Arsenal vs the Orcs Pre-Match Report
That’s right the Stoke City Orcs have landed at Ashburton Grove, and this time it’s without their goblin manager Tony Pulis leading the charge. Under Pulis, Stoke played some absolutely deplorable football, so much so that their FIFA 2013 controls looked a little something like this:
This would be very annoying to any Stoke fan playing the game because an attempt at a low through ball would result in a sky ball hoof up to Crouch. But when you kill one, another equally evil manager, grows in their place…Mark Hughes. Mark Hughes has got them playing better football which would please the Stoke supporters. It’s something that should please Arsenal supporters as well because their old approach was our Achilles heel (RIP Delap’s towel). They are still a very dangerous team so Arsenal will need to be at their best today if they want to come away with the three points.
Let’s get in to it shall we:
Missing in Action:
Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring), Ox (Knee), Arteta (Thigh), Diaby (Knee), Rosicky (Hip), Zelalem, Santi (Ankle), and Sanogo (back).
Bear with me here, now my theory is Santi is not in fact injured but he has been given time off. It’s not the first time Arsene has done something like this in the past. It is strange that Santi played the full 90 minutes against Chile and showed no sign of injury. It was also very strange that nothing was said about him until after the Sunderland game. Santi had a busy off-season with limited time off, so perhaps Arsene is being cautious and doesn’t want to run him into the ground this season. Arsene is also renowned for suggesting certain players are injured, in an effort to shelter them from reports suggesting they’ve been dropped. Now call me a conspiracy theorist all you want, but it does seem awfully coincidental that Santi goes missing right when Jack is fit and Ozil has been signed. Arsene would prefer the ‘injured’ story over endless stories and questions about Jack or Santi being ‘upset’ about dropping to the bench. I think if Ozil or Jack picked up an injury, Santi would make a miraculous recovery. Rested or injured? You decide!!!
Stoke City: Whelen (Hamstring), Muniesa (Groin/Pelvis), and Ness (Hip/Thigh) will miss this fixture.
I’m a bit torn for this game to be honest. We’ve got a good thing going at the moment but I’m a bit worried about some of our players entering the infamous ‘red zone’. Gone are the days where you could rotate your squad a little against lesser opposition. You can’t really get away with it anymore because every game is tough in the premier league. Gibbs has been in red hot form this season but based on his previous injury record (coupled with the ferocity of Stoke), I’d go with Monreal at left back. I’d give Jack a rest and put Gnabry out on the left. It may be a drop off in quality but that boy can play and could be an unknown quantity for Stoke. He scored a double midweek playing as a striker; add that to the match winner he scored last week and he’s in blistering form. I wouldn’t change much else though (partly because we have that many injuries so our options are limited, and I wouldn’t want to unsettle the squad too much.)
Arsenal v Stoke 1-0
It took a deflected free kick from Lukas Podolski to see us over the line in this fixture. Although we were dominant in periods, Asmir Begovic denied us numerous times thanks to some brilliant keeping. We saw the emergence of newly signed LB Nacho Monreal, and based on the hype HH created from his excellent post Nacho did not disappoint. Shawcross did his best to intimidate the ref in an effort to overturn the goal (also thought he would have a go at Arteta to show just how big a w*nker he really is), but he did not succeed.
Have a look at the goal and aftermath here:
Stoke v Arsenal 0-0
We were held to our second consecutive goalless draw. We defended well but despite taking over the game for large parts we were very toothless in attack. Santi was mesmerizing and Giroud nearly pinched it late with a magnificent lob attempt. You can see the highlights below:
Form Guide: Arsenal: : WWWWW Stoke: DWWWL
We’ve won 5 in a row now and seem confident in getting results when the heat is on (quite the change from previous seasons). Arsenal will be in a confident mood for this one.
Stoke have had a good start under Mark Hughes. They were unlucky to lose against Liverpool, they beat West Ham away, and they held ManchesterCity to a goalless draw.
