I’m feeling vaguely human again after Saturday’s pre and post Stoke high jinks left me feeling somewhat delicate yesterday. And we go into a week in which the players will go away with their international teams for a round of friendlies which nobody needs and are more stupid than Tony Pulis when he talks about football. That said, as horrendous as I find listening to him, perhaps there’s some method to his madness as 7amkickoff touches on here.
Apparently, he’s fearful of an FA charge against Michael Owen for his limp punch at Mikel Arteta. Under normal circumstances I’d look at that and think very little of it. If it were an Arsenal player who swung like that I’d think he was a bit of an eejit but I’d still be somewhat aggrieved if he were pulled up on it. But, considering it was Michael Owen, and considering it was Stoke, and considering it’s Tony Pulis, I hope the FA go to town on him.
It’s not likely to make much difference to Stoke, the loss of a player who has scored just 9 goals in the last three seasons won’t have much of an impact, but hopefully it sends Pulis into an apoplectic rage which ends up with him losing his mind even further until he begins to self-harm and is found bewildered and disheveled on the side of a road, naked, covered in weeping wounds with just a baseball cap on his head. What can I tell you? I’m the eternal optimist.
As for Shawcross, his face when the referee quite rightly allowed the goal to stand was hilarious. He was just short of lying down on the ground, kicking and squealing like a toddler who’s been told he can’t have the toy he had no interest in until another kid picked it up. That such infantile behaviour comes wrapped in the body of Cro-Magnon man makes it all the more amusing. He was lucky not to see red for his studs up challenge on Koscielny, and it’s just a matter of time before he badly injures somebody again. You wait.
Anyway, thankfully that’s them done and dusted for the season. I think the hatred will remain for a long time, the lusty, enthusiastic booing of Shawcross on Saturday was a fine collective effort from the Arsenal fans, but their aura of being some kind of bogey team to us is well and truly gone now. We had little trouble with them at their place earlier in the season, they hardly had a shot on Saturday, and we always looked like the team that was going to win the game.
Arsene Wenger says the team are more able cope physically with teams like that, saying:
You could see that in Sagna, Nacho, Koscielny and Mertesacker we have some experience and stature there. We are not small at the back. In England you have to deal with all types of football without losing your qualities in how you want to play.
What’s also noticeable is that there’s a bit more edge in the team, especially when Jack Wilshere plays. He was straight in when Owen flapped at Arteta, he’s never too far away when there’s anything contentious going, and while it’s probably going to come back and bite him in the arse at some point, I’d much rather that than the passivity we’ve seen in recent times.
I can’t remember the game in question last season, but there was an incident involving Mikel Arteta who was surrounded by opposition. Arsenal players were nowhere to be found. That wouldn’t happen now. Jack, at the very least, would be in there. And I suspect Podolski likes a bit of a ruck too. Of course you don’t want it going to far the other way but teams need that kind of thing to help forge the bonds that bring success.
If you can’t be arsed standing up for your teammate then it’ll be reflected in how you play, how committed you are to the cause. And when Jack gets involved he’s got to have the bigger lads with him too because he is only a small fella going around shushing opponents, standing up to giants, and the whole lot. I think there’s a definite link between how much you’re willing to stick up for your teammates and how capable you are of digging out a result when you need to.
People talk about how our trophy drought came about at the time when Abramovich and then Man City pumped all the oil money into the game, but isn’t there also a very obvious connection between how few red cards we get these days compared to the plethora per season we’d pick up when we were winning things? The obvious solution is get more players sent off. In seriousness though, I think we can stand to be a little bit tougher at times, but I think the perception that we’re soft and easy to push around has changed.
Other than that not a great deal going on this Monday morning. We’ll keep fingers crossed this week nobody gets banjaxed on international duty and, with Ivory Coast out of the African Cup of Nations, we’ll have Gervinho back for the weekend!