So, the good form continues, our ‘downward spiral’ seems to have subsided and Stanford Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.
In life, I wish only the worst for Stoke. That philosophy almost changed with the sacking of Pulis. But I can’t stand Hughes either, nor am I confident in his inclination to change things. So, my feelings on Stoke probably haven’t changed all that much – shall let you know on Sunday evening.
Watching them at Anfield earlier this season, I was encouraged when they began by passing the ball, the surprise also rippled across the away section as they sang: “we’re passing the ball! | we’re passing the ball-aall…”
Liverpool started to control the game and invariably Stoke changed tack: passes lengthened, the midfield stiffened and Walters was left to run merciless amounts. The problem was, not that they played this way – that was fair enough; it was that this tactical change almost allowed them to pinch a draw.
Consequently, what had started quite positively reverted to old ways as soon as it was convenient and they were nearly gratified for doing so. A bit like a drunkard who realises that despite people’s advice, life after a few whiskeys has its virtues!
And that’s the thing: Stoke are a more effective team when they play their way. So it’ll take a few seasons of tinkering with their squad before they can alter their identity hugely. But so far it has been positive, pass completion is up and they’re now averaging 397 passes a game! Sterling work Stoke…
In a strange sort of way, the midweek game against Marseille may have been an ideal warm up for this one. Marseille played well, Valbuena had the game of his life, but what troubled us, particularly in the 1st half was the aggression of their players. Stoke will be similar, just without the control… or Valbuena. We’ll also have the pleasure of playing on a good pitch again.
Is it a coincidence that Ramsey has timed this form to overlap with Stoke at the Emirates? I think not! I’ve even made him captain of my fantasy football team.
I can’t help but think and I know it’s a silly way of looking at things… what would he have been like without that horrendous injury? Perhaps this form would have come last year? At any rate it’s not important, what’s important is that he’s playing the best football of his career – a blend of Cesc’s influence and Flamini’s industry.
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Injury news is good. Our “technical leader”(Arteta) is back, which is great news. Because as much as I like having Napoleon at defensive mid, Arteta is the renaissance midfielder, who does his defending with clean interceptions, marking space, and harassing opponents. The range and swiftness of his passing allows attacks to begin and the game to happen in such a way that one doesn’t even have to defend. Because, if you always have the ball, why do you need a ball winner?
The team as I make it:
Sagna Koz Mertesacker Gibbs
Walcott Ozil Wilshere
Some bloody team…