This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the 1970-71 FA Cup semi-final against stoke city. Those old enough to enjoy it saw Peter Storey drag Arsenal back and force a replay (which we eventually went on to win!!!). Have a look at this article detailing how Arsenal denied Stoke FA Cup success in the 70s
One to Watch:
Former Blackburn midfielder Steven N’Zonzi. I’ve found him officers; he’ll be at the Emirates on Sunday. Those who haven’t heard N’Zonzi is ‘being hunted by police for his connection with a roadside altercation with a cyclist.’ You can read all about it here:
I for one am glad I will not be at the Emirates for this one. The thought of getting mugged in the stalls by Pennant or N’Zonzi haunts me in my sleep. Those going to the game should jump on Arsenal direct; they’ve got a special on now for this game, here’s an image below:
In all seriousness though, N’Zonzi is a bulldog in midfield. Although he handed in a transfer request in the summer, he’s put his head down and stuck to the task. He won man of the match honours against both West Ham and ManchesterCity this season. He shackled Yaya last week…this week he has Ozil to deal with!
This week’s one to watch has to be AARON RAMSEY. I can’t say anything more about his season thus far that hasn’t been said already. He’s a menace all over the pitch thanks to his endless gut running, and more importantly he’s becoming a constant danger to the opposition. His importance to this squad can’t be exaggerated enough at the moment. With Giroud in top form (5 goals from 6 shots on target this season) and World Class Ozil on the pitch, we could fall in to the trap of becoming too over reliant on them. That sort of over reliance can easily be targeted by opposition managers. Aaron Ramsey isn’t allowing that to happen. Both he and Walcott will not allow opposition players to double or triple team Ozil. Bring in Santi and you have a nightmare scenario for any opposition manager. It’s the sort of situation which could see more and more teams drop off in the second half (good prediction midweek Alcide) as their press is stretched all over the pitch by Walcott, Ozil, Santi, Giroud, and Ramsey. We all know Ramsey’s history with Stoke so there is no need to explain why Aaron will be fired up for this one…and he’ll have a crowd full of supporters backing him every step of the way!
Arsenal vs Asmir Begovic
Before Begovic signed from Portsmouth in 2010 he was a keeper I wanted to see playing for Arsenal. While I am very happy with Szczesny, but Begovic is a top quality goalkeeper (probably not well liked in England considering he’s keeping Butland out), and he has proved it time and time again against us in the past. If he makes a couple of good saves early on, you’re going to have to pull something special out to get past him for the remainder of the game. Begovic could be the difference between a win or draw so let’s hope he’s having a bad day.
This week’s finger goes to penalties!!! Like Szczesny they are getting on my nerves! It’s as though the umpires guess their decisions half the time because they aren’t in the correct position to be 100% certain. Please for the love of Christ (Dennis) get some 3rd umpire technology. It’s not like it’s going to the slow the game down that much (some games you won’t even need to use it). Plus if you are going to overlook players rolling around on the ground and diving…it’s the least you can do! It’d kill two birds with one stone because we’d be almost 100% certain on the decision, and the refs can decide whether or not the person involved dived. It’s not fair that commentators can say “every forward does it”…it’s CHEATING!!!! The game should be doing all it can to cut it out and strengthen its image. I’m sick and tired of hearing “Man U won because player X went down in the box and player Z was sent off”. I don’t want to hear fossils whinge about the game changing either…it’s an improvement! The technology is there, USE IT!!!
Pre-Match pat on the back:
This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsene Wenger. It may be early days but he’s got the squad looking in tip top shape again. I don’t think there has been a manager in recent history that has copped as much flack as Arsene has. Once upon a time Arsenal fans adored Arsene, but as trophies dried up the supporter base began to turn. He’s not perfect, he’s not without fault but he’s still got his magic hat! He deserves to go out on top, and I hope this Arsenal team can start delivering for him!
‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead. This week the answers were kindly provided by Jowlermonkey and Waddos_Legends (both from the StokeCity board on www.not606.com . Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:
1) You cleared out quite a few players during the transfer window. How do you rate your transfer window (ins and outs)?
JOWLERMONKEY: Glad to see the back of some players, fantastic that we now have a left back, needed to buy another striker.
WADDOS_LEGENDS: Our transfer window was quite good with the exception that we did not address one of our weakest positions and that is we needed two fresh young fresh strikers. Marko Arnautović was a great signing and he looks a beast so I’m really looking forward to what he can do in front of goal. We have another one coming in January from the USA, Juan Agudelo but we needed another sooner as we cannot score goals.
