Arsenal v Stoke: the Untold match preview. And the score

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By Phil Gregory

After forays in first the European and more recently the FA Cup, it’s back to the grind of the Premier League. Stoke City are the visitors, a team few Arsenal fans liked even before Aaron Ramsey got his leg smashed by Ryan Shawcross.

I was in the stands at the Britannia that day, and had a bit of a plonker sitting near me in the away end. After we fell behind early on, he thought it wise to give the plastic seats a good belting, which I pointed out wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference to the scoreline. Needless to say after Shawcross went through Ramsey I was feeling decidedly less charitable towards Stoke (but did refrain from mindless chair-smashing) instead being contented that our football had done the talking in the end.

Anyway, that’s all history and what matters is the here and now, and our title push today. The Orient result wasn’t the best but these things can happen when you make a lot of changes. The team can be unfamiliar with each other, and that feeds into their play. Tony made a great point that it won’t actually add to our fixture congestion as it was a reserve side out, and a reserve side that will play the replay at the Emirates. The first eleven will barely be touched, bar a little extra bench duty one evening.

There was a little bit of a mystery in the run-up to this game, with both Arsenal and Stoke cancelling their pre-match press conferences. At the time of writing (l11pm Tuesday) there is still nothing on about a press conference, so it doesn’t see that there is going to be one, which is peculiar. Anyway, we have the most important news via good old Arsenal TV and unfortunately it’s not good news on the injury front.

Robin Van Persie and Koscielny are out injured with short term problems, though fortunately the y should be fit for the Carling Cup final. There may be an element of hush-hush around the Van Persie injury: if you recall, he wasn’t even included on the bench for the Leyton Orient match as you would have expected with the other big guns being on there, and no mention was made of an injury to the Dutchman in the pre-match briefing whatsoever. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious, but with the Dutchman’s recent level of performance he’ll have a big say in where the Carling Cup ends up this season, so let’s all wish him a speedy recovery.

On a more positive note, Djourou has been passed fit. Diaby serves the final match of his suspension and will be available for selection after this match if fit.


Sagna Djourou Squillaci Clichy

Song Wilshere


Walcott Bendtner Nasri

It’s very much a case of as you were with the Arsenal line-up. With small changes made for injuries, the team should largely resemble the side that beat Barcelona. Szcznesy returns in goal, Sagna and Clichy start at full back and our two surviving centrebacks complete the back four.

Song and Wilshere take up the deeper midfield roles, with Fabregas pulling the strings further forward. Walcott and Nasri take up the wide roles, with the choice for Van Persie’s stand-in a straight choice between Chamakh and Bendtner. Chamakh got the nod in that respect in the cup but looks increasingly shorn of confidence in front of goals so I plumped for Bendtner. The choice might not be that straight forward for Wenger: if Chamakh is seen as Van Persie’s deputy and gets overlooked for this game it won’t do any good for his confidence. A home game against Stoke promises goals, so he might get a start and the opportunity to break his recent duck though I’m not convinced.

As for the game in general, we know what we’re going to get with Stoke: long balls, long throws and an emphasis on set pieces. It’s a rudimentary approach but as long as we have the ball they will struggle to pump it forward, and Djourou is capable in the air so will have a big role to play here.

They’ve got players who are powerful in the air in Jones and Carew and they will seek them our with speculative punts forward. With our high line these “first balls” aren’t too dangerous even if they win them, seeing as we’ll be quite far from goal. Neither do they have the quickest attack to exploit the space left in behind, so our high line works quite well against the route one approach.

The emphasis then is ensuring they don’t win the first ball and then use it as a bridgehead so to speak, claiming the knock-down then attacking from there. Even if we lose most of the first balls it won’t matter if we  efficiently press whoever receives the knock-down and crowd them out. The net result is the same whether we win the first or the second ball: we get possession.

Stoke have lost nine of thirteen away games, it is unthinkable that we drop points in this sort of game. With a decent referee keeping control of the game (we can but hope…) there is no reason whatsoever we won’t go on to win this game by three or four goals. Szcznesy and Djourou at the back reassure me in regards to set pieces, so we might even see a clean sheet. 4-0 to the Arsenal.

