ramsey couldn’t celebrate with his teammates.

This group have learned from seeing those horrific challenges against Diaby and Eduardo that they’ve had to grow thicker skin. Witness not just the composure and fight back to claim three vital points in a part of the world that would never welcome someone who looks like I do (and I certainly wouldn’t visit), but also Nasri’s rise to his captain’s defence after Cesc had been pushed off the ball by Shawcross. Also recall Samir’s stance earlier in the season against Hull City.

Let’s not forget to make mention of the steel provided by Campbell and Vermaelen. They were very good. The pimp was useless for most of the match.

All need not be lost from the devastation of losing a teammate in such terrible circumstances. Today’s result was just one of the many that we’ll need in order to do the improbable. I don’t care if the so-called experts choose not to take our title challenge seriously. What matters is that a certain Scot in Manchester and an Italian in London are beginning to sweat a bit. Oh, and that we’ve beaten Stoke City. FUCK OFF STOKE!!!

Keep the Faith.

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Stoke Job

If we earn three points against Stoke at the Britannia tomorrow, people will begin to talk about us seriously again as title contenders.

More importantly, the boost it’ll give our squad will be enormous. Having failed to beat them twice at the Britannia in two years, the players will be up for it more than ever.

While we do have key players out (Arshavin, Gallas, and Diaby), we do possess the players needed to pull through tomorrow.

The strength will not come from power, as being deprived of Diaby means that our midfield with be lightweight compared to Stoke. That means we have to pass through their team. No silly passes going astray, we must hold possession and ensure that Stoke do not strike first.

In the FA Cup match against them, Fabianski’s hesitancy led to a goal. Once behind, we did actually equalize, but got drilled in the final moments when Wenger brought on our heavy hitters.

To beat Stoke, we need to be first to every 50-50 ball and defend set pieces incredibly well. To that end, this is how you beat Rory Delap’s throw-ins. The most important player is the goalkeeper, as he has a weapon that can counter Delap’s throw-in. That weapon is the ability to catch the ball in the field of play.

We cannot ask Almunia to change his style of play though, so it’s going to require punch outs that go past our penalty box. In addition, Bendtner’s height, along with Sol, will help a ton.

With Walcott possibly starting, we need to pump balls through the right channel and let Theo do what he does best, beat men with his pace. Eboue may also be an option, as his directness has been a positive force the last few weeks.

We need Cesc to dictate play.

Tomorrow probably will not be a lovely display of football, but if we do what we’re capable of doing, the critics will take notice and our players will start to see what Wenger sees.

It’s a big, big, big fixture.

Time To Stand Tall

If Arsenal beat Stoke City on Saturday, they will win the Premier League. Defeat, however, rules Arsenal out, while a draw only gives slim hope.

Stoke City away is a horrible fixture. It’s average footballers using thug tactics, long throws, long balls, aerial bombardment and defensive discipline to the max. If Arsenal are to win, they have stand tall, be hard, play ugly and prepare for war. Winning doesn’t have to be pretty.
There’s two misnomers about Stoke City. The first is that they play football. They don’t. Not when you have Rory Delap taking five minutes to take a 25 yard throw in – after he has wiped it with a towel – and not when you have thugs like Danny Higginbotham kicking, elbowing, and stamping anything in his way. If Stoke play football, then my penis plays the violin.

The second misnomer is that Stoke is an actual city. It’s not. It’s just six shit towns full of white trash or Chavs who hate the smaller Indian/Pakistani community. It’s the reason why the fascist British National Party held a rally last month in Stoke, protesting against the rising Muslim community.

So what does Stoke have to offer other than a wide selection of sports shops and pound stores? It has the low grade shopping mall in the cesspit town of Hanley called “The Potteries Center.” This where most of the Stoke Chavs hang out in a show of defiance against authorities and the growing asylum seeker population. They lurk around menacingly, with their white Reebok Classics and hooded tops like a verminous disease, creating a shopping experience of loathing.

Hanley at night is another story though. It turns into an STD fest with teenage Chavs lingering around dimly lit bus shelters dropping cigarette butts on the floor and drinking cheap strong cans of Special Brew or Thunderbirds. There are some bars, just like there’s corners in Skid Row that people seek for entertainment. Outside the most popular bar/nightclubs are lines of pasty white Chav’s, with women wearing next to nothing because they can’t afford to put their coat into a cloakroom. Some wear nothing more than a skirt in sub zero temperatures because they feel that flashing a bit of tit and thigh is their way gaining entry with the bouncers. These are bars that seem to be blissfully unaware of things like age restrictions or fire regulations.

Inside the bars is more scary. You will find, loud shite R&B disguised as techno with drunk Chavs practicing their moves for their wishful audition on American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent. And the female talent on show is just like Stoke’s football – it’s horrible – consisting Susan Boyle’s in their early 20’s with peroxide blonde hair.