I was pleased to see a lot of the “Pulis Deadwood” players moved on and also pleased we at last bought in a recognised left back in Erik Pieters. Stephen Ireland was another great signing and the retention of Jermaine Pennant was another good piece of business. Loaning out Cameron Jerome for me to Crystal Palace was a mistake.
2) How is Mark Hughes travelling? Will he take you places? Better than Pulis?
JOWLERMOONKEY: I didn’t want Mark hughes, but said i’d give him his chances to hang himself. much better than Pulis.
WADDOS_LEGENDS: Early days yet to see if Hughes will take us places but we are certainly playing better football under Hughes than we ever did under Pulis. i actually feel confident going into certain games now especially away from home as before I looked on all away games as we were going to lose. Our current league position and points tally does suggest we are on the up!
The football under Tony Pulis was dire and towards the end he lost the Stoke crowd. The attendance is still suffering now and it will take a few seasons to change this back.
3) What player/position is your weakest?
JOWLERMONKEY: Strikers, neither good or hungry enough.
WADDOS_LEGENDS: As mentioned above our weakest position is in front of goal and Jon Walters as probably cost us 4 points so far this season so I would have to say him. Missed a 88 minute penalty at Liverpool this season away and 2 clear cut chances on Saturday against Manchester City.
The player just loaned out to Wigan Ryan Shotton is Stokes worst player now that is still technically on the books!
4) Which Arsenal player would you like and why?
JOWLERMONKEY: Wilshere, fast dynamic, good feet.
WADDOS_LEGENDS: The only Arsenal players I would like to see in the Stoke shirt would be either Ozil or Santi Cazorla, as I don’t think any other player would slot into our style of play and these 2 players are top players.
5) Which player/position do you feel is our weakest?
WADDOS_LEGENDS: I feel Arsenal are weakest at the back, can’t name one player in particular but this is definitely an area you struggle in hence why you brought in the ex-Stokie and old school friend of mine ” Steve Bould”.
6) Özil, will he live up to the hype?
JOWLERMONKEY: Fantastic player. Will need to be protected but has always produced the goods.
WADDOS_LEGENDS: Ozil already is showing his brilliance and will definitely live up to his reputation as a class act!
7) What is your prediction for the match?
JOWLERMONKEY: Hoping for a draw but you should beat us comfortably.
WADDOS_LEGENDS: Stoke have yet to get anything from the Emirates in the duration of our stay in the premier league. Again as i have said above I’m more confident this season and I predict a close game with 1-1 being the outcome and us picking up our first ever points there. No doubt Ryan Shawcross will be booed from start to finish as per for the “Ramsey Incident” but this helps him to lift his game and fire up his sparring partner Robert Huth!
Stoke have had an impressive start to the season but I do not see them troubling us at home. We’ve beaten them 5/5 at the Emirates, and Mark Hughes has lost his last 6 games at the Emirates (in that time he’s managed Blackburn, ManCity, Fulham, and QPR…how on earth does he keeping getting jobs??). Crouch will be isolated up front so they’ll only get joy out of set pieces (we’ll have to lift our game in this department because we let Marseille have a couple of cheapies midweek). A comfortable and assured performance should see Arsenal victorious 2-0.
For this week’s psychic prediction I contacted ‘Eagle Star’ for the third week. He better lift his game though otherwise I’m going to have to consult our very own Jgc-damus. Here are his responses:
Oz: Will Arsenal beat the Stoke City Orcs?
Eagle Star: Hmmmm 1-1 I feel.
Oz: The way they play it wouldn’t surprise me if they went for the draw. Will we concede from a set piece?
Eagle Star: Dangers…yes, score…no!
Oz: Can you please put a curse on Ryan Shawcross. I’m not sure what but maybe some Paranormal Activity type scares when he’s at home.
<insert Shawcross Scared pic>
Eagle Star: That’s not my area of expertise Oz but I can contact someone who is.
Oz: You’re a star Eagle…get it????
Eagle Star: <disconnected…and blocked>
What is your prediction?
Theo or Giroud…who will score?
Will we shut down their set piece game?
Written by: Oz Gunner
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