213 Comments

Stoke

Stoke. What can you say about Stoke? Seriously. Apart from Owd Grandad Piggott, May un Mar Lady and the 1842 Pottery Riots the place seems not to have an awful lot going for it. Oh sorry, I forgot there’s the football team. We need to mention the football team. Now. I am well aware of the protocol here. I know I’m expected to litter this piece with Tolkienesque allusions and rugby references, but I am going to try to break out of that particular clichéd straight jacket. I want to see if I can make it to the end without one mention of Orcs, seven points, Mordor, The Barad-dûr or Twickenham. You don’t think I can? Just watch me.

dothWith players closely resembling the uglier members of The Dothraki tribe and a playing style closer to American rather than British Football Stoke City have won few friends in their most recent sojourn in the top flight of the English leagues. They have been in the premier division on occasions before, but each time their stay has descended into an attritional battle where survival becomes the supreme goal. To be fair they haven’t always stirred such feelings of animus, such hostile revulsion from their peers as that which they earned during the Pulis years. We can’t tell if the Hughes era will usher in a new playing style or whether the unkind comparisons to more heavily contact based sports will endure. You have to be honest and say that his record with such Wendigo filled cloggers as Blackburn doesn’t bode well. Off the pitch a handful of Stoke supporters have done little to reverse the awful reputation that the team have earned upon it. I know there are folk, long suffering Potters fans, who have had to put up with some pretty strong stuff, not least of all from us, but sadly for them, as long as a section of their support thinks it right and proper to boo Aaron Ramsey then I fear they may as well accustom themselves to their pariah status. That reaction to the events of the twenty seventh of February twenty ten surely ranks among the most reprehensible of any group of modern football fans.
Today however I don’t really want to waste too much breath on the opposition. Today I want to focus on us. I don’t want to write a piece about Morlocks and their attempt to import Murderball tactics into the Prem, it’s all a bit tired now and we are in such a fine run of results right at this moment that it seems silly not to look at our own side and let the visitors worry about themselves. MorlocksOne of the positives about our recent mini run since the opening day setback is that we’ve put it together with a severely depleted squad. I think most people now accept that the bunkum bandied about us being weak, lacking strength in depth or having insufficient back up to first team players has been categorically disproved and was in all honesty little more than a Sky Sports editorial flogging horse which Murdoch’s minions had been ordered to repeat until the brainwashed hordes assumed it to be based on some sort of empirical evidence. We have sauntered on, apparently uninhibited by shedding players of the calibre of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxelaide Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky and the best midfielder in the league Mikel Arteta. That we haven’t broken stride despite this luminous list joining AD2 in the infirmary having the old embrocation rubbed in by beefy men in roll necked sweaters of course speaks volumes for our squad depth. Less tangible however is this creeping feeling that we are a considerably more to be reckoned with force than we have been in recent seasons. I can’t speak for you obviously but I know that I have been a little taken aback by how fast our injured players are returning to us. This could of course be no more than the effects of the passage of time. An old man like me will naturally watch the few remaining grains in the top half of the hour glass appear to drop ever more quickly the less of them there are, that is merely human nature. In this instance, however, I think something else is at work.
Normally when important players are missing you, well, you miss them. You study Arsène’s elastic forecasts of their projected return dates with mounting anxiety and you know that we desperately need them patched up and wheeled out in as little time as possible. It has sometimes been a fretful misery watching our second string hanging on in there as we wonder how many more months our wounded stars must be injected with the old horse tranquillisers and fed the cod liver oil. Well I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but Thomas Vermaelen’s name slipped back into the match day programme recently. And now I’m hearing that Mikel Arteta our other captain is back to full training and may even feature in today’s line up. So soon. They haven’t recovered particularly quickly. That isn’t it at all. Nature has run it’s course as it always has and ever will. No, I maintain that what’s happening here is because our squad is so strong, so resilient even in times of crisis that we haven’t really been worrying about the wounded in the way we once would. The spotlight is on the guys who are winning for us on the pitch and not for once on the ones we desperately need back to careen a stricken ship. Even a year ago we’d have really struggled without Arteta in the team. Now I begin to wonder who could we drop to make way for him. Aaron? Don’t make me laugh. Jack? Just when his burgeoning understanding with Mesut Özil is growing minute by minute before our eyes into a thing of rare beauty? I don’t think so. The new boy himself? Seems a little unlikely. Seems to me he needs games under his belt; as many and as soon as possible to help him settle and learn the ways of the Wengerball. Can’t see MA rampaging down either wing nor displacing Olivier Goal A Game Giroud and so maybe, just maybe I have a point.

