By Bulldog Drummond
What you should know about this game part 1: The referee
Yep, you’ve got it. He is refereeing the Stoke v Arsenal game.
Here’s what we said about this referee last season
“From the first minutes it was clear that the ref was going to give us nothing. Every time an Arsenal player came close to an Anthony Villa player the whistle went. On the other hand Villa could do what they want and only when things really were bad the ref would give the foul.
Stoke chairman, Peter Coates, was fined £5,000 by the FA for comments about referees. And then, just to show balance, PGMO give us this referee for this game.
Of course I have no evidence that PGMO act in this way (taking the money and then giving Stoke a ludicrous ref for the game), but given the extreme fanatical secretive nature of PGMO, one can but look at every possibility. Stopping people talking about refs is deluded, childish and petulant, so who can tell what wild and whacky schemes that same organisation will come up with next? If they came out and opened up properly we’d know. As it is we have to put all sides of the argument. PGMO is bent. PGMO is not bent. Take your choice.
What you should know about this game part 2: Shawcross
Stoke have also been putting it about in terms of the evil manifestation known as Ryan Shawcross suggesting that he has been “unfairly singled out as a player who grapples with opponents in the penalty area.”
Ramsey might have a word to say about that.
What you should know about this game part 3 – others get injured too.
The marginally redeeming factor is that we are gradually coming up against teams who, although they will never have the injuries that Arsenal get as a result of the way referees handle games, are losing the occasional player.
Southampton are starting to lose one or two, although that just came in the game against Arsenal. Stoke have Glenn Whelan as an “unlikely” as is Stephen Ireland, Jonathan Walters, and Robert Huth. Steve Sidwell, Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses and Dionatan Teixeira are out.
But of course we have it worse.
We have Nacho Monreal out again and Theo continues to be out, but he’d never be risked against Stoke anyway, and Laurent Koscielny is struggling. Wojciech Szczesny is a maybe, and it seems that all that warming up has injured Tomas Rosicky. Kieran Gibbs is a yes or no and so is Yaya Sanogo. Szczesny is fit, but again you don’t want him wrestled to the ground all the time in his first match back.
Mathieu Debuchy is just on there but again you don’t want to risk him in a game in which he might be cut to shreds, but he could be back midweek along with Oooooooospina.
Mikel Arteta, Mesut Ozil, Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere our out for sure. Which gives us…
Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs,
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Welbeck
On the beach: Szczesny, Bellerin, Rosicky, Alexis, Podolski, Sanogo, Giroud, Hayden, Campbell.
Now this approach allows Alexis to have a breather, but it could be that he plays and gets a rest midweek.
Arsène Wenger has talked about Sánchez emerging by coming out of the shadow of Messi – that could be true, although it is also true that these days Barcelona are creating their own shadows, what with Messi threatening to leave because of his tax fraud case, Barcelona being banned from signing anyone until January 2016 and the total shame of child trafficking hanging over the club forever more.
But it is also true (and the AAA should remember this, but I am sure they never will) that Alexis was booed repeatedly at Barcelona for not putting in enough effort. That was the reason why he was ready to move on, and a major part of why Barcelona let him go. But they let go a player, of whom Mr Wenger says, “He has quality that in the morning he comes in and he is fresh. I don’t know what he does overnight!
However, “He is in the red zone. You can see that when he plays but he can dig deep. I will have to give him a week’s break at some stage. I have to give him a breather. I did it with many players before who were playing every game. I did it with Henry, with Van Persie and it always helped them to get through without being injured.
“He played his 27th game on Wednesday since the start of the season, if you consider international games and travelling on top of that. Unfortunately you never know how far you can push it. We are not scientific enough to predict that completely but he has good recovery potential. He recovers very quickly.”
In fact Alexis Sanchez has scored eight goals in his last eight Arsenal games in all competitions so we don’t want him out. Therefore. this version sounds as if Sánchez will play today, giving us
Alexis, Giroud, Welbeck
What you should know about this game part 4: Lawrenson says we is all right.
“Arsenal’s habit of scoring late goals is not down to luck, and it is something to be proud of – generally, the best teams do score late because they wear the opposition down physically and mentally. It also shows that Arsenal have players who can come off the bench and make a difference, as Olivier Giroud did in the second-half against Southampton.”
In fact we have scored seven goals in the final five minutes of matches in 2014-15 – more than any other Premier League club. The last five Premier League games have all been 0-0 at half-time.
What you should know about this game part 5: improvement
Since Manchester United it is three wins and three clean sheets. And Stoke have been beaten three times at home so far – by the mighty Burnley, Leicester and Aston Villa.
Stoke were one of the founders of the league and this is the 100th time the clubs have played each other. Arsenal have won 52, and Stoke 24. 16 matches were abandoned after Arsenal ran out of players who could still move. (I made that up).
But we have only won one game at Stoke in the last eight, and none of the last four at the Stadium of Hate. They also have Peter Crouch, a man so tall that he wears an oxygen mask, and also the man whose autobiography rivals that of A Cole as being the most bizarre and silly book in the history of the language. Here is a man who needs to be put in his place.
The Christmas books
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal
Some other sites from the Untold team (there is a full list on the home page)
- The Arsenal History Society
- UK Education News – the rolling news service
- Dyscalculia on line test and support
- The Direct Marketing blog: direct mail, email, websites, blogs
- The Secret Nurse : what is really going wrong with the NHS?
- Untold Dylan – the music, the lyrics, the meaning of Bob Dylan’s songs.