On game day, the Britannia Stadium is just as bad. It consists of white men of all ages drinking as much Stella as possible and then singing the Stoke national anthem of the Tom Jones hit “Why, Why, Delilah?” at the top of their voices. Before the game most of these white drunk scum then abuse one of the following: a) away fans especially southern fans; b) non-white people; c) the police; d) the referee and his officials.

After the game, most Stoke fans continue their drinking in the pubs near to the stadium. They continue singing their rendition of “Delilah” but some are by now puking up in the street or the bathrooms. Others are hitting on the pasty white, overweight tarts who love to wear big cheap gold rings with their initials on them as well as big hoop earrings that look like curtain holders.

Stoke is hole and needs to go. The same goes for it’s horrible football team.

Keep It Arsenal

No Regrets

“Whoever plays must give it everything they’ve got in these remaining games, and see where it takes us.” Sol Campbell

I imagine that when a player looks back on his career, the last thing he wants to battle is regret. Times passes quickly. A professional career should be filled with as many memories of success as possible. Sol Campbell knows what it takes to be successful.

He has stated the need for the players to make sacrifices in order to win the league. He has hinted that belief is not enough. It’s going to take more effort than perhaps the team are aware of. Say what you want about him, he’s won things and he’s made sacrifices along the way. I’m hoping that the younger players especially are listening to him.

The Invincibles Era has come and gone. In the same way, this team will have played and moved on before long. The likes of Clichy, Diaby, Nasri, Cesc, and Song will be in their prime in a few years. It is absolutely vital that they win a trophy this season. It could be the stepping stone to many more.

The ultimate shame will be if this lot leave Arsenal without having raised a few pots. Sol is part of the group now. It’s his role to be fit when called upon but more importantly, his part is also to make sure the players understand what is required in order to win.

I heard a great man say once to a group of West Ham fans who were desperate to beat us that “it’s the hope that kills you.” The pain of regret must surely be on a par with despair. I need to know that every Arsenal player understands that he must give his all in every minute of every match. There can be no other approach. Else they risk looking back on an empty period filled with promise and frustration.

It would be criminal if we were to miss out on winning something this season for lack of effort. And how ironic would it be that the inspiration comes from a man who once turned his back on us. Wenger must see more than a convenient, cheap signing in Sol Campbell.

Keep the Faith.

Toilet Paper

If you’re a true betting man, you need to do all kinds of research before you place a bet. Most people will go the extra mile, then make a decision with their gut anyway. I find it impossible to bet actual money on the Arsenal though, because it’s harder to overrule my heart.

Looking at Manchester United’s defeat against Everton, you can note easily that they were traveling from Milan and playing Everton at Goodison Park. Everton played a Europa League fixture, but one day earlier. This late into the season, things like these matter. It’s not to say that United couldn’t have broken through, but there is a distinct advantage held by a team like Everton. Everton did extremely well to break through against United (and getting one over their old mate Rooney), and it’s no surprise that against the top three teams in the reverse fixtures, Everton has earned 7 out of 9 points. They’re a good side.

Now, look at our fixture against Stoke. This is what counts against us:

1) We have a lot of injuries.

2) Stoke have already defeated us at the Britannia, albeit against a weakened side.

3) We’ve never defeated Stoke away.

4) At the Britannia, Rory Delap seemingly has never-ending access to towels in order to dry off the ball before throwing it into the box.

5) Stoke get away with certain things merely because of their reputation. Once you’re labeled as a tough, hard-working team, the line between a foul and a yellow card is sometimes blurred. Credit to them that they can take advantage of that.

But here’s what works in our favor.

On Wednesday, Stoke plays Manchester City at the Britannia in the FA Cup replay. That match may have the potential to go into extra time as well. Stoke will absolutely attempt to go all out and win this match. Consequently, due to this replay, I believe Faye will be able to suit up against us and he plays a big part in Stoke’s contain and batter strategy. Regardless, they will feel more fatigue than us on Saturday. That’s a clear fact, whether you let your mind believe it or not.

For that reason, time is ripe to place a stamp on this season.

You’d rather not have to analyze the physical evidence like a bookie, but sometimes it helps to gauge what kind of game we’ll be in for. It’s the same reason managers cite international fixtures as momentum disruptors.

I hope the game between Stoke and City go to extra time, and that Stoke are knocked out on penalties. From an Arsenal perspective, that’ll do nicely.

And one last thing, Ricardo Fuller deserved to get a retrospective red card for his foul on Jamie O’Hara this past weekend, where O’Hara’s shorts were torn after Fuller drag his boot around his groin area. But hey, that’s Stoke. They’re hard working battlers. Everything they do is within the rules.

That’s what toilet paper is good for, wiping the shit from your ass.