Aaron Ramsey Photo 2013 07

I know we have a lot of games and people need to rest and injuries will happen. I get all that, but it isn’t really what I’m driving at here. I’m more interested in the way things feel calmer, even in a so called crisis, the way the club seems to sit a little deeper in the water and not heel over so badly in a sudden squall. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s a settled, purposeful strength to our progress right now and I like it a lot. None of this should hoodwink you into thinking that I’m not a gibbering wreck in the ten minutes before kick off – the thing wouldn’t be any fun otherwise would it? But if you take recent events into account I can’t see why anyone would be anything other than serenely calm right now. I certainly couldn’t grasp why folk spat out their pacifiers (for my English readers that’s ‘dummies’) when we conceded against Paulo the Fascist’s north eastern division last weekend. There was a sense of inevitability about our matching and going at least two better than anything they could throw at us that day and that typifies the aura the club is wearing right now.
OK, enough of me and my hypothetical rambling, I know what you want. You want final score predictions and team lists don’t you? That is after all the only reason to read a blog. Unless it’s to be told what to think. So here goes. Bendtner will start in a four four three with Akpom playing off him in the channel holes, Giroud to start on the left drifting into the right half central wide  position when defending. Peter Story will be at holding midsweeper and with Theo in goal we’ll defeat the ravening Mongol hordes of Batu Khan Hughes by six to two with one impaling and two yellow perils to one red army faction. There will be a white Christmas, it might as well rain until September and the lotto numbers for Wednesday will precisely correspond to the page numbers in which Mr Gradgrind is mentioned in the first half of Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

213 comments on “Stoke

  1. I wonder why fan pressure didn’t lead to Wenger benching Ramsey? After all, it gets him to splash out 40 million on a player.

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  2. Evil ,especially when that Manager is the best talent spotter the world has ever seen

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  3. PG,
    I thought it was Aaron who took the final shot, when Ryo was free on his left. I could well be wrong – there were no replays and it was in injury time and may have not mattered, tinytotts scored one just goal today.

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  4. Evil
    Why didn’t Wenger buy Fellaini in response to said ‘fan pressure’ ?

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  5. Or to put it differently: credit for Ramsey being the player he is now belongs to two people: Aaron Ramsey and Arsene Wenger.

    The first to have the willpower and mental strength to overcome the kind of injury that has seen other players end their careers and to battle through all the smaller and bigger setbacks, despite his youth, to come out a better man and a better player.

    And the second for always keeping faith in the player, believing in him and never relenting, even when thousands of fans in the stadium and many, many more outside would have preferred to not see him on the pitch for us. Other, more result oriented managers, might have dropped Ramsey. But they would not have been rewarded and vindicated the way Wenger has been now (and by extension all the people that supported Ramsey throughout the last several years).

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  6. @dc
    Haha. Yeah, this fan pressure is a strange thing. Apparently it only comes into effect when Wenger does something good and people want to avoid giving him credit at all costs.

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  7. @George
    I think Wenger’s track record is a piece of fact that can’t be disputed. I want anyone to show me a different manager who has had such success in building up young players. Even Guardiola can’t compete (and, to be honest, the Barca youth academy existed long before Pep became coach. He inherited the Messi’s, Xavi’s and Iniesta’s) and while Klopp has done good work, he is still a long way behind Wenger.

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  8. Here is a possible “paperthin” team for Wednesday night:
    Fabs,
    Jenks, Sanga, Verms(c), Nacho
    Flamini, Frimpong
    Theo, Arteta, Zelalem (still injured?) or Ryo.
    Bentner

    TR7 and Santi would have been included but they won’t be fit.
    It that new Charlton lad cup-tied?

    A capable team, but one maybe without solidity, so Wenger might play one half each for Ramsey and Ozil. Anyway – what do I know? At least the back up team situation is not as dire as some would have it.
    It’s an away midweek night-time oop-north cup-tie against an established EPL team who can play good football.
    Extra time is highly likely.

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  9. Evil
    Klopp’s record is over rated, Dortmund have been nicking talented players from weaker German and east European clubs for years.
    (Cough), the same accusation could be posted at Wenger’s door too but it’s hard to imagine the Theo’s, Gibb’s Aaron’s and Ox’s etc. he has nurtured would be the high quality players they are now if they went to a club say like Liverpool or Manure?
    They would have washed up by now for not being 15 stone steroid ridden hoofers.

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  10. @dc
    Fair point. There is obviously a difference between someone who can spot talent and someone who can nurture that talent and turn it into world class. We are lucky to have a manager who can do both! To add to George’s statement, Arsene is not only the world’s best spotter of talent in footballers but probably the best manager to turn potential into end product.

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  11. DC/George – it was Ramsey who took the shot in extra time, although I must admit, I didn’t notice that Ryo was available for the tap in. 4 – 1 would have been good for the goal difference.

