One Of Us Speaks – Stoking Our Fires

When it comes to football, like many supporters I’m two fans rolled into one.

First there’s the rabid Arsenal supporter who’ll bore to death anyone I talk to on matters of club football; lamenting injustices against Arsenal, standing up for perceived weaker players and overdoing it a bit with praise for the better ones.

During the week I’m the vulnerable prey of tabloid journalists and radio phone-ins – the classic shrill Arsenal fan who is so easy to wind up. Stir up some controversy about Arsenal and give your website hits or join your listenership for a couple of hours.

Then there’s the other fan: The football enthusiast. I love the game and get a real kick out of a good football match. And for me, the best football teams – the ones that stand out in their era – have always been the most stylish, regardless of trophies. If they can get success and play the way I like, then even better. I’ll get behind any side that tries to keep the ball on the ground, plays from the back and takes the attacking initiative. Well, almost any.

So, even though I’m not old enough to remember far back beyond the early-90s, these two football fans didn’t always live together very easily. But when it comes to Arsenal, such is the fervour of the former that the latter would overlook the long-balls and complete lack of any creativity in central midfield during the mid-90s, and point to the flair players as reasons why we were never as dull as everyone says. Even when our football was derided at this time, we had Paul Merson, Anders Limpar and, of course, Ian Wright, with his exciting unpredictability.

The last 15 years have seen my odd couple living in harmony. It’s just one of the many reasons that I can’t get my head round the idea of having any other manager in charge. I don’t like Arsenal more now, but I remember when the team changed before everyone’s eyes in 96-97, and watching familiar players trap, pass and move like never before, I was thinking, “Yeah, I could get used to this!”

In this time both the partisan and enthusiast have been annoyed by some of the cruder teams in the league – firstly because they made life tough for Arsenal, and also because they weren’t much fun to watch.

Off the top of my head, that goes for Sam Allardyce’s Bolton and Mark Hughes’ Blackburn. But although these teams were ugly and pushed the boundaries of fair-play, they did have stylish players, like Nakata, Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Tugay.

So really, none of these teams prepared me for the unabashed hideousness of Stoke City, with their lack of any concession to style. Pulis seems wary of any player who wants to express himself. What’s also amazing is that the rules and pitches in this country have never been more conducive to technical, passing football as now, which is why it’s probably no coincidence that Swansea have come up and stayed here.

But Stoke are now coming to the end of their fourth season in the league, and they are still rock bottom when it comes to passes completed. At 6475 they’re a more than 1,500 behind the next club, Blackburn. At this stage Tony Pulis probably doesn’t feel like changing a system that clearly works – rather he’ll be on the hunt this summer for players who can do more of the same, but are even taller, even stronger and even harder-working.

I’ve got some half-formed ideas for why it works for Stoke fans, and why the club can exist as it does at a time when there’s a lot of money to be made for clubs that can catch the eye of fans around the world.

I’m not much of a historian, but like you I know that Stoke used to be world famous for its ceramics. It was an industrial conurbation that took pride in its workmanship, but like many places in this country, Europe and North America, they were victims of globalisation.

Whether or not what they made was better, it turned out that newly industrialised countries could do what Stoke did cheaper, and that’s what counted. One of the big firms from bygone days, Wedgwood, is still there, but only in name. The real production takes place in Southeast Asia. Now there isn’t much work to be had, and the few bottle kilns still visible on the skyline are a sad reminder of better times.

This isn’t something to hold against them – it’s a story repeated across the country and cause for sympathy. But it’s one of the reasons why the club must be such a source of pride to its fans.

Here’s a team that defiantly shuns global appeal. It plays football for a small but passionate audience, and doesn’t expect or want anyone else to understand. It’s heavy-duty, mechanical football for a city drained of its industry and lifeblood

And in many ways you have to admire the planning that allows footballers to serve as gears in such a giant machine – the way in which their roles are broken down to remove individuality, and how every facet of the game is turned in the team’s favour. When Arsenal shows up this weekend, the turf will be long and spongy, the pitch will be as narrow as legally possible to make long-throws more effective. Stoke will try to eat up the minutes with every stoppage and set piece.

Stoke will use centre-backs across the defence, who will all take 30 seconds or so to trot up the other end for free-kicks or throw-ins. Once again they will try to intimidate us physically, and, if he plays, Aaron Ramsey will be booed from every corner of the ground.

But it’s fitting that in our quest for redemption this season, Arsenal must go to a place that’s the polar opposite of Highbury. Everything we do at home to make lives easier for ourselves, they’ll try to counter at the Britannia. As an enthusiast I dislike them intensely, but as an Arsenal supporter I accept that they are worthy opponents, and a match against them will be a great way to gauge how badly we want third place this season.

Posted on April 27, 2012, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 143 Comments.

  1. Brilliant piece.

  2. That’s not a pre-match write-up.

    It’s a masterpiece.

  3. Jobietriced9jagunna

    Can’t deny that they’l make worthy opponents but that doesn’t excuse their pitiful excuse for football skills and tactics, they’re best suitd 4 rugby…we’l win 2-1.

  4. Nice one, nice one.

  5. OOU your posts keep getting better each week, this being your best one yet, keep up the fantastic work.

    Steww thanks alot for your commentary the other night as I couldnt watch the game since power was out, it was much more enjoyable than most halfwits commentators jobs out there.

    Finsbury I also appreciate the Van captain’s videos, he values our club, teammates and the manager, that is a good enough reason he will stay, atleast I hope so. Song looked like a proper geek in that

    Stoke will definitely be a togh place to play tomorrow, thought of delap’s throws always give me a nightmare but we shall overcome. Any win will do as long as we get the three point tomorrow.

  6. I often mark how much I like someone else’s work by how much I wish I had done it. Jealousy abounds once again – you should be writing more.

