Stoke. What can you say about them? In life, we try to use specific words to associate with individuals or any particular thing. For Stoke Football Club there are several. Towels, long throw, set pieces, boring, ball over the top, cap, tracksuit and thugs are the normal associations that reminds me of this football club.
We all remember what happened in the same fixture a year ago. Aaron Ramsey’s fledgling career has just taken off only to be stopped momentarily by a thug. A thug who has been showered with love from unrelated personnel all over England. A thug whose fans are planning on booing Ramsey who dared to have his leg broken and complain. These are the kind of team we are dealing with.
It displeases me that Stoke are 12th in the league standings. It displeases me that they are highly unlikely to be relegated. With Manchester City on the verge of claiming that last Champions League spot, it also displeases me to realise that Stoke will play in Europe next season. They of course qualify for the FA Cup final against City and will play in the Europa League.
Now that I’ve made my reasons with you, there’s only one thing left to do. For Arsenal Football Club to beat them senseless. All within the context of a football result. A real drubbing is required. Somewhere along the lines of 4 goals will go a long way to ease my displeasure. Don’t get me wrong. This wont be easy seeing as Stoke has only lost 4 out of 17 league games played at the Britannia Stadium this season. Only Spurs, United, Blackpool and Fulham has won there this season. Quite a mixture of teams there, so there is no trend to look at.
Stoke’s tactics are as clear as crystal. They will look to overload during set pieces and that includes throw ins. On the bright side, they will be without the threat of Matthew Etherington on the left hand side which would help to make Bacary Sagna’s job slightly easier. They will also be without Danny Higginbotham, so that is another less worry for Wojciech Szczesny when facing freekicks. The Pole has to help out his defence and has to come out to claim the ball as much as possible and leave nothing to chance. That being said, on the opposite flank, Gael Clichy would have to be on the guard against the tricky Jermaine Pennant.
As for our team, the tactics are clear as well. Besides playing our normal game when in attack, we have to be alert on the defensive side. Repeat the same mistakes and lack of concentration as the last away league trip (to Bolton) and we could in for a torrid match. Pick your man and mark him out during those set pieces. It is up to Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff to assign Stoke players for our team to pick up. Of course, what happens on the field would be different from what happen on paper, in which case someone will need to be the leader in the pack and reorganize if necessary.
Here’s who I think will start for us;
Without our customary playmaker in Cecs Fabregas and Samir Nasri, the creative side of things will have to be a shared responsibility between Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Andrey Arshavin. In their own rights, each of these 3 can be the playmaker of almost any side in the world. Such is our depth in this department, that even without our best 2, we still have 3 others to depend on. Stoke defenders and especially Shawcross will try to be physical with us. The players must not let this intimidate them and try to exploit their lack of pace at the back. Theo Walcott would be a valuable asset on this front.
Like I said earlier, I want to see us win and I’m hoping for a more than flattering scoreline. These thugs deserves every single beating that we can give.
Now, on another note, I realised yesterday that I would not have the pleasure of seeing Wilshere in the flesh (NOTE : Another Displeasure!!!) and it is all down to the wonderful efforts of Stuart Pearce. Just when I’m celebrating the fact that Arsenal has confirmed their Asian Tour with a match to Malaysia, I’m shattered when I realised that due to his participation in the European Under-21 Championships, Wilshere might not be travelling here. I will return the favour one day Mr Pearce.