So today we travel up north to a place which hasn’t really been a lucky ground for us. We know what to expect from Pulis’ side and Wenger should set the team up to deal with it. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Mertesacker will have to start for us in Koscielny’s absence.
The build up to this game has seen a lot of anti-Stoke propaganda from Arsenal fans, and we all know that they don’t play the most attractive football on the planet. But what they do works – they’ve caused us plenty of problems and have stayed in the division since their promotion in 2008. We can criticise their style all we want but it’s bloody effective.
Tony Pulis has fuelled the rivalry between the two clubs by citing that his side had a better disciplinary record than Arsenal last season.
“People talk about us about us being a dirty team, yet we haven’t had as many red cards or I haven’t had as many red cards as a manager as Arsene Wenger has had as a manager.
“People always talk about me and Stoke City. Nobody ever talks about the situation with Wenger. There was a situation not so long ago when a lot of red cards were being dished out to Arsenal.
“Everybody seems to have forgotten about that. All we want is fairness and a balance. It is frustrating when you get labelled for this or that and people don’t look at the other side of the coin.”
It’s a shame that managers use meaningless statistics to back up their arguments, but if they do, then I think we can fight back with them. Why are those stats meaningless? Firstly, cards are given at the referees discretion. Secondly, Stoke’s tactics of shoving in the box, the use of long throws and set pieces are totally unconnected to the number of cards given. And thirdly, given Arsenal’s style of play, it’s not surprising we get a lot of cards. As teams catch us on the break following a period of prolonged possession (and often getting nowhere…), fouls become more likely. We all know how much Song loved a clumsy tackle as the opponents were on the break.
Wenger responded to Pulis’ claim with this:
I think we did quite well in the Fair Play table.
“I don’t know how they did, but we did quite well. It’s not only about red cards, it’s about the number of fouls.”
And here is the Fair Play table from last season:
And guess what – Wenger was right! Look who sits rock bottom of that table… hardly surprising, is it?
There are also rumours that Stoke fans will be doing an Arsene Wenger impersonation at the game today. I hope they get a kick out of it, because it sounds like a pathetic thing for a bunch of grown men to do.
Pulis caused greater rift between the clubs with this statement:
“Ryan got absolutely slaughtered at Arsenal. It’s not a one-way ticket. It would be nice if we could move on, but I don’t think that will happen.”
Arsenal fans really shouldn’t boo Shawcross any more – he made a mistake, hopefully it won’t happen again. But here’s the problem; Pulis is comparing the boos for Ryan with the boos for Ramsey as if they were like-for-like. They just aren’t. When Stoke fans booed off Ramsey straight after his leg had been broken, it was disgusting. And it’s still disgusting that they boo him.
Onto team news. It looks like Giroud will start up front against Stoke’s powerful centre backs, which is good news because Podolski didn’t look particularly comfortable in that position against Sunderland. Whitehead will be missing, which is a bonus because he is a typical Stoke player – dogged, strong and a pain in the arse. Koscielny is still out but the Ox is back in the squad. With Bacary also injured, Jenko will probably keep his place and may be up against Etherington, which could be a source of worry to Arsenal fans.
I hope Podolski is shifted to the wing, although after Gervinho’s performance last week, I’d be tempted to start him too. Perhaps Walcott will be dropped in favour of the Ivorian. I expect the midfield and defence to stay the same.
0-1 win for Arsenal. I don’t know why, and I really shouldn’t be, but I feel quite confident about this match. Think Vermaelen will score the winner. Come on Arsenal!