    Bastard. 😉

  7. What your really saying in a wonderful analogy is that Stoke is a grim place with a grim football team and a grim manager that suits the grim fans really well.
    A joy to read.

  8. thanx for that. i think walcotts injury may have been timed to perfection. against stoke ricky seems like a better fit to cause them problems. as with ben. im hoping to see those two and tom pirouetting around there narrow pitch. the longer grass with the rain may even provide them with a dribbletastic surface as the ball wouldnt run away from them so much.

  9. This blog is always good, but this last piece is particularly eloquent.

    I salute you, sir.

  10. The game last season at the Brittania was one of the worst Arsenal performances i have ever seen.You know what you are going to get from Stoke its not an official secrect yet we turned up with no fight no passion and laid down as Stoke battered us.Arsenal players need to stand up and be counted tomorrow and dont just rely on RVP

  11. He writes when he wants, he writes when he wants, one of us speaks, he writes when he wants. Top blog!

  12. Couldn’t agree more. An absolute joy to read, Big Al. And at that precise moment, the skies darkened satanically, and the heavens opened. And it made me feel that the task of beating Stoke the hard way, will be even harder if this weather persists. I wonder what the weather forecast is for Stoke tomorrow? Talk of long grass, narrow pitch…. it will be more difficult than I’ve been thinking. I’d play Benayoun for this one. Perhaps on the left.

  13. i think the players now know that it is 3rd or nothing. hopefully the focus will bring us over the finish line.

    i think there are some ghosts to banish. and we have banished some ghosts this season as well. so let’s hope we can finish the job. banish all ghosts and prepare for next season properly.

  14. Criticising Stoke for their style of play and lack of aesthetic quality in their game is lazy. Football is business now whether people like to admit it or not, playing an ugly long ball style of play is worth it from their perspective if it means staying up and all that means in the modern game.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat as the saying goes and Arsene’s vision of football is not the only way to play, successful or ‘good’ football is fundamentally about winning, or avoiding defeat if you want to really extend the argument, how you go about that is down to each club. People have derided Chelsea for their lack of style and for ‘parking the bus’ in their recent games with Barcelona, there is only one team in the final there. If god forbid they actually won the thing people won’t reflect on it as a tainted win as they were played off the park in both semi finals.

    Our rivalry with them is heightened because of what happened with Ramsey of course, but I do wonder if fans of the other 18 teams in the Premiership get so worked up about them when the fixture comes around.

    Everybody knows what to expect at Stoke, it is how we set our team out to compete and cope with it that counts. Defend well, stand up to them and ultimately play our game and win the game.

  15. Winning at jurasik park is as hard as winning at a stadium like anfield, not neccessrily because of the quality of their players, but due to the fact most arsenal players have never played handball or rugbe before – so its almost a clash of sports.
    Now here’s something we might never hear in a long time to come – and its a goalkick, but sorensen decides to pass the ball to shawcross, shawcross receives the ball and tries a dummy to create space for the pass, what a turn my the stoke captain, he passes the ball to rory delap, unbelievable! Delap passes 2 arsenal players with a cruff turn, who knew he had that in his locker, he then gives a magnificent through ball to the big man – peter crouch, crouch shows tremendous speed and skill to get past koscielny, leaving the defender bamboozled – that was van persie esque, but instead of taking a shot a goal he kicks the ball off the oncoming defender to gain a throwin for the throw in specialist – and the natural order restored.

  16. Did you actually understand the post, steve?

    Big Al dealt with the business angle in a thoughtful way and, although it’s clear he doesn’t like their style of play, gives them credit for what they do.

    To my mind anyway, you are wrong.

    We know that football is a business but Stoke are dinosaurs. No great future for them. No sexy sponsors or shirts sold in China. They have a niche market, if you like, and that market is shrinking.

  17. @consolsbob

    Of course I understood the post mate, thing is I have my opinion like you also have yours and the author his.

    There is no point complaining about Stoke all the same, as I pointed out in my last paragraph we know what to expect, the coaching staff know what to expect and very importantly here we know what is possibly at stake.

    If we come away tomorrow having been beaten by the tactic of long throw & aerial assault then we have to ask why, not bemoan their style of play. We are better than them, football does not as we know always equate in such simplistic ways but we have to go there, play our game and take the points.

    Your last paragraph is irrelevant all the same, dinosaurs in what sense, their style of play? The comment about sponsors, shirt sales and niche markets applies to all but 5-6 clubs in the entire Premiership. We can’t all be global brands, as much as I hate that term.

  18. Great read Big Al. Just waht the doctor ordered on a Friday.

    Stoke RFC will not roll over and let us tickle them. To be 3rd, or to show ambition to win the title means that we have to adapt when needed. We know what Stoke will do and we know what to expect – it shouldn’t be a surprise.

    I would have loved to see Li’l Jack Willy in that midfield, but personally, I fancy a midfield of Song, Diaby and Rosicky to combine a bit of finesse with some brute force when called upon.

    Those heathens won’t give a flying fuck what our situation is or whether Ramsey plays. An Arsenal scalp goes down well in the City.

  19. Why? Why? – Diaby is suffering from an illness and won’t be available for the game tomorrow, and the shit keeps on pouring on us

  20. Steve (10.01)

    I agree with part of what you say – football is indeed a business.

    But I disagree with your verdict of ‘lazy’ to describe those who criticise Stoke’s playing style.

    Ultimately, playing ‘industrial’ football in their style is unsustainable, although it may buy them survival for a time.

    But there is a reason why Arsenal HAVE gone to the next financial level under Arsene and that is because we rarely fail to sell out – or nearly sell out – our home games (that’s ALL games, league cup, FA cup, midweek matches etc), we sell a shed load of merchandise and are a recognisable global brand.

    All the things Stoke will never have or be whilst they pursue the Pulis vision of life in the Premier League.

