I don’t pretend to carry the views of every Arsenal fan at all, but at some point every Arsenal fan must have felt a small sigh of satisfaction when we were able to bring on not one great player from the bench, but two. There have been times this season when I have looked at the bench and simply thought “I really hope we score soon or no one gets injured. We have no attacking threat on the bench”.
Which made Stoke a refreshing change. A game against Stoke is hardly a game to get my fires burning. I expect the same from Tony Pulis every time – systematic fouling, time wasting and general thuggery on the pitch. What I didn’t expect was that Football’s Mr Nice Guy Michael Owen would be somehow infected by it. How naive I was it seems, but we will look at my own naivety and Mr Owen’s transgressions later, I feel I have far bigger fish to fry. Or at least, natter on about until everyone goes away.
I would like to bring up the “creative editing” by Match Of The Day. Everyone who watched the game will appreciate how different the actual game was from the brief highlights shown on the talismanic, marquee sports program on the Beeb. No mention of the systematic, persistent fouling by Stoke at all. 65 seconds into the first half Stoke committed the first foul. 65 seconds of football before the referee had to get involved. Not a peep about it from the banal commentary on MoTD. It is a sad fact that Stoke committed more fouls than successful tackles in the game but that isn’t even the worst bit, they ignored a serious challenge by Shawcross (well loved amongst the Arsenal faithful already) and poked fun at Owen raising his hands and aiming a rather weak punch at Arteta (see picture above). Now I like Owen, so I didn’t think he’d say boo to a goose, let alone react with a punch after a legal, albeit robust challenge from Arteta. So I was certainly shocked by the incident, but also shocked that it was laughed off on MoTD.
Their coverage of the games used to be professional, unbiased and interesting but unfortunately with Mr Walkers himself MoTD has lost a bit of its class and integrity. An institution that I really want to get back that class and integrity because I used to love Saturday nights catching up on all the games. I don’t necessarily think it’s the pundits – who for the most part are so far out of touch with today’s football as you can possibly imagine, but they do have pedigree and command a level of respect from me. I do think there is a serious lack of professionalism from the production team who are always happy for the team to arse about and give lacklustre input and commentary whilst also delivering a poor narrative of the games covered, often missing the crux of the game in point and glossing over or ignoring serious incidents in games.
See such an incident here, Shawcross vs Koscielny. Both players were committed to the loose ball, both players jumped in – the very idea of a 50-50 but Shawcross went over the ball and went studs up. Intent aside, you cannot go in like that, even for a 50-50. I know the adage, you have to go in committed or you will get hurt and it certainly rings true for me, but you cannot do what Shawcross did. When the internet explodes with the top media writers all asking the question why Shawcross didn’t see red, surely that is worth looking at on MoTD? No?
Moving on, what a great result for Arsenal. We threatened all game and it took incredible goalkeeping at times from Begovic to keep us out with great moves from Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Giroud and a fantastic header from Koscielny before Arsène changed it up and brought on Cazorla for Diaby and Podolski for the Ox. Not bad subs at all eh? Indeed they both helped Arsenal turn the screw and delivered the right result. Podolski despatched an excellent, powerful free-kick through the wall and it deflected in past a distraught Begovic who put in a sterling performance.
Talking of above-par performances, Nacho Monreal made his debut at Left-back against Stoke which was a real baptism of fire for the Spanish international. Nacho only arrived at Arsenal two days before, but clearly his class impressed at Colney and Arsène had no doubts about throwing him on in place of Santos. Santos should be a little bit concerned by that I suspect, although Arsène has said that his future is safe.
Exciting times at Arsenal. No more speculation, no more transfers, just plain football from here on in and it’s exciting. We are within touching distance of where we need to be and the sides above us aren’t considerably better than us. The sky is the limit for this Arsenal side, we can go far this season if we just believe.