Stoke preview – Football first but we haven’t forgotten

I went back in time a bit this morning, but only via the wondrous archive system on this blog, to see what I’d written about this game when it was supposed to be played back in December.

As you might expect I was less than complimentary about Stoke, Pubis and Lennie, saying:

Morning all and the order of the day is Stoke City. Which is like going into your local restaurant and ordering a Poo Roulade with a Curtain of Vomit and a side of freshly bubbling mucus.

And on this evening’s menu, sir, we have a delicious fricasse of putrefied cockroach, served with a sprinkling of desiccated, blood flecked, baboon snot and some fresh vegetables lightly poached in the infected piss of a maggot ridden warthog. That’s actually made of 98% warts. It would be safe to say they are not my favourite team.

From our point of view we go into the game without Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny who have hamstring and back problems respectively. A bit of a blow, that’s for sure, but there’s not much we can do about it other than getting on with things and winning the game. It’s obvious that Squillaci will come in for Koscielny at the back and for me the man to replace van Persie is Bendtner. So I reckon we’ll see this team:

Wojscez©® – Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Cesc – Nasri – Bendtner – Walcott/Arshavin

I’m a bit torn about the last one. The boss has been talking about Arshavin, highlighting his lack of confidence, but saying of his return to form:

It’s fantastic. I love Arshavin because he’s a player who can always give you hope that he can make the difference. But before Barcelona already you felt he was in good form again.

I just have a feeling he’s going to find a place for him this evening and Theo could be the one to miss out. Bendtner gives us a physical presence which we know is going to be important against a team whose average height is 7’2. We know they’re dangerous from set-pieces and from long throws but as the boss says the best way to deal with that is to keep the ball as much as possible. However, there are going to be difficult moments and at the back we need to be strong, committed and well organised.

Away from home Stoke have lost nine times this season and we need to make sure they go home in double figures tonight. It’s easy to think ahead to the cup final on Sunday but that should be firmly out of everyone’s mind. Three points tonight would keep the pressure on United who have two games in three days this weekend. First against Wigan but then, next Tuesday, against Chelsea. We need to make sure that any potential loss of points provide us with the maximum benefit and that means making sure we win tonight.

Going forward we’ve got plenty to trouble them, even with the absence of van Persie, but we have to stay organised and do the defensive work that’s going to be necessary. The players who have been rested since Barcelona last week have to come in and take the confidence and belief from that game and apply it today’s opposition. If we can do that, and if we really put in the effort, this is a game I think we’ll win.

Of course a game against Stoke isn’t just about football these days. This is the first meeting between the clubs since Lennie snapped Aaron Ramsey’s leg in two at their place last season, and while ‘declaring war‘ on Shawcross is a sub-editor hyping up a headline as much as possible there’s definitely going to be a reception for him this evening. Back in December I said:

Arsenal fans haven’t forgotten and we’re not in any mood to forgive. The barracking of Lennie should be unmerciful and the vitriol aimed at him should go hand in hand with support for the team. Regardless of what you might think of how our players can frustrate the bottom line is that it’s always the opposition who are the enemy and today’s lot are just that.

The atmosphere at the Barcelona game was fantastic, the support for the team throughout was a big factor, and that, above all else, should be the order of this evening. However, having a focus for some spite is never a bad thing either. It shouldn’t get in the way of the support for the team but anyone who thinks Lennie isn’t going to get a hard time this evening is quite out of their mind. He’s no pantomime villain, there’s nothing remotely entertaining about him. This unapologetic, knuckle dragging, grouper mouthed hyperlummox put Aaron Ramsey out of the game for the best part of a year, he hasn’t played for us since, and the Arsenal fans will let him know what they think later on.

Aaron Ramsey banner - Arseblog

And speaking of Aaron, he scored last night for Cardiff, his first goal since the leg break, and the despite suggestions he might stay at Cardiff for the rest of the season, he’s being pencilled in to play in the FA Cup replay against Leyton Orient. Good news all round. It makes our squad bigger, stronger, more competitive and hopefully we’ll see Ramsey’s re-emergence as a player of real quality.

Tonight’s ref is Peter Walton, the man who sent Lennie off at the Brittania last season. Let’s hope he’s taxed only by the amount of times he has to point to the centre circle after Arsenal goals. If you’re there, give it loads.

As usual there’ll be live blog coverage of the game this evening. Check back later on for details of that.

And that’s really about that for now. All eyes must be on tonight’s game, then we can start to worry/wonder/prepare for the Carling Cup final. No distractions. Total focus. And hopefully a complete annihilation of Lennie, Pubis and their cohorts.

Come on Arsenal.

Finally for today, if you’re a Tumblr person, you can find the Arsetumblr here. Pics, videos, links etc that don’t make the main blog, and you can submit stuff yourself if you’re that way inclined. I’m still finding my way about the place but for those of you that use it regularly there it is.

Until later.

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