    Swansea must be an acute embarrassment to Stoke, winning games – by playing attractive sustainable football – fans, plaudits and praise as they have done, both far and wide.

    I for one will continue to criticise Pulis’s Stoke – as I used to Big Sam’s Bolton, Peter Reid’s Sunderland and all those other throwbacks to an age when pottery was still made in the midlands and, irony of ironies, Stoke used to be a great team.

  21. I’ll agree with theo not playing tomorrow’s match bar the injury. Dis is a game not really about counter attacks but how hard we work our socks off. Rosicky and ben for me would do. I hope he’s over his sickness. Bringin in our maroune early in the game would help. This is a must win game. It definately would relieve pressure.

  22. Well said arsenalandrew, but you forgot to add those dinosaurs play at jurisik park, stoke must be the ninth wonder of the world.

  23. We need proper wingers for this match, stoke are going to defend deep and narrow, trying to pass through the middle will prove futile – width wins this game thats why am not as excited as some of you guys at the prospect of benayoun playing.

  24. Well, Andrew’s saved me the bother of replying to your post, Steve.

    For the record, though, if Stoke beat us without kicking us off the park, that’s fair enough. You will not read me on here complaining about their style of play. I am not an apologist for poor Arsenal displays and, in my opinion, we should beat them 8 times out of ten and draw the other two.

    I will join andrew and any other football fan who criticises their approach to the game and the football ,philosophy. of managers like Pulis.

    Swansea, like other teams, have put the lie to the’ we can’t play football against them on our budget therefore we have to play hoofball’ bollocks.

  25. By the way andrew, did you ever play ‘Bat and trap’? Is it still possible in Canterbury?

    The Bell and Crown was one of my haunts but not fot B&T!

  26. Christ you have to really go out of your way to want to pick holes in that piece of writing.

    It’s a Friday too!


  27. I will concede that ‘lazy’ was perhaps a bad choice of words, but to clarify I was not criticising the writer of the piece as being lazy, it’s a very good article.

    Criticism of their style of play in general is (in my opinion) lazy, they are entitled to play as they see fit and their survival to date in the league is all the justification they need. Granted I do not listen to many post game interviews with people like Ferguson, Mancini etc but equally I wonder if they have ever seen fit to malign their style of play by referring it to another code of football, Why do we?

    I can’t see how Swansea must be an acute embarrassment to them, have you actually looked at the league table and compared both? Are the PL going to decide to award Swansea an extra 10 points or European place on the aesthetic ideals of Brendan Rogers and the manner in which his players execute them?

    For clarification I am not endorsing them, nor teams like Blackburn under Hughes.

    All I have said is that we know what to expect and should be good enough to cope. Single best way of silencing their neanderthal support.

  28. Beautiful piece of writing, but I’m not sure about the notion that the style of football goes with the territory.

    You see, Stoke-on-Trent has one of the best theatres in the country. Like the football club, it’s run on a shoestring and it’s a theatre-in-the-round so, like the Britannia, it has no wings.

    But unlike the football club, it’s a welcome host to exciting, creative and talented performers. And, at a time when theatres are closing across the country, it continues to be both artistically and commercially successful – and well-supported by its followers.

    Of course there must be a frisson for Stoke fans in giving the fancy dans (or sublime talents, depending on your point of view) from down south a good kicking. But surely they’re entitled to hope for something better than the obnoxious roughhouse their team routinely serves up – especially now they don’t actually win many matches.

    Hard to accept for us Arsenal fans who regularly enjoy some of the best football in the world, but the citizens of Stoke have just as much right to watch attractive football as those of N5.

  29. Personally, I think we should pay no attention whatsoever to stoke, pullis or his tactics as that has nothing to do with us whatsoever. I also think this is where we go wrong sometimes. Just another battle in the 10,000 day war that must be won.

    Search & Destroy is the order of the day and Ramsey, hopefully will be up for it and rip them a new arse hole. Its’s really his time and I bet he can’t wait to get out there.

    People getting on Ramsey case but, I wonder if said people could even face going near a blade of grass if what happened to Ramsey happened to them. I think not.

    Hope we are just as physical because we have the players to be that way but, they just ain’t nasty enough when required and that is required from time to time. Always has been.

  30. Give stoke a taste of wengerball and their lives will never remain the same, they have been sucked into thinking “the end justifies the means” so pulis might appear as a messiah but we can all see nothing this despicable ever lasts. Once you go wengerball, you never go back.

  31. khalifha, it isn’t just wengerball which makes them them never go back either is it? lmfao! lol.

  32. Steve – You are certainly a contrarian and a good one at that. But given the obvious thought and stylish effort by Big Al to making this post rounded and two sided, your pejorative that any criticism of Stoke is “lazy” is at best kneejerk. The bottomline is we must adapt and beat Stoke but win, lose or draw, the football played by this rugby-like team is backward and anachronistic and will share the same fate as the potteries and glass industries of what I am told is a blighted city.

    Thanks consolbob and arsenalandrew and most of all bigup to our own OOU.

  33. The Bell and Crown still a ‘proper’ pub, Bob (last time I looked, anyway).

    You mentioned the Bat and Trap the other week and I’m sorry I didn’t reply although I half wondered if you were being ironic at the time! Sadly not been spotted (bat and trap) for many years, down these parts (by me, anyway).

    Probably due to Health and Safety concerns, no doubt, and a preference on the part of all too many pubs to concentrate on selling mind bendingly lethal weapons-graded lager whilst deafening their clientele with nightclub ‘quality’ sound systems designed to destroy all hearing organs within a surprisingly ambitious radius …

    It’s ‘progress’ Bob, but not as we know it.


    Not sure Stoke Steve has quite got the concept of progress.

