An abysmal performance from a worryingly impotent Arsenal saw us slip to third in the Premier League and allowed the neanderthals of Stoke to gleefully herald another win over pantomime villain Wenger.
In fairness we were shocking and deserved nothing from the game. We were outplayed by Stoke who created the better chances and had more goal attempts. If it wasn’t for the fact that Peter Crouch has the coordination of a newborn giraffe we’d have been behind a lot sooner than the 76th minute as he spurned a couple of very presentable opportunities.
At the other end… well, not a lot happened. We didn’t really threaten and it wasn’t until injury time that we had a chance good enough to get me off my seat, but unfortunately Sanogo ballooned a harmless shot over the bar to perfectly sum up our afternoon.
It’s a shame we can’t play a side which is saving itself for a cup final every week, because unlike Sunderland, Stoke were actually up for the challenge, had a gameplan and didn’t allow us the time and space that Gus Poyet’s men did last Saturday. That gameplan predictably involved being physical and Mark Hughes made sure the hatchet men were out in force today. They targeted Giroud as Charlie Adam, Erik Pieters, Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson all clattered into him, disrupting what little rhythm we had as our midfielders tried to play their one-twos with the big man.
It seems that the only person who didn’t realise it would be a physical contest was Wenger. He left the only steel we have in the entire squad — Flamini — on the bench and went with the silky but soft Arteta and Wilshere in the middle. Away from home against Stoke and you don’t play Flamini? Shocking Wenger.
Almost as shocking as leaving the Ox sitting next to him on the bench for 75 minutes and fielding an attacking quartet of Giroud (slow) flanked by Cazorla (slow) and Podolski (slow) with Rosicky (slow) sitting in the hole. No pace means no threat on the counter, nobody to run at the defenders and nobody with the speed to make a darting run inside a fullback or beyond Giroud to try and stretch the defence.
As a result the Stoke backline were comfortable all match, sitting deep and watching us play short, ineffective passes across the pitch and then all the way back again. It really is time to develop some other tactics as a plan B because once it became clear our approach wasn’t working we had nothing to fall back on.
Just when a frustrating 0-0 looked on the cards, a debatable penalty call against Koscielny meant one point became none. His hand was definitely up in the air and there was contact with the ball, but did he mean it? I’ve seen it a few times and if I’m honest I’d have been screaming for it down the other end, so it’s just one of those things that went against us today. It shouldn’t overshadow how poor we were though or that if anyone deserved the three points it was Stoke.
Don’t get fouled by Stoke players or these pricks will be on your case
Now when I mentioned the Stoke neanderthals in my opening sentence I wasn’t just referring to those on the pitch because there were plenty in the stands too. Cheering every Ryan Shawcross touch in a clear reference to the Ramsey incident showed what little class these inbreds have. Apparently, it’s a worse crime to refuse someone’s apology after he nearly ended your career than it is to snap someone’s leg in two with a shocking tackle. Then, after Giroud hauled himself to his feet after being studded by Charlie Adam, he found himself booed for… well, I guess being studded by Charlie Adam. It seriously beggars belief — booing the opposing players for being fouled. And the totally unfunny thing of mocking Wenger by waving their arms around, what’s that all about? I quite like a bit of banter from the crowd, but is Wenger the only manager who gesticulates when things don’t go his way? Of course not. People like Alan Pardew go around headbutting players, shoving linesmen and swearing at opposing managers, but does he get any stick? No. They’re just singling Wenger out because he once said they play too aggressively (which we saw clear evidence of today and which was a totally justifiable allegation under Tony Pulis) and because… well, because they’re twats really.
Anyway, a run of two wins from our last six games has seen us slip to third. And those six games were mostly against ‘easy’ teams, so the bad news now is we have a horrendous run of four tough fixtures. We are four points off the top, but if Spurs see off a poor Cardiff side tomorrow we’ll be just six points clear of them in fifth. As I’ve been saying all season, forget the title race because we just aren’t good enough. Instead, the business end of the season has arrived and we’re in our annual battle for fourth again.
Not that I think that’s a disaster. Again, as I’ve said all along, I’ll happily take fourth place as long as Wenger actually spends the £100m he’s sitting on in the summer and addresses our serious squad deficiencies so we can challenge properly next season. And I don’t mean by signing some more Sanogos, or getting some more Kallstroms on loan. I mean by targeting and acquiring the world class players that we need. There is nothing wrong with Wenger’s radar — after all, he bid for Suarez, Higuain and Cabaye, all of whom have had fine seasons. The thing that worries me is his dithering and his over-worrying about pulling the trigger.
Something needs to change in our transfer strategy this summer otherwise guess where we’ll be this time next year — that’s right, in a battle for fourth place again and still no silverware to celebrate. Exactly where we were last year and the year before that. I could understand that when we had no money and Wenger was doing the best he could with little resources, but with the stadium debt now down to very low levels and our major sponsorship deals having been successfully renegotiated, there really are no more excuses.
Sort it out Arsene, our patience is wearing thin.
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