It’s been a while since the home fans saw a real drubbing, and after the racket they produced against Barcelona I think they deserve to see one. Maybe I should be a little more cautious given the absence of Robin but Bendtner can get goals.

Title watch: We play Stoke in the knowledge that United aren’t in action until the weekend. With them playing away and facing a mounting injury list with Anderson’s latest knee injury, we could see an upset here. Wigan by no means tops a list of fixtures to have United fans concerned, but with a mere three games out of twelve won on the road, every away tie is a reasonable opportunity for dropped points. Even taking into account United’s injuries I wouldn’t expect Wigan to win the game but with games at Anfield and Stamford Bridge looming they can’t really afford for the gap to narrow.

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53 Replies to “Arsenal v Stoke: the Untold match preview. And the score”

  1. Do you realise that if you scoreline prediction is correct, then the final goal will be Arsenal’s 100th of the season in all competitions.

  2. i can certainly see a clean sheet, but cant see it being a romp.
    2-0 to the arsenal with nasri and djourou on the scoresheet. 😀

  3. ^^
    i can certainly see a clean sheet, but not a romp.
    delap’s throws will cause some problems, but with djourou and bendtner behind, we should cope ok.

  4. The one omission from your otherwise comprehensive prediction is the time-wasting we’ll have to endure from the first minute. I’d bet they’d even sit on a 1-goal deficit, with endless wiping of their balls and other cheating tactics.

  5. formation is spot on ..

    Last time wtched Stoke City game , I only saw five minutes of the game.

    I spent the other eighty five watching Rory Delap fuck about with a towel.

  6. Read an excellent quote from wrighty in the Sun today “If wenger wins a trophy then I will have to eat an everest amount of humble pie, but it will be the most enjoyable meal for me”. I think I am exactly the same, I have written off wenger and not affraid to admit that & the season is far from successful yet but like wrighty any success for arsenal whether it proves me wrong or not will be celebrated. Great player, great quote!!

  7. Tram: they won’t get away with it half us much at the Emirates, and we’ll have the influence of the crowd in the ref calling the constant fouls. I was a little wary of predicting a big scoreline but after reading the ref preview Im a lot more confident

  8. Am I the only one who is worried about this game???

    Stoke are on a good run and although I dont think they can beat us at the ems they could get a draw especially with our players thinking about the game at the weekend, what is even worse is they could kick lumps out of us, in effect stoke are safe from relegation and that could go either way in how they perform.

    This game could put some serious pressure on UTD and is the most important game of the season and yet it seems to be overlooked a bit. This game should not be taken likely at all and fans should be giving a certain person a very good reminder of what he did, it is nice to see RAMBO score, i wish he was facing stoke for this game and was fit enough

  9. I’m slightly perturbed by Tony Pulis. In fact, I’m a little more than freaked out.

    Usually the man takes every chance possible in his stinking existence to have a pop at Arsenal. Today he kind of gives us a little gee-up.

    To say I’m surprised is an understatement and I’ve come to the conclusion that he has either taken a whack on his head or he has fallen out with his posse.

    Alex Ferguson, Phil Brown and Sam Allardyce will be disgusted and sickened that Pulis has given Arsenal a compliment.

    I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if they threw him out of their gang forever. He has some serious sucking up to do.

    Rule Number One in their crew is to hate and try to dig out Arsenal or Arsene Wenger at every opportunity given.

    What the Stoke City manager has said in the link above is blasphemy of the worst kind. The ‘c-word’ has nothing on this.

    I expect a Tony Pulis backlash after the game tomorrow night.

    Fergie would have been on the phone and will demand an apology of biblical proportions.

    Not only that, he will want Pulis to pull out the big guns and verbally, if not physically, attack Arsenal in the most outrageous way ever.

    In the next 48 hours I predict that Tony Pulis will unleash the Kraken of all slagging offs. And even Perseus will be shocked by it.

  10. I can’t say I am overly surprised by the performance or the result from Sunday’s cup tie at Brisbane Road. Maybe you would expect our reserves to be able to come away from the game without the need for a replay but when you take into account the simple fact of how big a game it was for them compared to how big a game it was for us (especially after the Barcelona tie in midweek) then it really isn’t that surprising of a result.

