Stoke 1-1 Arsenal : ruffians upset monsters

Match reportVideoBy the numbers

And so did venture a pack of brave knights into a land where did live monsters. The monsters did try and slay the knights through tactics of brute strength. They did lob high missiles into the air and a crumply giant did strike the first blow of the battle. The monsters did roar in delight but they failed to take heed of the orange knight who did combine with the knight of delightful fringe to strike back.

The goblin prince did feel the heat of rage beneath his canvass helmet, he was most assuredly steaming. And the monsters, many of them hideous disfigured and mutated, and ghouls that followed them, did bellow at the general of the knights as he did entreat his men in the midst of battle.

When he did call for reinforcements the monsters howled at the young knight of dragons with whom they did have great history. For he, this young knight of dragons, did once assault the foot of the son of the goblin prince with his lower leg, shattering it in the process and making the son of the goblin price shed tears of pus and other goo and his mum did have to come and pick him up.

When the leader of the knights declared his unhappiness that the monsters, who did boast to everyone of their power and strength, would fall to the floor with no contact, the ghouls did imitate him, but due to their mangled limbs and contorted features, they did merely twist their grotesque countenances even further.

In the end the knights did show great valour and returned home with a valuable jewel while the goblin prince did try to comfort his monsters and ghouls but the only thing that did calm them was eating the flesh of their young.

From A Trip to Stoke by Lancelot Clearmountain, AD 1012.

Who knew old story tellers could be so prophetic? In general I think yesterday’s point was a pretty decent one. On paper Stoke away was the most difficult game of the three we had left and for them this is some kind of cup final.

The passion with which they dislike Arsene Wenger, Aaron Ramsey and pretty much anything to do with us is quite something. So much so that they would boo a young man whose leg was snapped in two by one of their players. As the boss said afterwards, he understands them being behind Shawcross but the booing of Ramsey – and not just by a minority – just shows you what a pack of classless, self-fingering, bottom-feeding, low life trolls the Stoke fans are.

“You cannot be especially proud of that,” said Arsene who was also on the receiving end of their bellowing. He clearly doesn’t care about it, his comments about his ‘relationship’ with them were excellent, but I genuinely hope the Stoke fans never stop booing Ramsey because as long as they do they continue to show their true colours (hind-quarters brown, in case you were wondering).

I saw some criticism of the ref post-game but I thought in general he handled it well enough. He set down an early marker, booking Whitehead for his nasty challenge on Song, and that showed he wasn’t going to let them away with intimidatory tactics. As for the penalty that Benayoun wanted, he got that right too. If that had been given against us I’d have been fuming.

Only late on, when he should have sent off Whitehead for another foul on Song, thus allowing him to stay on to dive when Koscielny breathed on him (thus provoking Wenger to the point where he nearly lost his mind, understandably too), did he lose the plot, but overall I thought he handled what could have been a very tricky fixture well.

Our football – poor for their goal but improved immediately. Robin had missed another good chance at the back post, and Ramsey curled one just wide, before great play from Benayoun and then Rosicky set up the equaliser. We then dominated the rest of the first half and should have been ahead. Sagna’s cross for Gervinho was perfect, the Ivorian didn’t fancy it much yesterday though and a braver player would have scored that.

The second half was poor however. We couldn’t quite keep up the momentum (perhaps the fatigue we’re feeling kicking in, perhaps Stoke upped it at their end), but it was as scrappy a half as you’ll ever see. All the same, there was no lack of effort on our part, we worked extremely hard and never stopped chasing and harrying them. And there were chances. Ramsey shot just wide, it almost opened up in the box for Benayoun but Son of Pulis won the ball with an extremely industrial challenge, van Persie had a header on target, Vermaelen shot just wide from a free kick.

At the other end Szczesny was forced into one save from Jerome and late on, when Stoke had a line-out deep in our half, a wonderful piece of defending from Bacary Sagna cleared the ball from practically underneath our crossbar. At the end a point each was probably deserved although even at my most diplomatic I can’t find it in me to credit Stoke with anything and the sooner they piss off back down the leagues the better.

Afterwards, Arsene said:

I believe that it was a game where we have shown great character, great battling qualities. I can only give credit to my players for their battling qualities and the way they responded to what Stoke offered us – full commitment, well-organised, direct. We did not always cope with it but today I felt we did.

Newcastle’s 4-0 loss to Wigan makes it a better point than perhaps it might have been, and the important part is it is still in our hands. Ideally we’d have come away with all three points but I don’t think you can underestimate their desire to not lose to us and how difficult they make it. Add to that the end of season weariness we’re obviously suffering from and it was hardly a wonderful football spectacle.

Still, coming away from there with a point plus all bones intact isn’t a bad result and it means we can prepare for Norwich without having to worry too much about what anyone else does. And that we can watch today’s games and hope for more hilarious bottling from the usual suspects.

Right, have yourselves a good Sunday, back tomorrow.


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