Although Champions League football seemed a certainty just a few weeks ago, Arsenal aren’t in such a comfortable position now, with just three matches left. Just two wins in our last five Premier League matches have allowed Newcastle to sneak up on us, sitting three points behind with a game in hand.
In addition, Chelsea’s Champions League exploits may mean that the 4th placed team doesn’t even get a chance to play in Europe’s elite competition next season. Should the Blues beat Bayern in the final, then they will grab that fourth CL spot. It would be very amusing to see Spurs make a final push into fourth place, only to miss out on Champions League football due to Chelsea winning the competition a few days later.
However, it leaves even less room for error. Arsenal must take control of this battle for CL football, starting with a win against our old enemies – Stoke.
Here is a little history of our battle with Pulis’ side since they arrived in the top division of English football:
Stoke got promoted in 2008, and Arsenal faced them for the first time in November of that year, at the Britannia Stadium. Since then, Arsenal have rarely managed to convincingly defeat the Potters.
Stoke 2-1 Arsenal - Two Rory Delap throw-ins and a red card for RVP left Arsenal with three league defeats by November. Clichy grabbed his first goal for the club in the dying moments, with a shot that was deflected past Sorensen – what a waste of a first goal!
Arsenal 4-1 Stoke - Arsenal went 3-0 in 18 minutes in the final game of the season, but Stoke grabbed one back before RVP scored the fourth just before the break.
Arsenal 2-0 Stoke - Despite Cesc having a penalty saved, goals from Arshavin and Ramsey won the game for the Gunners.
Stoke 3-1 Arsenal - Another Rory Delap throw-in put Arsenal behind early on, but Denilson managed to level before the break. However, two late goals on the counter attack, as Arsenal piled on the pressure, knocked Wenger‘s side out of the FA Cup.
Stoke 1-3 Arsenal - You guessed it – a Rory Delap throw-in put Arsenal behind within ten minutes. Bendtner equalised before half-time, but the second-half was marred by Ramsey’s injury. Stoke fans can say what they like about whether Ryan Shawcross “is that kind of player,” but when Pulis tells his players to “get stuck in” because Arsenal “don’t like it up ‘em,” then I can’t help but disagree. The challenge was rash, and left Ramsey suffering for over a year. But Ryan must have suffered a lot of emotional trauma, so I guess Stoke fans singing “he’ll break it again, he’ll break it agaiiiin, RYAN SHAWCROSS, he’ll break it again” in several matches since this game make it acceptable. Two goals in the dying moments from Vermaelen and Fabregas won the match for Arsenal.
Arsenal 1-0 Stoke - Squillaci scored the only goal in a crucial win for Arsenal, as we moved within a point of Man Utd. However, both Cesc and Walcott went off injured, leaving the Gunners depleted for the cup final against Birmingham.
Stoke 3-1 Arsenal - Once again, poor defending was the problem as Arsenal lost at the Britannia Stadium. The first goal came from a set piece, the second from a deflection, and the third from a catalogue of defensive errors, shortly after RVP had given Arsenal a lifeline.
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke - Gervinho put Arsenal ahead before Crouch converted from a set piece. It took two goals from van Persie, who came on as a second half substitute, two win the match in the last 20 minutes.
So that’s five wins and three defeats against Stoke, but only one of the wins would be classed as ‘comfortable.’ At the Britannia, we have lost three of the last four.Every match against Stoke is difficult, and that’s what we have to expect today.