    Pulis may survive for a while but the long suffering fans of Stoke will ultimately be short-changed by their Manager (even if he personally does okay out of it, financially).

    To attempt to negate an argument by looking at the league positions after just one season and saying Stoke have done better than Swansea is more than just a tad simplistic.

    It’s lazy.

  34. Playing the defensive game and long balls doesn’t get you anywhere?
    How did Chelsea get into the Champion League final? By playing the ugly game against people who for some reason think passing the ball into the back of the net works and if it STILL isn’t working in the 60th minute still try and pass the ball into the net. Stoke are a part of the Premier League for a reason ask any footballer or ex footballer who they were worried about playing away and I’m sure Stoke City were mentioned.
    Like usual we’ll be likened to a rugby team by your manager and memories of that ‘tackle’ by Shawcross which Ramseys leg was already twisted and broken before the tackle will be mentioned again.
    I for one am looking forward to tomorrows game.
    Luke H

  35. Stoke Steve?

    Don’t be an arsehole mate. You cannot criticise the contribution of another poster then resort to childish twaddle like that.

  36. By God you are a credit to this already fantastic blog, Big Al.

    You kinda have to respect Stoke fans. I mean the real Stoke fans, not the morons who boo the victim of an assualt or chant the name of his assailant. It’s tough not to sound like a football snob but they reveal a universal truth. People will find the joy in just about any situation. Fair dos.

    If Diaby can’t start you’d have to think it’ll be Rosicky, Song and Ramsey. If Ramsey doesn’t make it then Coquelin alongside Song looks decent. Gervinho and Benayoun out wide.

    I hope we are up for it.

  37. Defenders of Stoke should imagine what the dinosaurs thought of lizards.

  38. pedantic george

    Steve never says anything either positive about Arsenal or remotely interesting.

  39. pedantic george

    “Like usual we’ll be likened to a rugby team by your manager and memories of that ‘tackle’ by Shawcross which Ramseys leg was already twisted and broken before the tackle will be mentioned again.”

    Stoke will grow the grass so long the ball will disappear from sight for large swaths of the game.They are a disgrace to the game.And Luke H is a typical example of why it is tolerated.
    Neanderthal cunt. Go and sit on a club you prick.

  40. The leg was broken before Shawcross’ tackle? Of course, Ramsey broke his own leg to get poor old Shawcrossy sent off!

  41. pedantic george

    Evil.They think they have seen a picture that proves it.
    I am going tomorrow with a pocket full of Deeds for bridges I have been trying to sell for quite some time.
    They really are special needs fans.

  42. I thought this statistic was very interesting: “If games finished at half-time, Stoke would be second bottom”. Can’t switch off against them at all.

  43. The Real Stew Black

    OOU, Firstlady thank you both.
    Steve you came here for a fight and all you got was patient, eloquent rebuttal. Bad luck.

  44. pedantic george

    “Steve you came here for a fight and all you got was patient, eloquent rebuttal. Bad luck.”

    Sorry Stew,have I let the side down again?

  45. Andrew, sorry to go all Pedantic G, but what are these “hearing organs” you speak of?

    They sound marvellous – where can I get me some?

  46. “Stoke will grow the grass so long the ball will disappear from sight for large swaths of the game.They are a disgrace to the game.And Luke H is a typical example of why it is tolerated.
    Neanderthal cunt. Go and sit on a club you prick”

    I’m a Neanderthal cunt? Pretty Neanderthal or childish to argue back using the same point being mentioned before by most people on this page and to use a expletive to describe someone, you sir are the pathetic human being who should “go and sit on a club”

  47. If you can make out the leg through the ‘Long grass’ I’m pretty sure you can see the leg is broken before impact.

  48. OOU – another brilliant read.

    Yogi – yesterday’s post was an exceptional piece of journalism.

    only experienced one “attempt” of pick-pocketing in Barcelona. C*nt made a poor attempt at the front side pocket of my jacket. When the treasure of his quest hit the ground, and he saw that it was only my point and shoot camera, his disappointment accompanied his swift departure.

    As far as the Stoke match is concerned, I do not care about our style points.

  49. Looks like Guardiola is taking a ‘break’.

    Would rather have a manager that will be there when things are thick than one that looks to take the easy way out at the first instance they dont win the league or CL.

    Hope we get all three points tommorow

  50. @ The Real Stew Black

    I didn’t come here for a fight mate, why on earth would I do that?

    I came here and expressed an opinion which I hope was patient and eloquent, and received in return an expression of opinion, the very basis of internet forums. Nobody has been rebutted.

    The very fact that it differed from the accepted norm resulted in it being pounced upon by others, the contribution of Pedantic George @ 11:38 being a particular high point of the debate.

    I have no issue accepting such comments if I have been abusive, but I haven’t.

    The world would be a very very boring place if everybody agreed on everything and football support would be very boring if all fans just simply fell behind and 100% blindly accepted the doctrine of their club.

  51. Disgusting stuff regarding Ramsey’s leg Luke H: That is a truly epic level of ‘truth adjustment’ to suit your own agenda.

    When not watching the ugliest football in the world, I imagine you spend all of your spare time denying the holocaust and just generally find ways to be a total c*nt.

    Can we just ban the troll please YW?

    All those in favour say, ‘aye’.

  52. pedantic george

    “you sir are the pathetic human being”

    Well he soon got my number.Perhaps he is not as stupid as he sounds.
    Ha Ha and right on cue he references “that” photograph.What a dimwit.

  53. Guardiola needs a break – he’s been on the edge of a nervous breakdown several times during his management career. Workaholic apparently does not come close to covering it.

  54. pedantic george

    I am thinking of changing my name to “Dog Fender Stratocaster” what do you think Jonny?

  55. AA –

    I see it as his way of staying in control of his life.

