Stoke away has become a strange spot on our fixture list. Since Shawcross broke Ramsey’s leg two years ago this game has boiled down into a weird little bubble, existing within itself, fuelled by hatred and anger. Yesterday it looked like that atmosphere is not receding at all. Wenger was relentlessly taunted by them, Shawcross got booed by our boys and most perplexing of all, Ramsey was jeered throughout.
We always seem to struggle up there and our previous performances have epitomised the negative side of Arsenal in recent years. Last year we were clutching at a wafer thin chance at the title when we showed up at the Britannia but we were bullied and out played and succumbed meekly to a 3-1 scoreline, at times throwing our toys out of the pram and looking a bit silly while they kept us at arm’s length.
It’s easy to think that this game should be simple, looking at Stoke’s style of play and their league position. Yet without their home form, they’d be fighting a relegation battle and they rise to the occasion when the big boys come to the Brittania. At home they’ve beaten Liverpool and Tottenham and drawn with both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and now us. Add to that they were so psyched up for us –yesterday they fought like it was some kind of cup final–and I’m happy to settle for a point away (see the top free bets for this match).
Yesterday we showed some guts without losing our nerve. The more Ramsey was booed the more it spurred him on as he got around well. He’s still taking two touches when one will suffice but there’s enough there to see that his first full season since that leg break has gone OK and he’s on my “ones to watch” for next season.
His shooting has been nothing short of atrocious and that’s something he has to work on considering the amount of excellent scoring opportunities he engineers. I remember a few years ago Cesc–after a bout of goals–revealed that Wenger set him the target of getting on the scoresheet more often and adding goals to his game. I’m hoping Le Boss does the same with Aaron next season and that the Welshman responds in kind.
I add my voice to Andy’s suggestion that it’s about balance in the team as the reason why he has been played out wide so often when it clearly doesn’t suit his game. He comes back inside too much in search of the more familiar space of centre field. But I’d also add that this is a much deployed tactic from Wenger with younger players and something that he cites as being a part of their “education.”
This way–so goes the Wenger theory–players learn more about the game and can adapt better in later years. He did it with Vela and Bendtner and he’s doing it with Ramsey. It’s a hit and miss tactic. It worked with players like Henry and RVP who moved from winger to striker and from shadow striker to the sharp point of our three man attack respectively, but as mooted with Vela and Bendtner, it doesn’t always pay off.
It’s getting late in the season and apart from CL qualification we’ve not got much left to fight for. Wigan did us a huge favour in hammering Newcastle and bar a huge slump on our behalf and a massive resurgence from Tottenham, third place should be ours.
This sets up us nicely for a tedious summer of transfer rumours, but behind the scenes our money men can rummage through the higher shelves of players knowing that we are automatically in the pot for the Champions League.
And so my head’s already being turned toward 2012/13. Of course new signings fill the bulk of that thought and instead of big money signings like the much sounded Hazard my attention is focussed on someone a lot closer to home: Yossi. I really like this guy, he looks as though if enough fans blew at the same time it would knock him off the ball but he shows a lot of steel and has some pinache to boot. Making him a quick, cheap, permanent acquisition from Chelsea would be first on my list. It’s good having him around and he’s a fantastic squad player.
Other than that, I’ve no idea. Who actually does? Apart from Podolski there’s not much else going on so time will tell. At the very least Yossi is wearing our kit, and while he’s not the answer to all our problems he certainly ticks a few boxes.
On a personal note it’s great to be able to watch the Arsenal again, get back onside with the blog and witness RVP’s phenomenal season; they’ve all been a privilege. Off to enjoy the sun, Berlin is scorching…
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