Please Eat Me Out

It’s strange how a man can fuck up his career by where he puts his penis. Take the Arsenal reject Ashley Cole. Married to pop singer and X Factor judge – whatever that is – Cheryl Tweedy, whose name sounds like a cartoon character but whose marriage has turned into a comic strip. Why? Because of her husband’s infidelity. Let’s take a look at the shortened list of Skank Ho’s that Ashley has shagged – among many:

– There’s the trog that he fucked two years ago while boozing with his obnoxious DJ mates in London.
– Then there’s the blonde secretary that he shagged at the hotel that the Chelsea team were staying in.
– Page Three Girl Sonia Wild was next. Ashley sent her a picture of his cock via a text message. Classy!
– And what about the Seattle bird Ann Corbitt who works for some Senator who Ashley fucked while Chelsea were on tour in the US last summer. Chelsea tried and failed to cover that affair by getting their PR chief to advise the Yank political aide. But he failed at his job and the affair is now public knowledge.

Cole and his wife Tweedy are now living separate lives and a divorce is imminent. Judging by Ray Parlour’s divorce – and remember Ray never cheated on his wife – Ashley will get killed financially in the divorce court.

To add to his woes, Cole is facing a £400,000 fine from Chelsea over his private life, which has heaped further embarrassment on the club. Alternatively, Cole could also be transfer listed by Chelsea following an investigation by the club. Owner Roman Abramovich is understood to be furious at the way Cole’s alleged behaviour has damaged the reputation of the club.

Cole is the third Chelsea player to be involved in such a scandal – Lampard and Terry were the other two. Abramovich ruthlessly got rid of Mutu and Mourinho, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he got shot of Cole.

It’s funny how it’s Chelsea’s English players that are making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The England manager Fabio Capello must be shaking his head in disbelief. It’s why buying foreigners makes more sense.

Keep it Arsenal

Post Match View – Sunderland A.F.C.

There’s a woman in Haiti who has never questioned why she became a devout catholic. She has never questioned how The Lord has allowed an earthquake to devastate the lives of so many people. She has never once dared to think that it is unfair to lose her two children, her husband, and the majority of everyone she has known for her 46 years on this planet.

She is the poster child for blind faith. Things happen for a reason, she reasons. For good or for bad, she carries on believing in The Lord. Her religion and her saviour come before all else.

I respect that kind of devotion but at some point, a logical approach would ask why Catholicism? Why any religion? Why blind faith? Why have I lost everything and everybody?

Some might call her a fool for believing.

I ask myself similar questions about Arsenal – why so much faith in players who’ve consistently let us down? Much like that Haitian woman (granted not nearly on the same scale), I have suffered but I still believe. It defies logic but the parallels are there. She never misses church. I rarely miss an Arsenal match. Even when she cannot afford to, she adds to the collection basket – she cannot afford to not give. I buy every shirt and travel thousands of miles every year to watch our boys in person. I see it as the least I can do.

In the face of trauma, she carries on believing. I might question certain decisions but my trust for Arsene is unwavering. It shall remain so.

Who’s the real fool some might ask.

Our 2-0 victory over Sunderland has moved us closer to the top. We cannot worry about what other teams do, we just have to win. We must not worry about individual performances, we must play for and support one another. Witness Cesc doing just that on 34 when Walcott had characteristically dribbled himself into trouble. The captain read the situation, ran over to help Bambi keep her legs, and although the attack fluttered, we managed to keep possession.

Much is made of Nicklas Bendtner’s confidence. I’ll be the first to admit that he hasn’t exactly delivered in a manner commensurate with all the chatter but let’s be clear, his presence in the team makes a difference when we play the more physical sides. Read as desperate sides who prefer an aerial approach.

Nik’s goal was overdue. On 8 minutes I thought, ‘Wow! Sunderland haven’t touched the ball in nearly 8 minutes’. On 15, I thought, ‘Wow! Sunderland haven’t touched the ball in nearly 15 minutes’. I felt that it was just a matter of time before we’d score. For all our possession and directness, the floodgates I expected never really opened.

Eboue was clearly the Man of the Match. Theo looked better than he has in a long, long, long, long, long time. But then again, how could he not? Cesc was not on his game but he did manage to help us seal the deal and close the gap with a late penalty. Wins don’t have to be pretty at this point.

Mickey Slivestre played well enough but struggled most of the match to convince the referee’s assistant that Sunderland really were offsides. We were fortunate when Kenwyne Jones failed to take advantage of one of those moments. Perhaps Almunia deserves some credit for closing the angle but a top striker should at least force a save when he’s one on one with the keeper. His effort was embarrassingly poor.

A bit less clownish in his last two starts, Almunia’s run off his line on 41 might have ended in disaster but we survived. Credit to Sunderland for making it difficult for us but if they don’t take their chances, relegation will continue to look more likely than not. Darren Bent was once on fire. He failed to impress the England manager in attendance at The Emirates. No shock there.

Stoke away next. I can hardly wait. Tough test but winnable.

Keep the faith.