    I don’t believe that this is a spontaneous decision by Pep. Pep gave them earlier warnings that he was considering some time off from the game, by refusing to sign any long term contract with Barcelona. (only year by year)

  56. @Luke
    Surely, even if you are from Stoke and all that, you can’t be so dim-witted as not to realise that this picture is right AFTER Shawcrossy goes through Ramsey with his good old Neanderthal plough?

  57. pedantic george

    Who cares about Pep?
    Does he work for Arsenal?

  58. pedantic george

    Evil.go easy ,I am hoping to sell him a bridge tomorrow.

  59. I think Tony Pulis serves his club and fans well; just as the other chap, Phil Brown.

    Khalifha – spot on with the the jurasic tag.

  60. @evil must of be a head first tackle he usually does because his foot is nowhere near to his broken leg.
    @Pedo george 😉 see what I did there I to can make childish irrelevant comebacks.
    Can’t wait to see all your ‘fans’ tomorrow Hopefully you won’t get to claustrophobic being so close to each other and not sitting by an empty seat.

  61. Clerkenwell Gooner

    Ramsey to pull a Torres, and score at Stoke. Would help his confidence no end.

    Also, re: Cesc, Pep is off. Maybe that’s why Cesc was so keen to go when he did, knew Guardiola only had another season left in him there?

    Also agree OOU, there’s liking Arsenal and there’s liking football, which includes acknowledging the qualities of other sides, players other than ours, when they exist. Seems narrow-minded not to.

  62. pedantic george

    “@evil must of be a head first tackle he usually does because his foot is nowhere near to his broken leg.”

    His stupidity is staggering.
    On the other hand ,he might be right and that Ramsey pulled a fast on them, and made poor Ryan and his mum cry.Lets not forget ,Ryan is not that sort of a player.Poor misunderstood little lamb.

  63. So brillantly and eloquently written and just like Arsenal’s style of play a true beauty.

    I know many wont like my next comment but the 1 thing that i do admire about Stoke the same way we all love Arsene and Arsenal is the fact that they have a found a style of play and don’t give a shit what people think about it because it works for them. Now with that being said i also hope we run and pass circles around them with the likes of Ox and Gervinho flanking RVP and Diaby(say it isn’t so he is out), Song and Rosicky manning the middle with beautiful play but all tackle and can play with force.

    On Guardiola, I have read numerous times that he is a true workaholic and hence why he is on a 1 year deal every season because he does get burned out and never knows when he is going to hang it up. the problem with it though is the fact that Pep and every footballing brain in the world can only see 1 coach who will carry on and prides himself on playing the same style and unfortunately it just happens to be our own Arsene Wenger.

  64. OK, this is quickly descending into a sh*t-throwing contest, which I didn’t have in mind and YW probably isn’t going to want. Stoke fans should be aware that this is an Arsenal blog, and shouldn’t be so shocked if they don’t like what they read.

  65. How did i manage to doze through this wonderful write-up? Must be the night duty.

  66. One of my favourite footie blogs, & articles like this are the reason why.
    Thanks from Bombay, India

  67. @Luke
    I shouldn’t even be taking the time to do this…

    Here is a video of the tackle. Look at it. During the tackle, Shawcross is standing and his leg is outstretched, on the picture you are linking he is on the ground and his leg is in a wholly different position. The picture is taken right AFTER the impact, when Shawcross is falling away to the side after breaking Ramsey’s leg. I hope that this is enough to convince you that your theory — Ramsey broke his own leg — is bullsh*t, but if it’s not enough, I don’t think there’s anyone who can help you…

  68. pedantic george

    This is Luke right now Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala

  69. @birdkamp the shit throwing contest was entertaining but I agree he ought to probably back off before it descends any further.

    Oou great write up as has already been mentioned.

  70. So poor Pep’s got burnt out managing the best players in the world in one of the softest leagues on the planet with an almost infinite purchase budget?

    Jesus, to name but one, wept.

    Suspect in Spain a one year contract is considered long-term, Arsession; clearly that’s what Cesc thought he’d signed at Arsenal …


    Jonny – instrument rather than organ on the hearing front?

    A bit like the perennial Shawcrossy debate:


    Or blunt edged weapon?

  71. pedantic george

    Andrew is funny.
    Luke wont understand though

  72. lets just beat them and end of story.

  73. Great writing, birdkamp. I particularly liked the elegant way you led us into it.

    Stoke are what they are, we know what we are going to get and we have to do our best to win tomorrow. As well as the pitch and the tactics, the reputation of the fans is fearsome and they will be intimidating the ref into giving that decisions their way. So do your bit, away support!

    Every manager has the right to play in whatever style or with whatever tactics he wants. However, every football fan has the right to form and express an opinion on that. My opinion is that Stoke are boring and what they play is anti-football.

  74. No but yeah but no but yeah but – Evil, you could’ve doctored that video or summat ‘cos Shawcrossy, ‘e’s not that kind of player, is ‘e,’is Mam sez so and she should know, I know ‘cos ‘Chelle down the ‘airdresser’s sed so so shaddup alright?

  75. Silver incase you didnt know birdkimp and OOU is one and the same.

    The reason I dont watch much football other than the Arsenal and the occasional other team is because I dont like their style. Chelsea beat Barca and are going to the final, the fact that they parked the bus for the two legs makes me hate that they won.It may have worked but it sure as hell wasnt entertaining!!

  76. Fantastic post, Big Al. Very thought-provoking. It will be interesting to see, now that Stoke have established themselves in the Premier League for a few year, whether they will start to change their play. It is ironic that their best chance of long-term survival may be to play more attractive (but equally effective) football in order to appeal to the same markets where the manufacturing jobs have gone.

    Luke H at 12:08pm

    Watch this and tell me whether you think Ramsey broke his leg before or after the tackle. Are you seriously suggesting it just snapped by itself?

