Were I prone to succinctness, I would probably summarise this match as follows:
“Stoke are a bunch of dirty ugly thuggish monkeys, who play ugly thuggish football, and have ugly thuggish fans who make ugly thuggish noises.”
I would also probably add this:
“Chris Foy is a cunt!”
– Fin –
However, since I am not getting paid to write summaries, I will elaborate.
(Technically, I am not getting paid at all though)
We drew 1-1 with Stoke at the Shittania. Stoke tried to rough us up here and there, but they were mostly okay. We played well, not terrifically, but were very competitive and looked sharp. A draw was a flattering result for Stoke, but our lack of clear cut chances and attacking options from the bench meant that we had to settle for it.
It was a lively start, with Begovic saving well from a placed shot by Benayoun. Stoke’s Bosnadian ‘keeper went one better moments later – Rosicky’s chipped ball over the top resulted in a powerful downward header from RvP at the far post, and Begovic was down in a flash to save it. Rosicky and RvP would continue to combine well all game.
Usually when we play Stoke, and are dominating, they score almost immediately against the run of play, on the counter. It’s usually a headed goal, from one of their rather large strikers. Did that happen today? Yes it did.
In the 9th minute, Stoke broke (haha) down the wing, Etherington crossed, and Peter Crouch stooped down over Vermaelen and Gibbs to plant a great header in at Szczesny’s near post. 1-0 to Stoke.
We’d lost on 3 of our last 4 visits to Stoke, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that, Stoke’s dirty tactics aside, we’d quite often found ourselves unable to compete, some might even say unwilling. That wasn’t the case today.
We got straight back at them, and Ramsey (who was very positive all game), struck a left-footed shot just wide.
Moments later though, RvP found a way through. Benayoun did well down the left to harry Shotton and win possession, he found some space, and then played a lovely reverse pass down the line to Rosicky who was making a supporting run from infield. Tomas showed good feet to buy himself some time, and then clipped a dipping, curling cross over the Stoke defence that RvP materialised on the end of. 1-1, with 15 minutes on the clock.
And that was to be it in terms of goals. On a day when there were goals galore in the Premier League (22 goals in 6 games), it was a bit annoying to get score updates popping up on the screen every few minutes, although some of them were quite welcome – Wigan defeating Newcastle 4-0 to put a silver lining on our solitary point.
There was to be one more decent chance before the end of the half – Van Persie played a lovely weighted pass down the right for Sagna who crossed first time for Gervinho. The Ivorian, either completely misjudged the cross or wasn’t really interested in it, and failed to make any sort of contact.
This was one of his better games though, and he was full of running throughout the first-half. He looked quick, and played in a more direct and aggressive way than we’re used to seeing. His bulbousness and tendency to roam give the impression of him being a balloon that has floated on to the pitch and is kind of drifting around. Maybe it’s just me.
The star of the second half was probably Chris Foy. Having had a quite quiet and reasonable first-half, he’d clearly decided that he needed more attention, and set about imposing himself on the game. By “imposing” I mean “being completely incompetent”.
I counted a double hattrick of “Chris Foy is a cunt” moments – including denying us 2 penalties, booking Song for his first foul of the game (a minor one at that), and rewarding Dean Whitehead with a free-kick in stoppage time for one of the most RIDICULOUS dives you will see this season. I’ve heard they don’t “dive”, so I forget which word you’re supposed to use when a British person falls down for no reason and looks pleadingly towards the ref for a free-kick.
The second half was there for the taking, but we unfortunately couldn’t take it. Stoke were miserably ineffective and produced nothing apart from a hopeful shot from Cameron Jerome that Szczesny parried easily.
Van Persie struggled to be involved at times, but looked very sharp. His touches under heavy pressure from 2 or 3 Stoke defenders were a joy to watch, and he linked play brilliantly. His only real chance came when he played Sagna in on the right, and Sagna crossed back for him, but his header was straight at Begovic.
Some trickery from Gervinho created a chance for Benayoun, but Shawcross slid in with a tackle before Yossi could shoot. Pony Tulis was probably quite disappointed that Benayoun’s legs were intact afterwards, but there you go.
The game had no real flow after that. We had a lot of possession, but couldn’t really break through.
With about 20 minutes to go, Foy turned down the first of our two penalty appeals. An RvP freekick was blocked, and Vermaelen’s follow up shot hit the arms of Shawcross. The raised arms of Shawcross. The not at all “I am trying my best to avoid a handball situation” raised arms of Shawcross. Watch it here.
What can you say really. Chris Foy is a shite referee, and Stoke are a shite team. It’s a match made in heaven. We were just lucky to be there.
With 15 minutes to go, Ramsey was replaced by Diaby. The young Welshman (don’t forget he’s only 21) was much improved today. Predictably, he was booed the entire game, but it just seemed to spur him on. He was very competitive, very tenacious, and although he still took a few too many touches, he moved the ball around well.
Diaby came on and showed some good feet. Chamakh came on a few minutes later, and it was clear that Arsene was mindful of a late aerial bombardment from Stoke. However, our attack could also have been a factor. With most of our joy coming down the wings, and having had 5 fruitless corners, he probably hoped that Chamakh and Diaby could provide a threat.
In the end, neither really made a difference. Chamakh worked hard, and held the ball up well under pressure – giving RvP some space to roam, but offered no threat.
In between, Benayoun was clearly shoved in the box when latching onto an RvP layoff. Foy had a great view of it, but that means nothing really, because he’s a total prick.
And that was that. The match petered out really. RvP won another free-kick, which he laid off to Vermaelen, whose powerful low drive was inches wide.
Down the other end, Cameron Jerome broke free and hit a hard, hopeful shot that Szczesny parried away. Our young Polish ‘keeper was an absolute boss in this game. He dominated everything, punching well, and took one absolutely brilliant catch on the edge of our box midway through the first-half – poleaxing everything in his way, including the unfortunate Laurent Koscielny.
Rory Delap made a cameo appearance late on. From the importance accorded to him by the commentators, and the reception he got, you would have thought he was a former World Cup and Balon d’Or winner coming on to try and introduce a bit of magic off the bench in his twilight years. He takes throw-ins. That’s it.
He took a throw-in. It was defended. That was about all he did. His like-for-like tactical replacement in the team, Ryan Shotton, was equally ineffective. If Ryan Shotton is the new Rory Delap, he (A) Doesn’t have much to live up to, and (B) Isn’t very good at whatever that is.
There was a reasonable 4 minutes of stoppage time, but it was uneventful. There was a late chance for Jon Walters, but he’s not very good, and it went well wide. Dean Whitehead then produced his ballet extravaganza to eat up a few more minutes, and we didn’t really look capable of producing anything more.
But there was still time for an Abou Diaby special. Our gangly sometimes-footballer, sometimes mythological-creature jinked past 2 challenges and 3 Stoke players on the left touchline before pulling up with what seemed to be a hamstring injury. It was always a risk to play Abou in a game of this physical intensity, but this wasn’t the kind of injury that we were expecting. Let’s hope it’s only minor.
In the end, a point and no injuries to our key players is an OK outcome. Newcastle’s loss to Wigan makes it a little bit sweeter, and although we still need to win our 2 remaining games to be sure of 3rd place, the toughest part of our run-in is out of the way.
!ersA eht pU