Facing Stoke away from home on a bleak, cold and murky afternoon did not make great conditions for an important game such as this.
Stoke kicked off and we started with conviction, looking like a side that was really up for this game! We harried the Stoke players and closed them down quickly but their tactics became clear early on, play the ball a bit then look for the long ball or cross into Crouch but our defence, who have in the past suffered from this style relished the challenge.
We were first to the ball and on most occasions our central defenders were magnificent.
Even though Crouch stands at 6′ 7″, Kos was making life hard for him.
The first booking came on three minutes after Whitehead followed through on Alex Song, the referee hesitated and I don’t think he was going to give the foul but Van Persie with his captain’s hat on, gave the ref a piece of his mind, much to the annoyance of the Stoke players but the referee had no choice but to show the yellow card.
Having had two early chances ourselves, it was Stoke who broke the deadlock. On nine , a cross was fired in by Etherington and Crouch headed home after out-jumping our defence and leaving Ches with no chance. A good goal but a slap in the face for our players .
Instead of our players dropping their heads they increased the pressure on home side, we had a couple of chances but nothing to speak of until a one two between Yossi and Rosicky which resulted in an exquisite reverse cross from Tomas which found Robin at the far post, he didn’t miss this one.
The rest of the first half consisted of a Ramsey special which ended up well wide, Gervinho got himself into great position and onto the end of a great Sagna cross, but he totally misjudged it and didn’t connect with his head. Gervinho followed that with another golden opportunity but his lack of composure got the better of him and he fired into the stand like an earlier effort that went sky-high, the half ended 1.1.
The second half started much like the first with Arsenal dominating most of the play, Stoke were still continuing to punt the long ball forward, we would gain possession and get back to the edge of their box but from there, we found it hard to penetrate.
Rosicky chipped in a peach of a cross which found Robin but his header was saved well by Begovic.
The next good move was between Yossi and Robin, a swift one two back to Yossi, who was making a run into the penalty area but a shove in the back sent our winger over. No whistle, no foul and certainly no penalty given by the ref!
Arsene Wenger went berserk on the touch-line, both linesman and referee were in perfect position to see this incident, but were unmoved!
The Stoke fans thought it funny, especially Arsene Wengers protests and though it would brighten their afternoon by trying to impersonate him. Good time to mention the quality of the homes fans, they were shocking! How any of them could sit and boo Aaron Ramsey each time he touched the ball just showed what nasty scumbags they are!
The scoreline stayed the same until the end and we travelled home with just a point.
At the end, I felt that this game had been managed like many games of ours this season.
I have watched other teams get 3 points but we only came away with one thanks to Chris Foy. He could see imaginary tackles on Stoke players but he couldn’t see a blatant penalty, but we Gooners are used to that aren’t we?
Although the commentator said he felt it was a clear-cut call, pundits after the game were quick to say it would have been harsh and he understood why he didn’t give it, well I only wish I did.
Two games to go and we need to win them both if we are going to take our place with Europe’s elite.
Can we do it? Of course we can were the Arsenal but please, no more referee Chris Foy…..
Wengers interview after the game.
I believe that it was a game where we have shown great character, great battling qualities. It was a game of two different approaches – one very direct in the air and one who tries to play on the ground.
Both teams are good at what they do and that’s why I think it was still an interesting game. We had good chances, especially in the first half. In the second half I felt our fluency dropped a bit in midfield – we still had chances though, especially a penalty that was not given.
Overall we deserved at least a point and 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.
On jeers for Aaron Ramsey….
I don’t think you can be especially proud to boo Aaron Ramsey because I don’t see what he has done wrong in his behaviour. That’s an old story where the fans of Stoke stand behind their player. But it shouldn’t go as far as booing Aaron Ramsey.
On the penalty claim…
It will go on the tape of all the penalties we have not got this season.
On Stoke spending time on set-pieces…
You are used to it I was frustrated at times but that happens in every game because I am completely in the game. I was sometimes frustrated but not surprised.
And neither are we Arsene……
Written by Steve Palmer