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  12. I think a good comparison is to look at Ronaldo. How big of a part did Fergusson play in his development? Even before he joined United, Ronaldo was known as a bright talent. That he turned out the player he is was a surprise to no one. And he actually got better once he left United.

    On the other hand, Wenger dealt with “failures” like Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas. Thierry had not impressed at a big club like Juve (who, at the time, were much, much bigger than we are), Cesc had not been good enough for Barca. Those weren’t players like Ronaldo, where it was obvious to everyone that they were on their path to becoming world class. The teams they played for didn’t believe in them, so they were readily sold or let go. But Wenger took those players and turned them into the best in their position in the world.

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  13. Yes it was Aaron,but Giroud should have passed it to an unmarked and open Ryo rather than Rambo.

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  14. “I never feared that I wouldn’t return. I felt it was always there. I just needed to believe again and get that confidence. I had a lot of support from friends and family, and I had the trust that the manager put in me. All these things added up over a period of time. You have to keep believing and working hard, and it just clicks all of a sudden and you are full of confidence.”

    Thanks, Evil, for that quote from Aaron. I had not seen that. The maturity and professionalism of that young man never ceases to amaze me. He’s not your average 22 year old.

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  15. Pass & PG
    Yeah, they both get 9.9’s today instead of 10.
    Oh, I am never satisfied whith these nobodies that Wenger bought for us on the cheap.
    Why didn’t he spend £109m? He knows nothing about modern football.

    It’s all about buying glory, ask Chelsea and City fans,
    when will you ever see an 18 year old academy kid in a ‘must win’ game for them?
    It’s desperate..

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  16. Di Canio sacked.
    ManUre shown up.
    J van C with a “thigh strain”.
    Arsenal go top of the league.

    Now that’s what I call Super Sunday.

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  17. Great comments – I started listing people but there were too many. So a general thanks to all for a lovely read.

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  18. Alabama
    Check the date of these comments from Cesc Fabregas:
    Yup, November 2009, 4 years ago!
    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/cesc-fabregas-full-praise-aaron-2072915

    Evil, Poznan has an excellent article on his blog about Dortmund and the hype from some of our fans who compare Prof Wenger unfavourably to Hipster Klopp.
    I was going to save the link to it until we play them.

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  19. Where’s Hunter?
    I hope he didn’t get arrested or run into those nasty end-of-an-era chaps.

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  20. Its not the same here without Hunter(the most aggressive poster in the blog-sphere)

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  21. I think Hunter is the kind of guy who could handle himself in a confrontation. Considering how he even made mincemeat of some really persistent anti-Arsenal types back in the old days. I am confident the likes of Jabba still have nightmares because of Hunter.

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  22. SUPER SUNDAY it is DC.
    PASSENAL
    add me to the chorus. A very nice sum up. But it has always been so. Mind if I ask which moron to you to go back to the kitchen.?
    PA is the place for the classiest female posters. Way to go..

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  23. Il Paulo sacked!
    They have an ok cup tie but the 3 massive league fixtures.
    A nice gift for Liverpool and United.

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  24. Ahem, Henry nor Cesc were failures. They were simply players whose greatness wasn’t recognized.

    As far as Cristiano Ronaldo is concerned, I think Ferguson helped him immensely with his development. He went to Manure as a boy, but he left one of the best professionals in the world.

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  25. Thanks for that link, DC. I have this fantasy that Cesc was in his living room today watching this match, and that he cheered when Aaron shushed those Stoke fans. A bit much to think it happened like that, but I would bet that he’s happy for Aaron, anyway.

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  26. Jol will be next.
    But I Imagine Moyes may have some sweat soaked sleepless nights comming up, his only good fortune is there is a run of games now for Yawnited that they usually win while sleepwalking.

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  27. Goonerkam.
    Who drove you home from the pub, not Lindsay Lohan I hope?

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  28. Fair points Gains,
    I would say that Ronaldo left United as the best winger in the world, but IMO he has become the complete footballer at Madrid, partially forced on him as he has sometimes had to carry that team singlehandedly. This I think, makes him the better player than Messi who gets the ball handed to him on a plate by 4 or 5 superb midfielders who could pass the ball to him all day long wearing blindfolds.

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  29. Hahaha DC
    I don’t associate with her type mate. I’m strictly into class in a lady , that knows how to party in measured terms.
    So gone gone the fascist is gone. Hay, good riddens. They made a mistake bringing him in first place. I thi

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  30. fergie only spot talents that wenger spotted first. he even wanted ramsey before the wise boy decided to join us. ox as well. but smalling, jones, pogba and zaha were not so lucky. ronaldo was different. he was always going to be a great player.

