Arsenal 2-0 Stoke; the Tippy, the Tappy, and the Crappy

I don't believe I just won an Arsenal penalty!

Man of the Match

Man of the match, by a country mile, is Andrei Arshavin. He has gotten a lot of stick lately for his seemingly lazy play and his emo outbursts about the World Cup but yesterday he was neither lazy nor emo. He was simply scintillating.

He’s always maintained that he’s the right guy for the Center Forward spot, which on its face seems preposterous since he’s only 4’9″, and on yesterday’s performance he may very well have won over some detractors. He seems to have the strength, the touch, the vision, and the pace to do the job, especially since Arsenal love playing the ball on the ground.

His upper body strength was outstanding, holding off the 6’2″ 195 lb. Abdoulaye Faye to score the Arsenal first goal. But the little Russian isn’t all just raw power, his touch is mesmerizing, there were several plays where he was being harassed by the Stoke defenders only to turn them with ease and pick out an onrushing Arsenal man.

Obviously he’s not going to be the typical target man, you can’t lump the ball up to him and expect him to chest it down to an oncoming midfielder, but what you can do is lump the ball over the top where he has the pace to beat the defender to the ball and the vision to pick out the right pass.

If it hadn’t been for the outstanding keeping of Thomas Sorensen, who many Arsenal supporters must be wondering why we aren’t pursuing, Arshavin could easily have had a hat trick, plus several assists.

As it was, he just gets Man of the Match.

The Good

Despite Almunia’s shaky match, and don’t get me wrong, he had a nightmare, Arsenal managed to keep a clean sheet against a team which is supposedly custom built to beat Arsenal. If there are two things that all Arsenal supporters are tired of hearing about it’s that we are vulnerable on set plays and that we don’t like to be kicked. Yesterday showed that when we stay focused we can overcome both of those knocks.

Vermaelen was no less than magnificent, heading away the hundreds of long throws that Stoke lobbed toward us. The one type which is particularly bothersome is the one from just under the half-way line where Rory Decrap basically tries to throw the ball straight into the goal. Time and again they tried and time and again we repelled them. The real test will be in the swirling winds at the Brittania, where Decrap gets his own ball washer, and terrifies opponents with a combination of kicking and throwing but on the day, Arsenal knew the test was coming and stood tall against it. All that and with our most diminutive team on the pitch to date.

Speaking of diminutive, look who showed up!

Hai guize!

Stylish as ever, Freddie.

The Bad

The pain train continues.

Eduardo picked up a “thigh problem” ahead of yesterday’s match and is expected to be out until Liverpool on the 13th. Rosicky was subbed at half-time and it was revealed that he pulled his groin and will be out “for a while.” Traore was replaced by Silvestre at the death after a red card challenge by Wilkeson, but it was actually a hamstring problem which saw him taken off.  Eboue limped off with a muscular problem and was replaced by match winner Aaron Ramsey. And Gallas also picked up a hamstring problem yesterday. No word yet on when those three will be returning.

Arshavin picked up a kick on his ankle and will not play on Wednesday.

It’s not all bad news, Walcott could be back for the Olympiakos match, Diaby could be back for the Liverpool match, Bendtner could be back in 2-3 weeks (though it won’t be until January before he regains his form), and Song will return from his one-match suspension.

We’ve got some serious injury problems piling up and some supporters are already getting upset about the “lack of squad depth” but honestly you can’t expect to have long term injuries to both of your starting Center Forwards, both of your starting Left Backs, and one of your starting Center Halves without some problems.

I honestly feel we started the season with the depth to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League and have been unlucky with several major injuries. I mean, how can you plan for two broken feet, a broken back, a groin tear, and a knackered knee?

The Crapenburg

Mark Clattenburg did one thing right: he awarded Arsenal a penalty. After the Sportsmail’s campaign to ensure that Arsenal never win another penalty ever again I was pretty certain that the refs in the league had been instructed to be stingy in awarding Arsenal a spot kick. In this case, it was a stonewall penalty as Rory Decrap hauled down Arshavin in the area, Crapenburg had no choice.

What he could have gotten right, however, was Sorensen’s encroachment. There he had a choice, and you know that Arsenal should feel aggrieved when even the anti-Arsenal television announcers were calling for the penalty to be retaken.

That said, Cesc’s penalty was so poor that had he been forced to retake it I would be willing to bet that Sorensen would have stopped it as well.

As I have said, Clattenburg is not fit to oversee my Sunday pick-up matches. His style of officiating is exactly why there are no English refs in the World Cup and there never will be as long as the FA continues to support refs who call matches in which this is just a foul:

Andy Wilkinson is a cock knocker.

Wilkinson shouldn’t even have been on the pitch by the time he made this “tackle” and Clattenburg is a disgrace for allowing this thug to kick, punch, and injure Arsenal.


It was a great performance from Arsenal and the perfect response to shake off the hangover of the last two weeks. 3 points in the bag sees us go ahead of Tottenham who play Everton this morning and since Chelsea lost to Man City yesterday, the gap at the top is back to 8 points and Arsenal have a game in hand. Moreover, if you remember last season Chelsea had a match with Scolari in charge in which the whole squad started to revolt against him and throw a huge hissy fit in every match. Yesterday Chelsea had 6 yellow cards, their captain limped off, and Lampard had a tame penalty saved all the while complaining about Howard Webb. Howard Webb is another referee who is a joke and I can see why Chelsea would be angry: every time Webb referees Adebayor he sends him off and for some reason failed to do so yesterday.