  77. People derided our style as tippy-tappy, so why can’t we make derogatory remarks about others?

    And, as arsenalandrew said, Swansea.

    @ Acryllic Altair | April 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Looks like Guardiola is taking a ‘break’.

    Would rather have a manager that will be there when things are thick than one that looks to take the easy way out at the first instance they dont win the league or CL.

    My thoughts exactly. Very disappointing.

  78. barca seem to me like they are crumbling.. it’s like they cant stomach a fight.

    when you think of what we have been through, i think you have to give wenger credit.. he definitely isnt less of a workaholic than guardiola. and yet he has stuck it out.

  79. @Firstlady

    I agree with you on the parking the bus things and do also think that teams that do that are quite cowardly. I understand when your up 2-0 or 2-1 in your defending and playing counter attacking football but when you park the bus when its 0-0 in teh 1st leg and your at home.

    But then it also brings up the debate(I’m Arsenal through and through) results vs. beauty of play. I once visited Brazil and as is well known they play beautiful futbol and pride themselves on that and everything was great win they were ruling the futballing world but now they have had a rough run and i had a conversation with a Brazillian and he made the point that Dunga was getting results as their coach but playing ugly football and he would rather not lose the sole of Brazil and play beautiful futbol and lose than what he called “Italian” futbol of defending and then occasionally breaking foward.

  80. No Bat and Trap in Canterbury anymore…the world is going to hell in a handcart.

  81. Stoke may have a small and passionate audience but at least they can count upon the future or current England manager Stuart Pearce as a fan.
    Lest we forget: who can forget the D**M of Michael Manciene (picked to play opposite Javi Martinez, ahead of, I dunno, take your pick!).

  82. So Pep resigns. Not a bad coach. Maybe he should join the spuds.

  83. Great post Big Al. Your writing style is remarkably eloquent and I always enjoy Fridays.

    In order to be truly successful you have to be good at both ends of the pitch. Stoke will never make the top 8 in the league consistently with their industrial style of play but thats not really their goal. They don’t have the resources to do be able to compete with teams like Arsenal and they understand that. They need to survive and for that their style works very well.

    We are a better team then Stoke but unfortunately we have struggled with their style of play more then most teams for several years. We need to be strong and concentrate fully on every throw in and long ball. I am confident we can get a goal or 2 but the key will be to keep them from scoring. Will be interesting who starts, with Theo out both wings are a question mark. I hope RVP gets 2 goals and wins the golden boot. Sorry to hear that Diaby can’t play, but unfortunately thats never surprising news.

  84. It seems rather ironic to criticize Chelsea for parking the bus when thats exactly what we did at the Nou Camp last season.

  85. and he bites….NKT!!!

  86. We didn’t park the bus at the Gnu Camp. We simply couldn’t get out of our half for long periods.

  87. @ firstlady
    What does NKT mean?

  88. Yes Bob, to hell in a handcart.

    Probably via Stoke.

  89. is it the same Luke H who is trolling the guardian pages

  90. Whisper it. But are Stoke really such a small town club? Are they doing whatever they can to survive, punching well above their weight against better financed clubs? Or (keep it quiet) are they an ugly team who are in fact very well funded and have no excuse for their survivalist mentality. I guess if the fans are happy….and they’re happy with their siege mentality, then what does it matter to us.
    How to beat them. Box clever. Get in their faces. And love it. And then, just when they’re distracted by our approach, hit them with some classic Wengerball. Not the possession stuff. The fast, clinical, angry variety. 1- 0

  91. @Bill

    We didn’t park the bus we couldn’t get the ball to play. the Chavs would get the ball and just boot it away.

  92. Brilliant Big AL!

    I am not worried about Stoke. Our team will be ready.

    As far as us playing against Barca last year, we played with 10 for most of the match. Cesc was a hinderance and non almost existant both physically and mentally.

  93. Reading Paul N, I am forced to ask the question: Are we better off with or without Cesc? After defending him so valiantly over the past two summers I have begun to ask myself the question especially when I read Rosicky speaking of the importance of the most advanced midfielder initiating the press when we lose the ball. During the slating of Denilson last season especially, for lack of speed etc, I always thought the criticism was particularly one-sided because Cesc was just as slow, failing very often to hound his nearest opponent when possession was lost. Maybe it is just revisionism on my part but I doubt it.

  94. Anonymous and Fun:

    No matter why it happened we parked a bus in front of their goal and to our credit it came close to working. The year before showed that the alternative was suicidal. If rationalizing makes you feel better then have at it.

  95. pedantic george

    I used to like Big Al’s stuff,One of us was also good,Not so sure about this Birdkamp fellow.Seems a bit of a woos to me.

  96. Well that is it – for me now Ramsey is not only scapegoat of the week but surely he must be scapegoat of the season now with the revelation that he actually broke his own leg prior to be tackled by Shawcross the other season, in order to get a fellow professional sent off, and one who is not that kind of player too!

    What a wanker, I can’t believe he would do that and let his team, his manager and most importantly himself down.

    Ramsey – you sir, are a disgrace.

  97. Matt:

    The idea that Aaron’s leg was broken before he was Shawcrossed has to be the single most delusional statement ever posted in this or any blog.

  98. Instrument?? Technically rather vague Andrew but infinitely better than organ! 😉

    Matt – I knew there was something I didn’t like about that Ramsey fellow.

    Whisper it quietly, but I hear he’s Welsh too.

  99. Welsh!!!! That’s it!!!!!

    I demand his sale immediately!!!!

    If not – I am going to organise a demonstration!!!!

  100. In all seriousness, I have only ever driven through Stoke, and even though it looks like a total shit hole, I have always tried to stay fairly open minded about the place.

    Then along came Tony Pulis and Stoke FC arrived in the Prem, with their shit football and thuggery and i started to form the opinion that the typical Stoke supporter is a knuckle dragging retard.