    FA Cup – Arsenal’s second stringers can see off United
    I don’t understand how or why so many Arsenal fans get so wound up with the fact that our reserve side aren’t that good. If we go back ten years did anyone care how the reserve team got on in their respective matches? Surely the answer to this question would be a resounding no, so why is it then that when these reserve team players get the chance of a run out in a lesser game and we then realise they are not as good as the first choice lot we go mad?

    I have said time and time again that no side on the planet has endless supplies of world class talent at their disposal. Barcelona are recognised as the best team on the planet right now but who replaces Messi or Villa when they come off injured? How badly were they weakened last week when Villa was replaced in the second half?

    Why is it then that when we rest players as we need to do to try and fight for trophies on four fronts over the final months of the season that the fans hit the roof in anger at the manager, some even asking for the manager’s head on a silver platter every time we play a domestic cup game? I personally couldn’t give a toss that it took us two games to get past Leeds or the fact that we struggled to beat Huddersfield at home, as long as we then get our names in the hat for the next round and win the bigger games in the League and Champions League. Because then we have a fully charged battery for the games that really do count.

    If we beat Orient as we will do in the replay we will have a quarter final tie to look forward to at Old Trafford. Everyone will write us off as they already have done on this very website, yet when you look at the team that started the league game at OT earlier on this season will the side that starts the possible cup tie be a weaker one? I say not. In that game we had Rosicky in the starting XI with Chamakh upfront and Arshavin out wide. Cesc was on the bench as was RVP and Theo Walcott. Sure we lost 1-0 but could have easily come away with something and the United side will not be as strong as it was that night. Fergie won’t risk his first choice XI anymore than AW does in these types of games and anyone that witnessed United struggle to get past Southampton and Crawley so far in this season’s FA Cup with a second string side in both games would be brave to predict an easy home win against us for the men from Manchester.

    I predicted a possible first leg victory against the Spanish Champions last week and I also pointed to a possible stamina issue with the men from the Camp Nou. Normally they are three or four goals to the good after 30 minutes in the majority of their League games which does slightly resemble how Celtic and Rangers crush teams on a regular basis in the SPL to me. So it proved to be the case with us scoring twice in the final 15 minutes and coming on strong in general in the second half. I know Barcelona are a class outfit, they are the best team on the planet right now, but we can and will compete with them with a fully fit, fully charged first choice XI and the game last week proved that very point.

    We came away with a gutsy 2-1 first leg advantage and I personally feel that we have every chance of progression in the return leg in two weeks’ time. We will be able to play our counter attacking style and the defence that Barcelona will have at their disposal without Pique is a weak one. We have gone away to places like Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford and got beat on a regular basis over the past four or five seasons, so people think that if we can’t beat them then we have no chance against the mighty Barcelona. But that for me is missing the point completely.

    First of all these regular beatings that we have suffered have come with a very young side, one that has been growing up on the field in front of our very eyes and one that has been in need of maturity which comes with experiences like those very defeats. The main point for me though is that in football the number one thing that effects a team’s chances of winning is the style of play that they adopt, the tactics.

    United in recent seasons have found a way that seems to have defeated us time and time again and these tactics that they and Chelsea have used with good effect over the past five seasons or so are all based around a robust solid defence and a very hard working, almost man handling, midfield. It is a complement to us that every time we play United Berbatov is not in the starting XI and a fifth midfield man, normally a hard hitting one with an engine comes in deployed by Fergie. Barcelona do not play this way and never ever will and this is the reason I feel we have every chance of progression. In my opinion we have a better chance of going through after the second leg than we would against one of the top English sides – even though if the same English sides came up against Barcelona they would almost certainly lose.

    I believe we are the one English side that can beat a Barcelona team as things stand. Their defence is not tight enough to hold us for 90 minutes and their keeper manages to make our Spanish waiter look decent at times. We managed to score against them at their place last season and the team that we put out then closely resembled the one we put out against Orient on Sunday in terms of quality. We will have Sagna fit for the second leg which is a massive step up from Eboue in the first game and they will be without Pique as previously mentioned who seems to me to be their main man at the back. So bring them on.

