For a couple of games a season, I don’t like my last name. ‘Stokes’ is just too damn close to ‘Stoke’ for my liking, and although myself and the football team share little or no similarities, the ring of my surname irritates slightly. I guess it all goes back to that fateful day of Aaron Ramsey’s leg-break. Before that incident, no animosity appeared between the two Clubs. Now, it’s everywhere.
I don’t actually hate Stoke City or the vast majority of their fans. I loathe the select few who have taken to booing a player who had his leg snapped in two on their pitch and I don’t much care for the lumbering idiot responsible. Those that bay and taunt Ramsey for doing absolutely nothing at all wrong are moronic. All clubs have fans that take things a little too far – Arsenal being no exception – and with all the tension in the air it is good to remember that.
It’s also far more important to put all that to one side and focus on the fixture. The media love to stoke (pun intended) the fire before an occasion like this in the hope their actions promote further incidents they can sell their drivel off. Ensuring you don’t get embroiled in such a fiasco is often tricky, but invariably the best course of action.
The team news today is troubling defensively. Both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs are major doubts and Thomas Vermaelen isn’t 100% fit to cover at left-back. Should those 3 all miss out I’d assume Flamini will play there having done so during our 2006 run to the Champions League final – with great aplomb, I might add. Nothing is certain at this point. Mesut Ozil will return after slight hip trouble and being afforded a rest. Theo Walcott remains on crutches and Abou Diaby will not be in the squad due to his commitment to starring as a bewildered scientist in the latest Jurassic Park film. Hold onto your butts…
Assuming all of our injury concerns fail to make the match-day squad, I would guess the players will take to the field a little something like this:
March is a tough, tough month. Within the next 30 days we have some exceedingly important and challenging fixtures to navigate. Starting today with 3 points in a diffcult ground against testing opponents would be the perfect way to kick off that run.
Mark Hughes won’t totally go for the Tony Pulis, I’m-going-to-field-11-monsters-and-kick-lumps-out-of-the-opponents approach, but it’s doubtful he’ll shy away from the physical side of the game. Stoke have plenty of hefty units for the diminutive and cunning members of our attack to find their way past. We all know that it will be a fixture not for the faint hearted today.
I am confident of a win. Playing well and with the verve we have in attack, securing 3 points is a quest Arsenal are more than capable of completing. However, The Britannia Stadium is one of those grounds that I don’t feel all warm and gooey inside about the team visting. The atmosphere will be hostile and our hosts are sure to use that to their advantage. Keeping possession and starting on the front foot will be integral to success, as will be a stern and committed defensive performance.
I shall predict – boldly- a 3-0 win and a couple of goals from Mesut Ozil.
That’s all for today, folks. The comments await you below. What are your thoughts on the line up and the potential problem at left full-back? What do you think the final score will be? Let me know.
Tomorrow I shall return with a review of the game and, hopefully, lots of wonderful things to discuss. Until then, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.