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February 2013
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Arsenal v Rugby; a match preview

By Billy “the Dog” McGraw

Stoke is an ancient parish somewhere to the north, in rugby playing land.  The name Stoke means “place” which more or less is right.

But even a “place” can have a motto and Stoke’s is Vis Unita Fortior meaning  United Strength is Stronger – which is the origins of the way in which they play football.

Stoke has always been aggressive in its policies towards other areas, as for example when, at the moment Arsenal were focussed on starting the longest run in the First Division in the history of football, Stoke invaded and attempted to annexe Newcastle-under-Lyme plus Wolstanton.  Newcastle Corporation however fought back and the Battle of the Little and Big Pots took place.  This fight was one of the longest in British history, and continued to 1930 when Stoke took the matter to the House of Comics and set out the Stoke-on-Trent Extension Bill.    However Newcastle retaliated and took of Wolstanton itself in 1932.

Meanwhile Stoke-on-Trent applied for city status claiming it was important.  The Home Office told it where to go.  Stoke then went to King George V and after seeing the ferocity of the locals he caved in.  However in 1974 Staffordshire invaded and it is now known as NUTS3.  (Honest, that is not made up. Type “Nuts of the United Kingdom” into Google if you don’t believe me).

Since the 17th century, the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale rugby tackles.

If we contemplate the league table we see that both sides have let in 29 goals this season, but Arsenal have scored 48 and Stoke have scored 24.

6 (6) Arsenal 24 10 8 6 48 29 19 38
7 (7) Liverpool 24 9 8 7 42 30 12 35
8 (8) Swansea City 24 8 10 6 34 27 7 34
9 (9) West Bromwich Albion 24 10 4 10 34 34 0 34
10 (10) Stoke City 24 6 12 6 24 29 -5 30

Interestingly there have been 50 goals at the Ems this season, the most in the Premier League.  But Stoke have drawn five games 0-0, more  than any other Premier League side this season.   The Rugby men have won just one of their last 21 Premier League away games and have conceded 15 goals in their last five Premier League games.  And the last meaningless stat: Arsenal have the most effective offside trap in the division, catching out an opponent 85 times thus far

Since Giroud has scored five in the last three games you can either a) expect that to be all over and he will be useless tomorrow, or b) he will score two.

At this moment it is a bit uncertain who the team will be but here is a suggestion:

Wojciech Szczesny

Bacary Sagna; Per Mertesacker;  Laurent Koscielny; Nacho Monreal

Aaron Ramsey; Jack Wilshere

Santi Cazorla

Theo Walcott; Olivier Giroud; Lukas Podolski


  • Vito Mannone
  • Carl Jenkinson
  • Andre Santos
  • Abou Diaby
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • Tomas Rosicky
  • Mikel Arteta

But contemplate if you will the possibilities of alternative patterns.

Santos could play again in the defence, for the simple reason that Monreal will hardly have had time to get the hang of how Arsenal play, and has had all the disruption of moving into a hotel.  Also I have no idea if he speaks English, but I rather doubt it – and that means no direct communication from anyone other than Santi Cazorla.

Abou Diaby was on the bench for the Liverpool game, and I wonder if he would be risked against Stoke’s style of play.  If the boss doesn’t think it is a risk, then he could be in.  As could be Mike Arteta who is said to be ok again.  Either of these two might replace Ramsey.

Tomas Rosicky is really a replacement for Cazorla, and is only likely to be there if Cazorla is now knackered from playing every game.

As for the front three, they look to be our best bet, so I wouldn’t change them, until we are 4-0 up with 30 minutes to go and Alex OC could pop on for a little run around.

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Arsenal – Stoke: What can we expect from the ref?

By Walter Broeckx

STOP if you don’t like referee talk or you think the ref plays no part in a football game. It will save you a few minutes of your life.

CARRY ON if you are interested and I can tell you some strange things will be revealed for your delectation.

The ref for the game against Stoke is Chris Foy.

Chris Foy is 50 years old. A ref who in most other countries would no longer be allowed to do games in the top division. He could no longer do games in Europe if he had been a Fifa ref. But in the PL he still can do games as the age limit has been challenged in court a few years ago and as a result we could have a 65 year old ref in the PL. Don’t think it will happen in reality to be honest.

Foy is a ref in the PL since 2001 so has loads of experience. So old and experienced. But first let us see at his past when doing games of Arsenal.

So far Foy has done 24 games of Arsenal in his career.  And we have won 17 games under Foy. We had 4 draws and lost 3 games. If you put this in a graphic you get something like this:

That doesn’t look bad to be honest. His win percentage is some 10% higher than our average win % in general. The 3 losses contain 2 games against Manchester United and one game against Manchester City in the league cup when we played with a very young side at their stadium a few years ago.In fact only one defeat happened in the league.

Let us take a look at the record Foy has with Stoke.

Foy has done 18 games so far and Stoke won 3 of them. Had 9 draws and lost 6 of these games.  In a graphic you see something like this

So Stoke has had a draw in half of their games. Didn’t lose many games but couldn’t win a lot of those games either. But if you look at the results Stoke have had this season this is rather in line with this. They had 12 draws, 6 wins and 6 lost games so far. So also rather in line with the way they get their points in general.

Foy had done one previous game of Arsenal against Stoke. Last season near the end of the season he was in charge when we had a 1-1 draw at their ground.

What might be interesting is that Foy is one of the refs who has declared an interest in a PL team. So he is not allowed to do games of that team. That team is Everton.  Now I don’t blame Foy for being appointed to a game that includes Arsenal at all. But I do want to raise a big question mark towards the PGMOL.

Just have a look at the league table. There you see Everton in 5th place with 3 points more than Arsenal. And the PGMOL then sends out a ref to do an Arsenal game knowing that this ref is a having ‘an interest’ in Everton.  This is beyond me. I would say keep this in mind when you see strange things happening.

Let us move on to the next stage of this ref preview.  Let us move on to our own findings in our ref reviews of last season. on Foy.

His score on important decisions was one of the lowest of all the refs. You can read it here if you want.  A lot of poor games and lots of poor decisions in those games. I do think out of my own experience that maybe, just maybe his age is having an influence on this.

But another worrying part is that the team that got the most favours in the games we reviewed of him last season is …Stoke.  I maybe could give you an explanation for this later in this article but let me first start by making things worse and let you know that Arsenal was the team that was hit most by his decisions if we don’t count Chelsea.  Chelsea has had even more decisions going against them and then it was Arsenal.

So things are not really looking good now. A ref that had Stoke as its main beneficiary of his wrong decisions, Arsenal suffering very bad from his decisions last season.  And an Everton fan.

But let me finish by something positive. Or even a few positives. Because we also found that Foy has a rather large home bias. A very big home bias in fact. And then we can see that the games we reviewed of Foy that had Stoke involved were home games.  And the games involving Arsenal were….away games. So maybe we are looking more at his normal home/away bias than a pure bias in favour of Stoke and a bias against Arsenal.

The second positive remark is that we play at home.

And finally we had Foy just a few weeks ago. I think we all remember that game. Our last game in 2012. Yes the 7-3 win against Newcastle.  And in that game he got a rather high score in total and his bias was rather balanced in total.

So it will be an interesting ref watch in this game.

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