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Arsenal Versus Stoke: Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Exciting, free flowing Stoke City travel south to London today, whetting the appetite of sports fans across the nation. Mark Hughes brings an expensively assembled team of international all star talent to a clash already being labelled as beauty meets the beast. The home team, dogged, predictable Arsenal, have already earned a reputation for grinding out the kind of dour performances which garner points but not many friends.

As a player the Stoke manager was known for his quick thinking, fleet footed, grace and elegance and was loved and respected by team mates and opposition players alike. It is little surprise therefore that his management style has become synonymous with the very best that the beautiful game has to offer. What of his opposite number this afternoon? The home dugout will be marked by the fierce frowns of Arsène Wenger and Steve Bould, two men for whom the word pragmatism has taken on an almost religious significance.

Once upon a time, younger readers will be surprised to learn, Monsieur Wenger had hoped to carve out a reputation for entertaining, attacking football but was chastened after dragging his once great club through the longest barren trophyless period ever experienced by any football club in any era, ever. No team had so singularly failed to land silverware for so long. Year after year the huge number of trophies available were equally shared among the ninety plus professional English and Welsh teams – all with the notable exception of Arsenal.

Obviously in crisis and lacking the panache displayed by the likes of Mark Hughes in the transfer market, Wenger turned to the fans, recognising their superior wisdom, he begged their advice. Once the previously stubborn manager had made the changes the supporters quite rightly demanded of him (buying expensive players and winning trophies) things began to change for the sleeping London giant. This season they have reached the pinnacle of the supporters hopes, the apotheosis of their dreams. This season Arsenal have at last discovered the art of winning ugly.

The visitors on the other hand are awash with ebullient, effervescent crowd pleasing players deftly snatched from all around the globe by a forward thinking manager keen to match his interpretation of the game, the Ballet of The Potteries, against the rugged, uncompromising, no frills approach championed by Bould and his boss.

Actually, now I come to read that back I wonder if I might not have spent a little too much of the interminable international break reading the sports pages of our national press. Holy moley – that was an horrendous thing to inflict on a football loving public wasn’t it? We wait all summer for the bloody football to start and just as the wheels start to turn the entire train is pitched off the tracks and replaced with that most insipid pointless clapped out old charabanc that is international football.

I tried to follow Wales in some misplaced solidarity with Aaron but that all fizzled out and in any case the sight that greeted me when I tuned in was enough to discolour the bath enamel. The vision of Gareth Bale looking as if he’d been badly drawn by a Japanese children’s cartoonist soon had me reaching first for the off switch and then for the Alka-Seltzer. Add to that the hype surrounding the media’s darling, that rotund, out of form, anti-legend and his England goal scoring record, and my tin hat stayed firmly in place. I only left the Anderson shelter this morning when it seemed safe so to do.

The depressing news from Arsène is that Tomáš Rosický’s knee surgery will be keeping him out for a while yet. The fact that he was put onto the surgeon’s table as a result of playing in a stupid international is enough to make me want to chew razor blades. I’ve lost count of how many players we’ve lost to this nonsense but with Tomáš in the twilight of his career every game he misses takes on a greater significance. How we could have done with his input when things went a little awry in our early matches this season. How I mourn his continued absence.

Likewise Danny Welbeck is languishing on the orlop deck with the sawn off limbs, the extracted musket balls and the bloodied wooden splinters. A shame for the player who many of us suspected might make a real impact this season. He strikes me as the kind of footballer Arsène likes to work with. Young, a point to prove, lean and fast. Still, he might yet raise a few eyebrows during the closing overs of this campaign, the timing may yet prove fortuitous.

Today’s selection question must centre around our genteel giant German centre half. Will he stroll nonchalantly and with perfect timing back into the first eleven or has Gabriel had long enough, or done enough, to deserve an extended run? I have to say I’m happy whatever the outcome. Per is right up there among my favourite players but I really think our Brazilian with the idiosyncratic good looks is a heck of a player. His calmness when those around and behind him have looked, on occasions, less sanguine than we might hope, was eye catching. As I say, either or Arsène – I’ll leave that selection to you, the über bloggers can then decide on the rest of the team.

