Stoke Preview: A Chance To Resume Normal Service
Stoke City’s visit this afternoon has been relegated to a sideshow in the media circus surrounding Arsene’s failure to shake the hands of Manchester City manager, Mark Hughes, following the Carling Cup exit in midweek. The column inches devoted to this episode are almost as pathetic as demanding the manager’s head. Not quite. Everyone it seems has an opinion, forgetting that this part of the annual media targetting of Wenger, fights that occur once a season and have done for pretty much the entire span of the Frenchman’s reign.
Pullis and Megson were two who condemned Wenger yet all the incident proved was the lie that forms a central plank of English football; what happens on the pitch is instantly forgotten. It isn’t otherwise retribution would not be taken in later matches for incidents that happened years ago. One man who stood up for Wenger was Roy Keane, half-praising Arsene for not being a hypocrite. When you have the Irishman as a character witness, you know that your defence is in trouble.
And yet, not one journalist has stood there and thought that Wenger had planned this, despite his admission of that yesterday. Not one of the media witch-hunters has looked and noticed that this week’s coverage has been focussed on the manager, consigning the criticism following the Chelsea defeat to the chip wrapping, enabling Wenger to assess any damage and rectify failings ahead of the next match.
Which is today. Stoke were criticised after last season’s fixture at the Britannia yet should not have been. Their resources are more limited in technical ability than Arsenal’s so they play to their different strengths. It is not hard to plan for what you will face since they make no secret of their style. It is not a manner of playing that you or I want to see at Arsenal on a regular basis but it was effective, their continued Premier League status evidence of that.
By comparison to the last campaign, Stoke are having a good season thus far. Whether it lasts is their equivalent to our quest for the title, a quest that has not been derailed yet, merely skidding on some autumnal leaves. Too many are planning Chelsea’s coronation, forgetting that obituaries were written, welcome messages for Guus Hiddink as another Stamford Bridge managerial reign came to a crashing halt. All this was six weeks ago following their defeats at Wigan and Villa Park. A season is a short time in football.
Wenger has hinted that he will be active in the January transfer window but not necessarily buying. Window shopping can be enjoyable but not when you are in the wrong precinct. Dzeko is too expensive, similarly Balotelli whilst Chamakh is staying at Bordeaux apparently. Any one of the three could arrive, the chances of that roughly the same as those of them not being signed. Wenger is not going to show his hand but gave the media enough clues as to what he is looking for: a world-class striker who is not cup-tied for the Champions League. Darren Bent it is then.
Options for this afternoon are reduced from last weekend, Theo Walcott succumbing to a minor hamstring injury, Alex Song suspended. The bright spot is Bacary Sagna recovered from his ankle-knack. With Rosicky having been involved in midweek, I doubt that he will start, a place on the bench most likely, similarly Eboue and Vela. Traore will be the exception in Kieran Gibbs continued absence.
The line-up will be along the lines of:
Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Ramsey, Denilson, Fabregas; Arshavin, Eduardo, Nasri
A win is essential, to keep track of the teams around us, capitalise in the unlikely event of any slips and as much to stop the talk of crisis. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.
Posted on December 5, 2009, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Football, Manchester City, Premier League, Soccer, Stoke City, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 624 Comments.