Article history: because of the difficulties explained below, bits of this article were added as time went by. Last update 1108 GMT, 27 Feb
By Billy the Dog McGraw
Tony telephoned me in an absolute panic (you know how he gets worked up so easily) saying that Phil had sent in his Stoke City preview last night, but hadn’t attached the file to his email, and there was nothing to run in the saturday morning edition.
Naturally I stepped into the breach and starting writing thus….
Stoke City F.C., whom we play today is said by some to be the second oldest English football club in the league. However they hold a much more exciting record than this. They were formed in 1863 but didn’t play a game until October 1868, against an EW May XV at the Victoria Cricket Club ground.
Several things strike me about this. First, what the hell were they doing for those five years.
Second, why did they allow the other side to play with 15 men.
After years of detailed research in the Toppled Bollard public house, Islington, I have discovered the answer.
Then at that very moment Tony said he had just received another email from Phil with the attachment attached in an attache like manner, and so I could bugger off and stop writing.
Have you ever heard such cheek?
Your old chum,
Billy “The Dog” McGraw.
Stoke vs Arsenal preview
By Phil “what’s an attachment?” Gregory.
An enormous game for us this weekend, and one of two left in our run-in that I think the majority of us would mark down as a tricky game. Our record at the Britannia is uninspiring since Stoke’s promotion, but the teams that lost there during 08/09 and the FA Cup this season are completely different animals to our strongest available side.
While players such as Arshavin, Gallas and Diaby are out for the game, Bendtner has certainly made a difference to our attack this season. The young Dane isn’t Van Persie, but he doesn’t have to be. With a aerial striker as part of the front three, we become one-dimensional lacking a route-one counter attacking option. Bendtner is a class act in the air, and his presence ensures that we have more chances as we win significantly more of the aerial duels in the final third.
Gallas, on the form that he has been this season, is always going to be a loss but Sol has surprised many in his appearances in an Arsenal jersey so far and will provide aerial nous.
The main talking point is, of course Stoke’s home form. It is possible to over exaggerate it: after all, they have won less than half of their home games. They are resilient at the Britannia, with only two defeats there in the League this season. We however are the Arsenal, and travel there in expectation of a return journey three points richer, and with a few demons exorcised.
Naturally, the pundits trot out their statistics, but the side that player there in the FA Cup is almost unrecognisable to the side that will play tomorrow, and I don’t need to mention the immeasurable improvements this team has made from November 2008 to present.
Sagna Campbell Vermaelen Clichy
Rosicky Bendtner Nasri
Honorable mentions to Theo, Eboue, Ramsey, et al
I’ve gone for the more cautious lineup I expect Wenger to take. Both wide men can work hard and offer something defensively, but more importantly their greatest assets are their respective abilities in possession of the ball. If we went for more direct widemen, such as Theo and Eboue, we may open up more chances on the counter but we would also have less possession. I look at that team, and anybody, even Vermaelen can pass the ball under pressure.
Such a lineup allows us to soak up pressure or more likely have the creative players to pick a route through the massed Stoke lines. Our more direct players can go on in the latter stages, and look to exploit the space left behind when Stoke have to come out looking for an equaliser.
We all know what Stoke will offer, and we have to match their level of commitment. The level of technical skill showcased by team should mean Stoke are chasing shadows. Even the Premier League referees will punish a late tackle, so the plan should be this: pass quickly, and make them run. They’ve played 120 minutes against City in midweek, we have had a rest. Arguably, the game should tilt in our favour the longer it goes on.
So, predictions. I’m probably going for a victory for the Arsenal, but a narrow one nonetheless. 0-1 or 1-2. We’re not the most secure at the book, and while we’re not scoring as freely as we are capable of we need to make sure leads are protected properly. This is one of our few “tough” fixtures remaining, so maximum points here and we really put the pressure on our title rivals.
Anyone else making this game? Being at Leeds at university, only really the northern/midlands games are accessible, so I like to make the most of them. If you spot a gooner with no name or number on the back of the shirt, do say hello!
the BILLY THE DOG rumour special
straight from the allotment, Enfield
The EPL is starting a new rule next season preventing managers from opting out of post-match interviews.
Rule Q17, says: “With effect from season 2010-11 all managers are required to attend in person and participate in post-match interviews held by or for the benefit of a UK broadcaster or radio broadcaster and failure to do so without just cause shall be a breach of these rules.”
Sir Flaffall McFerguson, Mr Raggaty Redknappy and Sam the Slug have all boycotted the BBC because they have said things about their respective sons, or suggested they are crooks.
So here, exclusively, is the first interview given by Sir Flafflala to the BBC after the opening fixture of the new season
BBC: Well, your grace, your lordship, your magnificance, Man U 0 Stoke City 0 – a bit dull wasn’t it?
Sir Fliffolflof: Screw you, you downbeat gibberwok.
BBC: So a defensive game them, your overwhelmingness. How did you see it go.
Sir Flodebeatbackstab: I’m not talkin t ye Jimmy. Say another word and ye’ll see me fist lad.
BBC: Yes, your overwhelming importance, a dull second half too. Those substitutions of yours didn’t quite work did they – taking off Rooney and bringing on a Norwegian cockeral.
Sir Flangebucket: You takin the piss Jimmy I’ll see you rund the back of the bike sheds and don ye try bringin yer mates yer bunch of TV Centre scrottle.
BBC: So your impending gloryness…
ALL THE THINGS THAT THE CHAIRMAN OF MANCHESTER UNITED COULD NEVER SAY
“How we will use this surplus remains undecided but, in addition to investing in the team, I think we will examine investment in club projects and infrastructure, both in and around Emirates Stadium, which will provide a long-lasting benefit to the club and our tremendous, loyal supporters.”
Mr Hill Wood, chairman Arsenal FC, announcing the half yearly profits, 2010.
Back in the world of sanity
EPL owes more money than the rest of Euro football combined.
Arsenal win the league: the start of the new golden era.
Why did Arsenal move to Highbury, and not somewhere else?
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