Can anyone remember what the hell was happening before our enforced hibernation? If memory serves, and I must warn you the old grey matter is showing distinct signs of decay these days, I believe we’ve played four. Two home, two away and while we are flawless on the road we’ve tripped over the kids toys a couple of times while running around in our own back garden. We create more, have more of the ball than anyone else and pass as accurately as the best of the rest but we don’t score enough goals. I think that sums up the early season form. Which leads me to the conclusion that we need to score more goals, especially at home. By God, this football analysis is a pretty easy beast to ride. No wonder journalists feel the need to make so much stuff up.

While my opening paragraphs were, of course, whimsical, specious and written merely to amuse, there was an underlying truth. Stoke City has been trying to change its image, keep the ball on the grass and trouble the local ambulance service a little less. To a certain extent it has been successful. Pulis was rightly famous for keeping Stoke out of the relegation area. During his reign of terror the club vacillated between 11th and 14th position in the league and earned a hard won reputation for thuggery and anti football. Under Mark Hughes they have improved their playing style and their league standing but I maintain that any club boasting Ryan Shawcross and Charles Adam among its playing staff has an awfully long way to go down the road to Damascus. Under Mark Hughes the full on leg breaking assaults may have diminished but more often than not they have been replaced with a more cunning system of rotational fouling, targeting certain opposition players and going in late in the hope that the ball and the referee will have moved on. A comment on Fans Network summed it up for me

They are not a split second late when fouling, they are a full second or two, by which time the ref has followed play on, as has the Lino. Calculated sneaky tactics by Hughes.

We don’t want to focus too much on the opposition though do we? Today is about how we cope with both them and the pressure from the home fans, and how the referee conducts himself. If we see a similarly robust performance from the man with the whistle as that to which we were treated at St James’ Park (and yes I know Andre Marriner got an awful lot horribly wrong as well) then Stoke will be forced to try to beat us or earn a point through legitimate means alone.

I am ever hopeful that the many chances we create will result in goals and today is as good a day as any for that to start. Arsène once said of Aaron, once he starts scoring he won’t be able to stop and I have a similar feeling about this team. The transfer junkies may be convinced that the only way to improve our ‘goals for’ column was by spending vast sums of money but I look at Walcott, Giroud, Sanchez and Welbeck and I see goal scorers. Our midfield is none too shabby in that respect either and even Nacho and Hector popped up with a couple of beauties last season. When you consider that both centre backs have a habit of sticking it in the net at important moments too you can see why I’m not worried about our potential to score.

Three points, a resounding return to goal scoring form and Hughes’ niggly, nasty team sent packing with its tail firmly between its legs and I will be a happy blogger come five o’clock this afternoon.

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.

50 comments on “Arsenal Versus Stoke: Putting Lipstick On A Pig

  1. I feel the same way as you about international football Stew,although this inter lull probably came at a good time for our players to get games to find sharpness,2-1 to the Arsenal today mate.

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  2. That is brilliant Steww, especially the opening paragraphs, a terrifying vision of what might have come to pass if all those who supposedly know so much more than Arsene Wenger had been allowed to take the reins of the club.

    With regards the match, Stoke are definitely one of those outfits where the team need to stick up for themselves – and each other. Orc tackles so late they make the railways look good need to be flagged up with the referee from the first minute. Which is when I confidently expect to be wincing at the first of a million lunges. Bookings in the 80th minute won’t be in anyone’s interest though if Twitter is anything to go by, at least some of our own fans will be more fixated with slating the home team than highlighting to the ref and his assistants each and every wayward encounter with a Stoke boot or Adam-esque forearm lock.

    Here’s hoping for a thumping victory and a timely brace from the internationally maligned and outrageously underappreciated Olivier Giroud.

    COYG’s.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You have hit the ground running after your enforced break Stew – Stoke will come to frustrate and hit us with the quick counter and use and corners or free kicks to maximum advantage – if Crouchie plays – and I admit I have not looked at the probable Stoke line up – young Per will need to be sharp.
    I very much look forward to a vigorous, quick, front foot start today – lets get the hard work done in the first 30.

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  4. Another of Olly Giroud’s great strengths is his defending from corners. He will be doubly vital today.

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  5. Giroud is a vital part of the team. A very good player. Fuck anyone that says otherwise.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Arsenal have named their squad for the U19 UEFA Youth Legue and have included Daniel Crowley, and despite being on loan at Barnsley he can play for our U19’s. Dragomir and Malen have also been included which suggests that their registrations have finally been approved by UEFA.