    We are better than many people currently think we are, we have matured throughout the season and every time we have disappointed we have come back strongly in the next game which in this business is all you can hope for. I mentioned this a while ago as well and this was the case recently once again as after the Newcastle collapse we bounced back with a very comfy win against Wolves and backed that up with the home win against Barcelona.

    Don’t be fooled once more into thinking we are not a power to be reckoned with because our reserves failed to win away to Orient. It is the bigger picture that counts every time and looking up at that picture as things stand it is a very pretty sight indeed. Second in the league with a good looking run-in compared to our competitors, a Cup Final looming large against very beatable opponents, a second leg against the best team on the planet that we have a genuine chance of making progress against and a cup replay at home to Orient for a place in the quarters. There we can take on United, where if we did come away victorious who would we have left to beat, apart from maybe Man City?

    If you are not happy with that and want to spit your dummy out over Sunday’s result then go off to bed right now for a few months and awake nice and bright come May just in time to watch some quality cricket as being a football fan just isn’t for you.

  11. Off topic I know but i wanted to raise the issue of why we are playing this game at all this week. Birmingham City’s last game was last Saturday. Their squad will have had a full 7 days rest whilst ours only 3 days rest before the Carling Cup final.
    Surely that’s not right given the importance of the contest!!!

  12. I wonder if there has been an unofficial directive from the Premier League to play down the game and the vitriol that it is assured to bring, hence the lack of press conferences.

    On a completely different note, I was watching the recnt match between Birmingham City and Stoke RFC. It was one of those win/win games where every booking, injury and goal meant that a club that I despise suffered in some manner.

    Birmingham, the home side had moved their advertising hoardings forward so that being much closer to the touchlines, they prevented Delap from using his long throw.
    It was very effective indeed. Kudos to McLeish on that front.

    Ours of course are hi-tech and probably immobile but some temporary ones promoting centrepoint or whatever our chosen charity this year is, would do quite nicely and give the fans plenty to laugh about.

    Thanks for the pre-match analysis and thanks to Dogface as well for all the in depth work.
    Enjoy the game everybody.

  13. I hate Stoke
    I really really hate Stoke
    disgusting team, town and fans

    but I don’t want them injured
    I want them humiliated, I want a football brutalisation, full relentless mockery. I want Shawcross twisted, twined and nutmegged so many times his eyes end up permanently crossed (at least he’ll fit in even better with the locals)

  14. EVERY one needs to forget every other competition except the league as this is the game coming up, I personally would concede the FA cup to UTD then lose points against stoke

  15. When Stoke get a throw in we should leave 3 or 4 players up front this will put those c**ts on the back foot as they cant send all the big defenders up and it might even give Chesny more room to come and collect the ball:

    we didn’t forget what Blackburn did to us in the 2005 FA Cup semi
    brutally trying to injure both Cesc and RVP, Savage with a knee high lunge, Todd with a late unbelievably vicious elbow (his speciality)

    We got our own back and put them to the sword at the Grove
    my favourite was RVP balancing the ball on his foot and shifting it to Fab who started doing kickups by the cornerflag
    when Savage steamed in he nutmegged him cut inside and set up the 6th (yes even the Flamster scored!)

    that’s the kind of humiliation I want to see tonight
    kickups and nutmegs, losing count of goals scored
    Savage was a barbie doll being played with by a pitbull that night
    that same level of shame I expect Stoke to be feeling tonight

    to misquote Frankenstein (saw it on Monday)
    for when I see Shawcross I feel the bile rise in my throat
    and it tastes like Satans bile

    I want Stoke humiliated, violated, immolated, defenestrated and haruspicated
    light them up with goals
    throw them out the window down toward the relegation zone
    I want to read the future in those scumbags footballing entrails
    relegation for them
    glory for us

    I’m seriously more fired up about this than the beer CupFinal

  16. Even a 1-0 win wouldn’t be bad, in fact I would bite your hand off it you offered it to us right now.

  17. @hainalt interesting theory about keeping 3-4 players upfront it would give them something to worry about it wont happen though, but theo arshavin and cesc would get at least a goal from this tactic, when we have played against stoke the ball is in the air so much they epitomise what is wrong with the English game and why england wont win a worldcup for a long time.

