The Emirates, Premier League, 23/02/11
For the first meeting of Arsenal and Stoke City since Ryan Shawcross snapped Aaron Ramsey’s leg in two a year ago, talk was of the man and his hated team entering a ‘cauldron of hate’. What he got was more like a le creuset of indifference. An insipid atmosphere, truly a post-Barcelona comedown. The football on show could not have been more different either.
Now, there are many different ways of playing football. Arsenal’s game is based on pace, movement and skill. Stoke’s is based on organisation, discipline, physicality and either kicking or throwing the ball very far and very high. And to be fair to them, they are bloody good at it. So good, in fact, that they make the game barely resemble football as I know and love it. How their fans put up with such tedious, unambitious tactics is beyond me. Their lives must be severely lacking. Stoke’s constant pressing in numbers meant that we only found a way through once, Squillaci scoring from a close range header. And defensively, we dealt with everything they threw (literally) at us with ease. A vital, hard fought but ultimately BORING 3 points.