    Arsenal UEFA Youth League squad: Huddart, Keto, Perrin, Da Graca, Johnson, Moore, O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, M. Bola, T. Bola, Chatzitheodoridis, Osei-Tutu, Pileas, Howard, Bennacer, Bielik, Crowley, Reine-Adelaide, Robinson, Sheaf, Agyei-Tabi, Dasilva, Dragomir, Eyoma, Gilmour, Mourgos, Tella, Benson, Smith-Rowe, Hinds, Iwobi, Mavididi, C. Willock, Fortune, Nketiah, Malen, Nelson.

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  7. What a piece.

    To wake up and see the title was a nice start. And given my feelings when it appeared Ars were going to play Stoke in some foreign land during summer, and the memories of persistent Orc thuggery over many years, I found it hilarious to read of everything “silky Hughes stylee” (the absolute ****)!

    It was important to further the real knowledgable truth, i.e. ‘longest trophy drought of all 92 clubs, ever, ever, ever and a day’. For a moment I wished all the naysayers could see this, but of course that’s unnecessary due to the fact this is what they think and read all the time, innit? (It’s not my fault they’re not genuine Arsenal fans).

    C’mon, play well Arsenal. Thanks Steww.

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  8. The Ooooze slithers back to the new home of football.

    I remember the visit of his Blackburn team, Robbie savage plundit extraordinaire Football Expert in tow, when they got tonked by six or five goals. Where did the Oooze lead Blackburn?

    It’s been rotational fouling all the way since. That was a match that was amazing for me, I saw a young player dictate the entire flow of the game from the c.circle. Some kind of Playmaker I guess. The F Word is less mobile these days. I enjoyed that article this week by Adrian Clarke, no point in denying it. I’m very much looking forward to the squad building up some momentum ahead the trip to the Gazprom Fulham franchise.

    Four games in ten days or thereabouts, a trip to Zagreb ahead of the Gazprom game where the petro-club conveniently have the week off (I think) fair to say there’s going to be a bit of the old rotation going on. Variations in the front three are a given. it’ll be interesting to see how Arteta gets on, when he gets on.

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  9. If the Ooooze is smart he’d have been paying attention to the Swans etc.

    I suppose that could and does explain their summer transfer policy.
    Also worth bearing in mind that the Stoke owners were probably not thrilled to hear sixty odd thousand people serenade their club for getting their football codes confused on numerous occasions.

    Let’s hope that the players can show their support for their supportive local MP today hehe! Get in there Jezza my son GET IN!

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  10. Another excellent pre match Steww.
    Gabs and Theo in COYG

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Arsenal team to play Stoke: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott
    Arsenal subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain Campbell, Giroud

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150912/team-news-ozil-starts-against-stoke#CdyHY2AGTOcZolzq.99

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  12. just heard one of those expert pundits say that the reason Chelsea have lost 3 of their first 5 BPL games this season is cos they did not spend enough in the summer transfer window. 10 players signed, over £65M spent, 32 players out on loan, and the reason that the team the same pundit called the best ever BPL team, only last season, is now not good enough, cos they only spent £65M.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Walcott makes it 1-0 on 30 minutes, all stemmed from a brilliant tackle in our half by Coquelin

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  14. Ozil had the assist for Theo’s goal.

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  15. Ozil gets the softest booking of the season.

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  16. HT: Arsenal 1-0 Stoke

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  17. Arsenal fans banner shows their desperation for a new striker

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  18. Tuned in late to see Özil booked! I presume Stoke made less invasive tackles and therefore Mesut’s vicious assault was worthy of the games first booking?

    ???

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  19. Am reading this blog at half-time of our game and you were so prophetic in many respects.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Ozil lost the ball and grappled with the defender trying to get it back, softest of bookings

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  21. what is it with visiting goalies having blinders at the Emirates

    Liked by 2 people

  22. 75 minutes, Giroud comes on for Walcott

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  23. Giroud misses a sitter, drags his shot wide from about six yards out. Arsenal have missed a lot of good chances today.

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  24. 83 minutes: Oxlade-chamberlain and Arteta on for Ozil and Alexis

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  25. giroud makes it 2-0

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  26. FT: Arsenal 2-0 Stoke

    with city leading palace AFC about to go second in the table.