    Arsenals answer to this is to not let them have the ball but the danger in doing this is that more attempted challenges and actual challenges will be made.

    I HATE STOKE I hope the ref doesnt let one challenge go and needs to set the tone early

  18. @ gooner80
    Agreed, the ref will play an important role tonight.He must be firm and observant right from the start, particularly with off- the-ball incidents. I’m a little worried that we might get over physical with thugs like Shawcross with the threat of suspension ever present. No injuries please. And Squillaci will have a blinder.

  19. @hainalt

    i hate that. I really do. You can’t criticize someone endlessly, not offer one bit of support, and then join in the celebrations when everything is good again. that is the worst form of glory hunting and fickleness.

    what “wrighty” needs to do is shut up because he really talks too much anti-arsenal crap for my liking.

  20. Interesting thought about leaving players upfront for Delaps throw-ins. I first saw Wimbledon doing that in the early 1990’s and it didnt half confuse the opposition. They would do it from corners, leaving Fashanu and a couple of others up on the halfway line. Opposing centre-halfs didnt know whether to come forward for the corner or not, and the opponents corners descended into a confused farce. Ever since then I have thought it a very interesting tactic, one I am surprised that teams dont employ more often. Imagine if we left Walcott and Nasri (neither very large, but quick) up around the halfway line and Cesc midway between the halfway line and penalty area to pick up clearances. What would that do to the thought process of the opposition? As it is, we bring 11 men back into the penalty area, which encourages the opposition to bring everyone forward, which results in a hugely congested penalty area where there is just as much chance that our own players block each other off as anything. Whether or not you do it every time, it is certainly something worth trying every now and again just to sow the seeds of doubt in opponents.

    Buxcey – A lot of the anger that people have comes from some wierd notion that it is Arsenal’s divine right to win every game (especially against lower division sides) whether we are home or away and no matter what team plays. Fans of all the big clubs suffer from this strange delusion. The whole history of the FA Cup is based on big sides going away to lower division sides and losing. Growing up I always heard the saying “if you are drawn away in the Cup, get a draw at worst and beat them in the replay at home”. The key was always not to lose, because there are very few instances of huge upsets occuring at the home ground of the bigger club. The ones we remember are when the big club goes to the small ground with a dodgy pitch, raucous crowd, and the home players tearing into their more illustrious opponents. Better sides than the one we put out on Sunday have come unstuck at places like Orient on many occasions in the past. Like you, I thought the draw on Sunday was more than acceptable, especially since we controlled the match and gave no indication that Orient could beat us at home, even if we were to play the same side. The only down point of the draw was the extra match, which I would gladly take to still be in the competition.

  21. DOGFACE got it right there is something spooky about playing both Stoke and birmingham on the eves of both leg breaks,please let ti be a good OMEN

    All these memories have flooded back to how I felt after each leg break, it sickens me that they haveto resort to this kind of thing; I worry for Ramsey will he be the same player he was because IMO i thought he was going to be better than Jack (I know they are different). CanRambo ever get that year back that is a year out of a very short career I dont care how old he is a year old injured is seriously damaging, My thoughts are with RAMBO.

    Stoke are a vile one dimensional team who dont belong in the same league as arsenal, they are a relic and if the big teams managed to get their own TV deals I bet stoke would barely get 10 pence, I hate both birmingham and STOKE for resorting to tactics that reflects everything bad about the game, when I was a kid always used to love playing football but never used to watch it when I was really young because it was BORING with the same template that STOKE adopt, what they do is not entrainment and the PREM would not be where it is with the likes of STOKE and birmingham, without AW and arsenal the league would be very poor.

    please arsenal do it for Eduardo, do it for Ramsey, do it for Diaby and do it for US

  22. Not only on the anniversary’s gooner80 – but with the SAME REFEREE’S!

    That’s some PGMOL Derren Brown shit to mess with out minds!