    After reading OOU’s brilliant piece today I started to think that maybe I was being a little unfair, but then Luke H arrived on the blog with his enlightening comments about Ramsey.

    Now I realise I was wrong – they are not knuckle dragging retards – they are in fact worse.

  101. This ramsey fella sounds nasty, so he intentionally broke his leg to get a player sent off, he must have learnt such despicable act from the croatian bloke – eduardo, shawcross must be sent a letter of apology for thinking he almost ended a player’s career

  102. Warning: this might cause short term brain freeze.
    Imagine stoke city playing fat sam’s bolton in jurasik park – i will say no more.

  103. Fungunner that is kenyan for that clicking sound one makes when they are really annoyed, I dont know what you guys call it.

    Atleast we attempted to play the ball, I dont remember our forward players turning into leftbacks during that game and I honestly hate it when teams park the bus against us whether they win or lose. I hold Swansea and Wesbrom in very high esteem for beating us the “right” way.

  104. I just saw Avengers Assemble. In case anyone cares about this type of thing, it is by far the best superhero film ever made (certainly the best of all of the the Marvel adaptations).

    I went in rather sceptical and came out a total convert.

    They even managed to make the Hulk cool!

  105. Jonny, the hulk man is cool, i mean he’s green 4 God’s sake, who turns green?

  106. We attempted to play we just couldn’t get a hold of the ball to play so intern we had to defend because well thats what you do when you try and get the ball and you dont but we still had our players trying to press up the pitch as to where the Chavs had Drogba playing LB, Kalou playing RB and 4 CB’s. The best part is that both us and the Chavs only had 10 men.

  107. Jonny:

    Even better then X men?? High praise. I will have to check it out.

  108. @Jonny

    Great I was hoping it was a good movie

  109. Guys have a look at this – wenger’s best quotes, some of are hilarious.

    • “We do not buy superstars.
    We make them.”

    • [Talking about Emmanuel
    Adebayor’s stamp on Robin van
    Persie] “I watched it when I got
    home and it looked very bad.
    You ask 100 people, 99 will say
    it’s very bad and the hundredth
    will be Mark Hughes.”

    • “I tried to watch the
    Tottenham match on television
    in my hotel yesterday, but I fell

    • [On Dennis Bergkamp’s
    qualities] “Intelligence and
    class. Class is of course, most of
    the time linked to what you can
    do with the ball, but the
    intelligence makes you use the
    technique in an efficient way.
    It’s like somebody who has a
    big vocabulary but he doesn’t
    say intelligent words, and
    somebody who has a big
    vocabulary but he can talk
    intelligently, and that’s what
    Dennis is all about. What he
    does, there’s always a head
    and always a brain. And his
    technique allows him to do
    what he sees, and what he
    decides to do”.

    • “A football team is like a
    beautiful woman. When you do
    not tell her, she forgets she is
    beautiful.” – A few words on
    team morale, I think.

    • [After Sol Campbell left for
    Portsmouth] “It is a big surprise
    to me because he cancelled his
    contract to go abroad. Have
    you sold Portsmouth to a
    foreign country?”.

    • [On Sir Alex Ferguson’s claim
    that Manchester United had been
    the best team in the league that
    season] “Everyone thinks they
    have the prettiest wife at
    home.” My personal favourite.

    • “When you represent a club
    it’s about values and qualities,
    not about passports.” – This was
    said after some fellow managers,
    including Alan Pardew (the man
    who now manages the
    multicultural world at Newcastle),
    had said Arsenal had too many
    foreign players.
    • “One of the things I
    discovered in Japan was from
    watching sumo wrestling. At
    the end you can never tell who
    has won the fight, and who has
    lost, because they do not show
    their emotion because it could
    embarrass the loser. It is
    unbelievable. That is why I try
    to teach my team politeness. It
    is only here in England that
    everybody pokes their tongue
    out when they win.” – A brilliant
    quote about sportsmanship in
    England, and a completely true
    one at that too.
    • “When I first came to Arsenal,
    I realised the back four were all
    university graduates in the art
    of defending. As for Tony
    Adams, I consider him to be a
    doctor of defence. He is simply

    This was compiled by oalmasri, a blogger i think.

  110. Arsene is hilarious simply put!

  111. Paulie Walnuts

    Firstly, top post Big Al,

    Secondly, if we concede via a set piece tomorrow we really shouldn`t berate anyone. It`s obviously how Stoke play & sometimes it works. I`m more concerned about how we go about the game in general than anything Shawcross-C&nt might get up too.

    Oh, & lastly, I`m sure I read someone earlier today post about a footballer actually breaking his own leg whilst not doing anything. I know there are some pampered prima donnas about these days but that just takes the biscuit. It`s just a matter of time before we have a spontaneous combustion in football – I really hope it`s Tony Pulis & all that`s left is his baseball cap. Joking of course

  112. C:

    Do you really think we went in there with the plan to play our usual game? Even if its true then we still ended up “parking the bus”. Myself I thought it was a great strategy, it almost worked.

    Its OK for us to play defensive football when we run into a team that is technically superior and better at ball possession. However, its not OK for PL teams to do the same thing against us? How does that make sense? They need results just like we did at the Nou Camp. Chelsea were down to 10 men for more then 1/2 the game and had no CB’s. What in the world were they supposed to do?