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  27. 2nd, happy days. Shame City scabbed it , but we dont control that.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Well that was a good afternoon

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Bit of murmuring and tutting about Theo’s finishing but a good mood all round

    To be fair I may have even launched the odd “ffs” myself

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  30. Excellent article, and great result today, I hope that gets the engine purring and we can get motoring and go to Chelsea with a real chance and put even more pressure on the special brew one.
    ps. hope everyone’s doing well at PA…

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  31. i dont mind us not finishing (one off bad day) as long as we keep creating and playing like that.

    i enjoyed the match..was frustrated more than once…but definitely enjoyed.

    common Arsenal!!!!

    the best thing about todays scoreline was both Theo and Giroud scored..we need both of them as they are both invaluable right now.

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  32. and might i add..walcott goal reminded me of a certain henry 🙂

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  33. Great result in the end – I could have lived without the tactical experts sitting behind me, bemoaning everything that is wrong with our tactics, strikers etc. Instead of just enjoying the game and the result, all they could focus on was the chances not taken that should have seen us win 6 – 0. If they would just get behind the players we have, perhaps they would get the confidence boost they are crying out for?

    Anyway, there were some really good points today. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but it looked like our Gabriel is a badass and knocked one of the Orcs out? He was not happy because neither the referee nor the linesman saw any wrong doing. That was just minor payback for all their sneaky little shoves and late challenges that were insufficiently punished. How Diouff left the pitch without a yellow is beyond me considering what Ozil was carded for. Coquelin was my MoTM, I thought he was excellent and it was a good interception that led to our first goal. We restricted the opposition to very few chances, managed to keep a clean sheet and both our main strikers scored, what’s not to like as they say?

    Liked by 4 people

  34. Its clear against chelski we won’t get 30 chances, even though I have every faith in the team and so we will have to be more clinical.
    Tactically it should be interesting as I believe Maureen will be parking the bus even at home because of their bad start and the amount of chances we can create.
    We will have to stay tight because we would have had a days less preparation and will have travelled as well.
    All three sub’s will be needed for legs and so we must avoid injuries or needless bookings.
    The next period of games will be tough but the squad is very good.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Hey, we might get to see the next Henry……

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  36. I wonder how those idiots who are complaining about team selection(Ramsey wide right, Theo up front), and tactics(again Ramsey wide right and Teho up front) can explain how Arsenal are creating so many good scoring chances this season. Even after such an easy 2-0 win so many fans still scapegoating certain players.

    I see some here have mentioned Gabriel giving back some of what Stoke dished out, must say it was nice to see the Stoke thug come off worse after all he was the one who started it, Trevor Francis highlighted this in his commentary.

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  37. Wenger on the win, Walcott and goals
    Arsène Wenger faced the media after his side’s 2-0 win against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon. This is what he said:

    on the performance…
    They scored so it is good for them but I believe we put in a very strong performance. Technically we had our moments in the first half and we played the football we wanted to play and created several chances. Maybe if I wanted to be critical I could say that that there is too big a difference between the number of chances we created and the number of goals we scored but that will come quickly once you win your games at home.

    on being back among the goals…
    I was not worried about that as I knew that would not last forever with the number of chances we create. We are the team who has created the most chances since the start of the season and we had 30 shots on goal today and continuously we created chances today from the first to the last minute and the players had the quality to score so at some stage that would have come. I also believe we have stabilised out defensive record, we have not conceded after a difficult start we did not concede against Liverpool and at Newcastle and today so that is good for our future.

    on why he started Walcott…
    To use the movement of Walcott. I know Stoke are a compact, organised team in their own half and Theo could find little pockets to get in their and maybe that you get two or three chances to counter attack at home so maybe you can use that. He scored a great goal because you needed technical quality to score and timing in the finish. It is good Giroud came on scored as well.

    on Walcott’s performance…
    He has chances. He can be a prolific goalscorer. When you come out of the game and look at the amount of chances he scored. The bigger the belief he has to score the more he will score. But he gets in good situations.

    on Gabriel and Koscielny’s partnership…
    They looked very strong as Stoke had quite an offensive force out there and I felt Koscielny was outstanding and Gabriel had a very good game. Coquelin as well was outstanding so we had a good triangle in the centre of the park. It was very strong.

    on Mertesacker…
    He should not worry. He should just come back and play. It is good we have four centre backs and this produces a problem. If Walcott plays and scores everybody says that Walcott is good but before the game everybody says I should buy a striker but if I had a bought a striker then Walcott would not have played. So it is always a vicious circle and at some stage you just have to believe in your players and Gabriel has shown that he can play with Mertesacker, he can play with Koscielny and he can be a great defender.