  23. The reason for not leaving anyone up for corners is thus.

    We do not hoof the ball out but try to play quick short passes, even from the edge of our box, breaking quickly, the more of them we suck in for corners, the more effective we can be on the quick break. It is a gamble but one that suits our style. Any system has plus and minus; AW does what suits our style. If we let them have a numerical advantage in the box, the likelihood of us winning 1st or second ball diminishes.

    It makes winning the knockdown, or second ball very important, when won we then move the ball quickly, they are big but slow. We play to our strengths they play to theirs.

    I do though want to see us keep a high line when defending, even set pieces (not corners or throws obviously)

    Watching the game against Sunderland the other day when Stoke bombed in the last free kick, I wondered why was their line so deep, inviting the delivery into the danger zone.

    Protection for the keeper tonight is essential; we know they will target him!!!

    Very important tonight to not concede free kicks and throw ins,in vital areas, foul them near their goal, not ours, foul them early so we can keep a high line. Watch them chase down full backs trying to win throws, they will really work Clichy and Sagna, looking for a throw, this worked to great effect last season in the FA cup, our right back was a kid, and they targeted him, he had a mare, conceding throw ins for fun. I would tell our full backs to let them have possession rather than concede a free kick or throw in, they do not score too many from open play, infact are lost without set plays.

    I am starting to sound like one of the clowns on 606 that plays too much PS3, but I am sure everything above AW will be emphasising.

  24. Just when I thought we were going to have most key players for this weekend and Barca….just had to be Cesc….anyone any idea what is up? Hamstring?

  25. With us, it is always the key players, and usually at the worst possible time.
    Hear Vermaelens comeback has hit another delay?
    Will be interested to see the ref review on that one

  26. I think I will retract my comments earlier when I said that I hoped that the ref had learnt from the previous game. He hasn’t.

  27. Why did we have to play this game this week? Against those thugs and with a weak ref?
    The good thing is that we managed to keep the 0 and apart from the long throws from Delap Stoke could never really threaten to score.

    Damned why do we get those injuries now. Theo is of course due to the Stoke players who felt they could do what they want and how the ref didn’t give a foul for that well I think his guide dog will be glad to see his boss back.

    He is competent, so he must be blind or biased.

  28. AA is back he played really well.
    Cesc didnt look like he was struggling that badly so hopefully it is just precaution THEO looks like he is out the impact on his ankle looked bad, we should have killed the game earlier but I am so happy how we kept the ball we kept the ball most of the 5 minutes of extra time

    Pulis was straight on the phone to his boss who contacted the ref I decided lets see if we can get another leg breaker in Feb

  29. I think Cesc just couldn’t be arsed – Stoke didn’t turn up in the first half – and despite Pulis screaming “don’t foul” at his hoofers they did in the second half and made a game of it… well as best a ‘game’ they could (I’m sure this was Pulis’ plan – park bus, avoid early yellows and go for it in the last 45 minutes).

    We should have put the pressure on more in the first half I think and it would have been plain sailing – very unlucky injury for Theo – gutted about that, and yes it was a foul from a desperate defender but not a dangerous one that did it… I felt that Walton held us back and dithered but thankfully not enough to cost us the points.

  30. Unfortunately, being so close at the top, the Fergie refs are going to be out in force against us.
    Another crap ref with previous against us at the weekend.

  31. Phew!!! Outstanding win!!!!!!

    That is what potential champions do. When they are not playing at their best they roll up their sleeves, get dirty, win 1-0, and move on to the next game.

    Injuries happen. Walcott was unlucky. Cesc is far more serious. Hopefully that was just a precaution. I wouldnt even mind us not playing Cesc at Wembley if there is any risk whatsoever.

    That has put the pressure back on Utd. One point behind and they have a tough match at Wigan this weekend. It was essential we put the pressure on them, and we did.



  32. 🙂

    Nice one Paul C – some perspective there!! 3 points in the bag – we did what we had to do and no more.

    Our goalie who’s name I can’t spell (szchsney?) had a good game too.

    Roll on sunday!

  33. Casual Observer – you are spot on, I should have mentioned Chesney as well. Great save in the 1st half. That was one those ones that would have flown by Almunia and we all would have said “well, there was nothing he could have done with that” and it would have been 1-1.