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  31. @Gains
    That’s why I put failures into quotation marks. I wouldn’t brand them as such, but at the point in time they joined us, they had both failed to make their mark. Henry on the pitch and Cesc in the sense that he wasn’t believed to be important enough so that Barca didn’t fight to retain him.

    I do agree that Fergie helped Cristiano, but he was already on the up. SAF made him better, but he became the goal a game player at RM, not at Utd.

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  32. you can spot a talent and buy the talent just to stop him going to a rival. that was what fergie did best. pogba, smalling jones zaha ronaldo. the latter was going to be a great player with or without fergie.
    i still cant imagine pogba spending such a long time at manure without getting a chance while cleverley was having all the chances.
    between pogba and fellaini, i will choose pogba any day.

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  33. Evil
    I considered you question from a few days ago regarding a megaphone man in the stadium. I guess I’m interested in natural roars of the crowd most of all. So no bands and no megaphones or loud speakers for me. If a crowd of fans is a proper crowd, between the 50 to 60000 of them they should be able to make enough noise to keep the players pumped up.

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  34. credit must also be given to wenger because he was under intense pressure to go for established players but still manage to give his young talents chance to shine. today we saw another talent in form of serge who also have the benefit of having his national team manager in attendance.

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  35. layksite @ 12:34am
    Add Pique to the list of young foreign players who felt they had no future at United. As Gains expressed, Ronaldo was a major exception.

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  36. As the pressure builds on David Moist even Bobby McMahon has gotten into the action at http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobbymcmahon/2013/09/22/david-moyes-and-manchester-united-whats-wrong-and-whats-next/

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  37. can you imagine wenger buying a player of the status of kagawa and not playing him? i heard some saying ozil could have gone to manure had they bid for him. but they have kagawa but prefare to play rooney as playmaker. they have chicharito but prefare welbeck. they have pogba but they used cleverley. i will be surprise if a player as smart as ozil chooses manure over us.
    ramsey and ox were smart to choose us and they are better for it.

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  38. Evil, Henry was a full France international and one of the most promising young talents in European football. If he didn’t succeed at Juve it was because his coach didn’t know how to use him. Ditto for Cesc. He left Barca because he wanted to play.

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  39. a great win, a great club, aaron fucking ramsey, a great player. per, sagna, legends! arteta is back…hope lukas comes back soon…

    city – utd ..wonderful…epic…love watching evra getting humiliated…in aguero’s first evra’s position and awareness are simply world class… with a midfield of felaini carrick and cleverley …oh dear thats poor…

    mou having a go at rednap though in prinicple i agree but then id like to see how would media react had wenger said something similar….also when people refer to themselves in the third person they are called crazy…why not zjozje then ?

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  40. Kalimera!

    Hunter is back!

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  41. hey kalimera…. back? i didnt leave?

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  42. Morning folks
    hunter is released!

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  43. You were missed!

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  44. i just didnt like saturday…… there is no point with some people….i wrote 3 or 4 essays for harry in good faith and manners and all he would say was that i claim that wenger is beyond critique…i guess he never read anything then. i guess for him it doesnt matter where critique comes from. nor can he realise that critisising is a two way street. there are fans who critisise wenger and there are fans who critisise those who critisise wenger. i take it harry and his mates in the cultureless blog want it only one way….law and behold if anyone critisises them and their comments on arsenal / wenger / players…

    those who can, practice, those who cant, preach. those who cant do either critisise…

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  45. DC

    The wife just told me to pogue mahone. All I did was take her a mug of tea. Admittedly it was in an Arsenal mug!

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  46. hey there hooliguns…ozilguns….hÖligun13….hahaa

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  47. Hunter

    The exchanges became tiresome. “He said, you said”… Anyway, we do have a long way to go…it is still rather early days….

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  48. Torres and Mata,
    It’s hard to have much sympathy for them… They went for the maximum lucre available, rather than to the football playing clubs.
    Maybe their agents wanted these deals to happen, as they get a very large slice of the pie – but it’s the player’s problem for having such bad agents (ask Suarez).
    Adam did a link to his article on untold about how bad some agents are, however even when the agents are the players family they don’t seem to be any better (ask Anelka).

    Cesc and Henry would have thrived in the right environment for their talents elsewhere, if they got lucky, but Arsène certainly knew what he got when he signed them.
    Bergkamp’s comments on his time at inter are very interesting. Thanks again for the link Aman.

    We are going to treat his book as if it’s the new holy text.

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  49. GP
    Lukewarm tea is the best revenge, there is noting worse to rile an Irish person.

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  50. yes its early days but the topic of discussion was not our season prospects but the moral issue of where critique should come from i.e origin, its timing and its validity.

    Torres and Mata…a 60m bid in january for both?

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