    on a big week ahead…
    We are looking to play well against Dinamo Zagreb as it is important you do not lose your first game. What we can do at Chelsea is a big game and it is next Saturday morning at 12:45pm and it is important we focus on that.

    on whether Chelsea can catch Man City…
    I don’t know, I will leave these conclusions to you. It is a long season, only five games played. We will see in the future.

    on the league position…
    When you lose your first home game it is difficult to predict that we would be in that position as the confidence grew quickly. It was important to respond in our second game at Crystal Palace lets not forget that and we did well.

    on Walcott being prolific…
    It helps. I think at the moment we play every three days for four weeks. I will have to rotate the strikers without robbing their confidence. But you cannot always play with the same player every three days especially up front.

    on Welbeck…
    It was a shock of course. I think Welbeck can play in every position up front and he is a fantastic guy. To see him work for three or four months and then be ruled out again for three or four months is difficult to understand but we have to deal with that. I can understand that people say that we have to look out for a striker but we honestly did not find anyone.

    on Wilshere’s injury…
    Wilshere progresses slowly. We will know more about Jack in the next few days and hopefully it will be good news but he progresses.

    Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

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  38. can anyone confirm if Brendan Rodgers actually said this after the utd game today

    “It was 3-0 last season. We’re closing the gap.”

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  39. Watched the game this morning with the supporters group for the first time this season (thanks Saturday 3 pm kickoff). What an enjoyable game, with some beautiful attacking play. Just need to figure out how to shut off that force field around the opponent’s goal.

    After the game, it was brunch on the patio. All in all, a pretty fab Saturday!

    Liked by 5 people

  40. Arsène’s Son ‏@hughwizzy 1h1 hour ago
    Spare a sec for the guy shouting at Arsène: “Carlos Bacca mate, Sevilla, get it done Wenger!” Only for Le Boss to respond, “he’s at Milan.”

    Liked by 1 person

  41. The match report will be up at 10 BST for those with a strong constitution.

    I see if Sunlun were to beat Spuds, and the Barcodes triumph at the Boleyn ( neither result exactly earth shattering IMO) it would push our North London neighbours and Chelsea into the bottom three relegation places.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. another clean sheet for Szczesny today

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Ed, your point is 100% correct however Aaron doesn’t play wide right he plays right midfield there’s a big difference.

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  44. Peter Gluckstein ‏@pghadahada 5h5 hours ago Islington, London
    Giroud misses chance. Geezer behind screams: “that’s your fault Wenger!!”.
    Giroud scores. Geezer behind goes home. Wtf. Very odd behaviour.

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  45. Very good first goal.

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  46. Very good performance from the back six. Koscielny.
    Bellerin could’ve had a hat-trick of assists for Walcott.

    Fair to say that only now is Walcott getting his first run if starts mixed in with with sub appearances since his return from injury? Be interesting to see how he gets on. At times on the right today with the right midfielder Rambo, in the middle. During the busy next few weeks we might see Giroud and Walcott in the same XI at times,

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  47. I thought today would be the day we’d have a goal scoring festival, but, once again, we were a bit timid in front of goal. Those two posts we hit at the beginning of the first half would have been goals last season. Alexis’s headed chance was oh so close and the finish across the box was half a millimeter away. When this team gets its rhythm right, watch out.

    Congrats Jeremy Corbyn.

    Liked by 4 people

  48. Thaks Stew for another great article and thanks to everyone for their comments. Work’s a little bit hectic right now and will be for the next few weeks so apologies for any lack of input. Just seen the 10 minute highlights on the official site and those, in conjunction with the amount of emails read out on the live match day show broadcast yesterday afternoon lead me to think we probably played brilliantly at times yesterday. Good to see our strikers both scoring, with Walcott looking a real threat. He took his goal very well and it seemed to me it was the sort of goal that the critics claim is just not in Giroud’s repertoire and why he needs replacing. Likewise, the firm header that Giroud planted home to secure the win just the sort of strike I’m told Walcott can’t produce. Perhaps our bungling idiot of a manager should play both during the course of a game to cover all bases, given that few strikers have a perfect skill set. Oh – he just did, and Welbeck of course can do both.

    Liked by 4 people

  49. New post up

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