    Did anyone else think Clichy’s passing was atrocious tonight? His radar seemed way off. In fact, our passing was not at its best overall. Maybe some players thinking about Wembley?

  34. Winning such games is vital if you want to be there at the end. A great result but I must say that the injuries throw a shadow over it.

    Loved the way Wilshere, Nasri and AA held the ball up very well in the extra time.

  35. I do think that most of the players had the final in the back of their head.
    And I think it was a big blow to all that Cesc went off injured. His start to the game was brillant and then this.

  36. Every team chasing multiple trophies has injury problems right now. Barca are missing Xavi and Puyol possible (Pique definately). Utd are without Ferdinand and Anderson. It happens when you are playing so many games.

    Getting Diaby and Ramsey back will be a massive bonus. That will refresh the midfield.

  37. I just wonder if it is Djourou that makes the other CB play better? Whenever he is on the field, their partner is stepping up. I think Squilacci had a great game and not just for his goal. I think he did very well in there.

  38. Walter – I was thinking the same thing. Squillaci and Kos have never gotten it together as a unit and we have all been blaming Squillaci but tonight, alongside Djourou, Squillaci looked composed and solid.

    Djourou really is turning into a fine defender. I cannot wait to see him and TV together one day.

  39. I had worries of a repeat of Sunderland away going into the last 10th mins but great result and three more points. The injuries ate a shame but AA is looking gd again and a fit Diaby and Ramsey will be a big boost. Bring on Sunday.

  40. The ref was really awful. I felt that Walton performed actually okay in the first half, but after the booking for the Stoke player (forgot who he booked) he suddenly gave Stoke a license to kick us as they wish without bookings and sometimes without even whistling for a foul (remember the studs up challenge by Quarterback Delap on Sagna). This situation didn’t change until “finally” Clichy performed something that can be called a bookable offense and then we suddenly got some decisions again but he was still far from being fair and balanced. I would have really thought that the match last year would have been a lesson for him but he made the same mistake again by letting the game go out of control and I feel that we are almost lucky that Theo only got a “small” ankle injury. The way Walton was handling the game it could’ve ended in a much worse fashion.

  41. Relief and Frustration ……
    Another well deserved and hard earned 3 points.

    The chants about the Ref summed things up perfectly, Foy let some fouls go that could have ended up with more players seriously injured.
    The fact the players that did pick up injuries were from unrelated factors was the BIG surprise.

    On to Wembley hoping Cesc returns and Robin and Kos.
    We should have the squad to lift the cup and hopefuly no more set backs before the Barcelona return game.

    But then again it is Birmingham so fingers crossed.

  42. Walter has got it right- Stoke are thugs pure and simple- a dirty load of bastards. I am sure that AW is playing it down to keep the media off the team’s back.
    I dont think we played very well – but if we had upped the tempo- we would have received even more injuries. Good result, thats all we can take from this. Playing this crowd on their own dung heap (literally) will be a challenge.

  43. Did anyone see Walcott’s injury? Stoke took him out. A disgrace and the ref gave nothing!! The FA will do nothing that’s why they’re called the FA. lol

  44. Yeah, it was a clumsy challenge. Note the same player should have been sent off in the 52nd minute for a lunge on Arshavin.

  45. someone said in the comments that pulis was stopping his team fouling in the first half because he knew they would get sent off so their basic aim was to stop us scoring and then in the second half when the ref was convinced that they wasnt dangerous they could adopt tactics similar to bouncers in a sleazy club. They would have had a player sent off.

    We had 71% of the ball and at least 20% of their possession was Delap groping the football and placing for set pieces do stokestoke know it is football,they were very poor and I think crawley town are a better team, they have no ability.

    I bet shawcross and co would be crying if they get needlessly fouled and had to miss a cup final I feel gutted for theo. I knew they was going yo kick lumps out of us and so will birmingham our squad could get decimated

    How can stoke get away with so much time wasting this ref bias at an alarming rate, I have watched many matches and I have seen players booked for a lot less time wasting why aint there more pressure put on them by the media

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