So, to start with the important bit – the bit that kept me out all night with Billy the Dog celebrating our massive winnings – 2-0 to the Arsenal was the score predicted and 2-0 was what we got.
Several bookies ushered us out of their shops and we are having to place bets as far north as Tottenham High Road (although it is a rather distasteful part of the countryside, and I do with the civil authorities would either clean it up or call in the military) but we got the bets on and made our fortune.
A billion thanks to Phil Gregory for that prediction, and profound apologies too for not putting Phil’s name at the top – entirely my error.
And thus on to the game itself.
Watching from the upper tier behind the goal at the north end is a perfect way to understand the Stoke – Delap long throw.
The throw is long and powerful – but comes in two formats – one is the more conventional crescent shape – a gentle arc that goes a long way. The other comes out almost straight with extraordinary power.
So everyone’s attention (including the lino and ref) is on this unique approach – and not on what happens off the ball.
The plan is simple: one or two players (not the same one each time) stand in front of the keeper (Almunia on this occasion) and back into him at the exact moment the ball is thrown at speed. The lino misses it because he is looking along the line to see if the feet of the thrower are in the right place. The ref misses the hanky-panky because he is watching where the ball gets to.
The throw in comes in, and other Stoke players charge forward. The keeper is impeded and there is a chance of the ball going in the net because of the melee. Thus it is not the long throw itself that causes the issues (although dealing with a ball travelling in a straight line about seven feet off the ground is troublesome,) but the hidden activity in front of the keeper.
The ref knows as we all know from the game against the KGB, impeding the goal keeper is an offence which should stop play. But he doesn’t see it.
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It was alarming that it took some time before Almunia got his defence organised in a way to resist this ploy – putting an Arsenal player between himself and the Stoke players. It leads to some pushing and shoving and this of course is dangerous in the penalty area. Who knows which way the ref is going to award the foul?
But the real trick is for the goalkeeper to stand far forward of where he really wants to be, with the Arsenal player in front of him. The keeper then backs off to his actual chosen position while our defender blocks the move by the Stoke players. As a result a lot of the impact is lost.
That was one thing I learned at the game. But I was also puzzled. The Stoke keeper Sorensen came out at half time, in the rain. He did a bit of a warm up and then just stood there, at the end he would be defending, nattering to someone. So the Stoke subs were right down the other end of the pitch, and Sorensen and pal were just standing there.
Does he do this every game? I remember once the Everton keeper walking out half way through half time and sitting down in his goal, leaning up against the post – I think that was a protest against the manager. He was the famous Everton keeper who is now quite fat – can’t remember his name.
Anyway, back to events. Terrace highlight was some new chanting most of which I am not going to repeat here, but “Throw in a minute, You’ll get a throw in a minute, Throw in a minute, You’ll get a throw in a minute” did bring a smile to the lips. (As you will have realised I am a sour faced old bugger and it takes a lot to make me smile).
We won something like 10-3 in terms of shots on target (Eboue saved one in the first half), and it was a nice game by and large. Arshavin as a centre forward is fun – simply because just as most defences don’t know how to deal with a Stoke Delap throw in so I doubt that most will have a clue where Arshavin is, since they will be looking over his head. (I say this on the basis that he and I share one attribute – we are both 5 feet 8).
But the injuries…
- Van Persie
That’s a fair old team – no keeper out at the moment but I am sure we can injure one soon.
Still at least for this week’s game we can put out the reserves for a run around. And in Ramsey we do have one hell of a player. I haven’t checked this but I think he has played some part in virtually every game – what a hell of a bargain for £5m. Maybe he’ll have to be centre forward since we don’t have any others left.
One final point of detail, before the advert. Our chosen exit from the ground is over the north bridge, past the Arsenal underground station, and then double back to the station where the police barriers permit. In case you don’t know what I am talking about, the point is that the police put up temporary barriers so that you can approach the underground station from two sides in ordered queues, and to get to one of them you have to walk past the entrance and back.
Where the barrier gap is, is decided by the police. Yesterday they decided to put the barrier gap exactly where the road had flooded through the heavy rain. So to get into the queue you had to either take a flying leap (undiginified in a gent of my advanced years) or wade through the water.
Why can’t the Met employ intelligence officers to look out for things like that?
(Sorry dumb question)
That’s it. 500 games of Wenger (brilliant piece by him about the English fanatical love of the ceremony while totally forgetting the essence of the meaning behind it), 100 games at the Ems, and 100 years since our first game over Tottenham Hotspur. All in one week. Not bad eh? (If you missed most of the 100 years of the Tiny Totts stuff then try www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk)
Don’t forget MAKING THE ARSENAL. Amazon are now delivering – although they are often showing “unavailable” on the store, but the publishers are fully up to date with despatch. Details of this wonder book which makes a magnifico Xmas gift for the Arsenal supporter with it all, at www.emiratesstadium.info