  113. @Bill

    No i don’t but at the same time i dont think we went in there with a “park the bus” mentality. There is a difference between playing counter attacking futbol and “parking the bus” futbol. When you “park the bus” you just defend and dont try to keep or maintain possession you just try to clear the ball but in counter attacking futbol yes you defend but then you try and maintain possession. For me the most damning thing about the Chavs performance(Again they got the result in there in the results business) is the fact that they took their strikers and made them LB/RB respectively. I have never been a fan of playing not to lose so even when we do it its maddening for me. That is the 1 thing that I actually respect about Pep’s Barca is the fact that they enforce their will and style of play and make you react adn change how you play home or away. O well what the hell do i know

  114. Bill – Yup better than any of them IMHO (I preferred X2 to X-Men BTW).

    The thing is it’s genuinely funny in places and the balancing act of all the characters is pulled off amazingly well. The characters are well fleshed out and the cross over bits from past films – especially Iron Man are pitch perfect.

    Joss Whedon is something of a comic book geek – and it’s paid off – they got the right man for the job.

    khalifha – as for the Hulk well yeah he’s cool in the comics, but both the film adaptations were really rather rubbish.

    And I used to work in a hospital – I’ve seen plenty of people turn green – or just about any other colour for that matter! 😛

  115. @ Matt | April 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm


  116. @ khalifha | April 27, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Good quotes. This one caught my eye:
    “One of the things I discovered in Japan was from watching sumo wrestling. At
    the end you can never tell who has won the fight, and who has lost, because they do not show their emotion because it could embarrass the loser. It is unbelievable. That is why I try to teach my team politeness. It is only here in England that
    everybody pokes their tongue out when they win.”

    Those sumo wrestlers must be difficult to emulate, as Wenger, for all his brilliance, is one of the most visibly bad losers around. Maybe I should blame the opposition for “embarassing” him. For many reasons, I hope we do not see that expression again this season.

    @ pedantic george

    Are you going to the match tomorrow? I will be making the journey up from the land of southern softies, and, by happy coincidence, I was hoping to pick up a bridge or two while I’m there.

  117. Cesc is cursed………………better off without him. His addition to Barcelona destroyed their season. No wonder we didn’t win anything for 7 years. We know about the injury curse, it was Cesc that was cursed!!

    Guardiola, couldn’t handle a single year without winning something big? Pfffttt. What a fucking loser.

  118. If you still don’t know that we don’t park the bus, than you should fuck off!

  119. @Ateeb

    Come here like Taz back in teh 90’s. but you do make me wonder is it Cesc that’s cursed? except we still have the injury curse i mean FFS did you forget that Abou Diaby is out again or that for half the season we had half our team and when we finally were getting everybody healthy we lost Arteta and Diaby and then Walcott. O we still have the injury curse please dont be mistaken

  120. It takes time to recover! Cesc’s curse will take time to wear off!

  121. The Swissrambler wrote a piece on finances at Stoke – Coates has porued a fair amount of money into the club, if I remember correctly.

  122. “Diaby is unwell” – does he have a doctor’s note?

  123. billyboots, that quote might have been taken in a certain context, but your right about wenger been a bad loser

  124. Johnny, my personal favourite was the xmen origins*wolverine – the best ever marvel film adaptation.

  125. I think Cesc’s curse is already wearing off as at the business end of the business we have played better minus the Wigan match

  126. Khalifa – really?! Personally, I thought that one was badly ‘mishandled’. 🙂

    Cricket news – Congrats to Chanderpaul, the 10th person in the history of test cricket the break the 10,000 run barrier.

    Arsenal complaints on Twitter – “2010 full silver membership cost £36, 2012 full silver membership costs £55 – Absolutely scandalous”

  127. As far as X Men movies, I thought “X Men: First class” was pretty good.

  128. @ Firstlady | April 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    “Fungunner that is kenyan for that clicking sound one makes when they are really annoyed, I dont know what you guys call it. ”

    aha. Thank you. Here we’d “Cah”. Or maybe “tsk”, but that’s more like mild irritation.

  129. Wigan defended and countered well the other evening.
    But they did not play a formation of 6-4-0. Revisionism is a strange and arcane art. I don’t get it.

  130. Anyway, this one’s for all the Stoke fans out there:

  131. What a brilliant video Jonny!

    The auroras look especially breathtaking but did you notice how the journey trajectory was altered on the approach to Stoke?

    I guess there was nothing of beauty to see there; some vacuums even a space station would baulk at …

  132. I read this earlier-really good piece-well balanced-I really don’t like playing Stoke

  133. There was an aurora over Stoke – caused by their fabled oat cakes wallowing in the municipal sewage pit.

  134. Yeah it’s beautiful. Stoke was definitely identified and conspicuously avoided. One can’t be ‘walking in the air’ whilst simultaneously vomiting in your spacesuit.

    It ruins the moment.

  135. All Gooner’s need to remember is that shit might float for a while but it soon get’s flushed away. Allardyce – is / has made a complete fool of himself at West Ham after out spending everyone in the division, who couldn’t handle a club the size of Newcastle who might see themselves as giants but are a one city team. Phil Brown – don’t even need to go into that one. Mark Hughes got the big job and promptly lost it and is now kicking lumps out of people in a relegation battle again.

    There have been a multitude of knuckle dragging shit kickers over the years with thugs as managers. 1 of 2 things happen either the club evolves under a new manager or they go down with some moron complaining that he never gets the chance of the big jobs.

    Stoke – the clock is ticking.

    Shawcross – karma’s coming for you.

  136. Exactly right Marc, as I was trying to suggest to Not Stoke Steve, earlier; ultimately, it’s poor business practice to play in the gutter when everyone is looking up – to carry on Jonny’s space station theme – at the stars.

    As you rightly say, for such managers and clubs, the clock is ticking …

  137. Last!

  138. Trying to be the anti-BB there AA?

    Binary opposition gone wrong.

  139. Dream on AA, johnny you aint sharp enough. LAST.

  140. Big Al – Excellent post mate, one of your best yet if I may say so.

    Khalifa – you would want to stay up all night to get LAST on this blog mate 🙂

    Jonny – Very cool time-lapse video, well done sir!

    MDGunner – HA!! Some nerve there mate! 🙂

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