Anyway, the league is wide open again with a bunch of teams piled at the top and as I have said many times it will probably be January and the Africa Cup of Nations knock on effect which will decide this season. Tellingly, Man U have very few players leaving in January while all the other contenders will lose crucial cogs in their machines. Arsenal don’t escape this effect as our Most Improved Player, Alex Song, will be representing his country.

That’s a long way off and what we need to do is focus on the next 4 weeks and keep our foot in the race. I still think Arsenal have the goods to win the league, but we need to stay close.

Liveblogging Arsenal v. Stoke

Good morning, 6:30 am over here in the States and the Pompey v. Burnley match is just wrapping up.  I’ll be back in a minute with the lineups but before I do, let me remind you to enter the tee-shirt giveaway:

Just in time for the holidays, is proud to partner with to present one lucky winner with their choice of one (1) of the following two shirts:

Either the Objectivo Red Card shirt,

or the Objectivo Retro Soccer Field shirt

To enter all you need to do send an email to with the correct answer to this question:

Arsenal have played 99 matches (in all competitions) in Emirates Stadium, how many goals have they scored? A) 309 B) 215 C) 156

Contest runs until Sunday @ Midnight (Pacific Standard Time) and the winner will be announced in Monday’s blog.

As many of you know, I like to promote football in America (especially Arsenal!) and I just stumbled on while reading another blog. When I checked out their mission statement I was surprised to find out that SoccerPro is an American soccer apparel retailer. After looking through their product line, from casual soccer shirts, to branded club gear, and player kit I actually approached them with the idea for this contest and they have been great to work with so far.

Anyway, have a look at some of their other Objectivo soccer shirts, you might find a neat gift there for your friend the Germany fan, the Cruyff fanatic, or the typically embittered Ireland supporter.

Cheers and good luck in the contest!

6:35 — Lineups are: Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Denilson, Fabregas, Rosicky; Eboue, Arshavin, Nasri. Subs: Senderos, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere, Fabianski, Merida. ATTENTION EVERYONE: There’s a Senderos sighting.

6:40 — Yesterday, Arsene Wenger talked about buying a player in January but that the player needs to be two things: World class and not cup tied in the Champions League. Then in his patronizing and smug manner he said “good luck” (finding one). At first I thought, yeah, that will be hard to find but since the Pompey v. Burnley match was on and I was bored, I scoured world football looking for a big striker, just the kind of hold-up player that people think we need. Evidently, they are all stacked up like cord wood in the Bundesliga because I found three in just a few minutes of searching: Stefan Kießling, Eren Derdiyok, and Kevin Kuranyi. I’m not saying that Arsenal will buy any of those, or that we could afford them, but it does prove that there are big, world-class, non-cup-tied strikers out there.

6:55 — Tommy Smyth and the crew of dudes on ESPN2 are babbling on about the World Cup draw. Is this what it’s going to be like for the next 7 months?

7:00 — Just found out why Arshavin is our lone striker: Eduardo pulled a muscle, the pain train continues.

Kickoff — @Said — we’re playing a 4-3-3 with Eboue and Nasri up front.  The Arsenal are starting bright and have already had a few moments in the Stoke box

3′ — DAMN…. Arshavin goes free on a 1 on 1 and his 1st touch is too heavy, Sorensen smothers and the ball goes out for a corner.

5′ — ANOTHER! Arshavin makes a lovely turn and Nasri makes a great run leaving him 1 on 1 with the keeper who parries the shot, third time a charm?

8′ — My 18 month old daughter is saying “Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal” come on boys, don’t break her little heart. Mooney gives away a cheap corner to Stoke and manages to get a fist on the ensuing cross.

10′ — Arsenal suck up a ton of Stoke pressure only to give the ball away in midfield. Denilson with the stupid foul in a dangerous area and TV5 is there to head the ball out for a throw…

12′ — Delap’s throw goes straight to Almunia who couldn’t catch a cold right now and he bobbles the ball. Clearly he’s struggling, it wasn’t that good of a throw.

15′ — Arsenal aren’t even playing a 4-6-0 Xabier, it’s more like a 7-0-3. We are getting overrun in the midfield.

17′ — Eboue makes a great run and puts in a good cross that is dealt with well by the Stoke defense. The corner leads to nothing.

19′ — Clattenburg allowing Stoke to kick Arsenal a bit already, but we win the ball back.

20′ — MIRACLE — Arsenal win a penalty when Rory Delap sticks his foot out and trips Arshavin… Cesc’s penalty is saved by Sorensen. Craptacular.

22′ — Cesc is getting hammered in the midfield and Clattenburg is just letting play go on.

25′ — Arshavin makes another great run and Rosicky plays a great ball in only for the Little Russian to screw the shot so wide it goes out for a throw.

26′ — Arshavin makes up for his profligacy and scores a great goal, holding off some Stoke clod-hopper who tried to take him down. 1-0 to the Arsenal and our first goal in 200 minutes.

28′ — INCREDIBLE — Traore puts in a great cross which actually hits the far post leaving Eboue standing stock still in front of the goal, Cesc comes in to put the goal away and it’s blocked… BY EBOUE

30′ — My hands are getting tired from typing about blown chances over and over! Long throw to Stoke…

32′ — Long throw by Decrap and Crapenburg calls a foul when two Stoke players back into him, a bit lucky there for Mooney.

35′ — Mrs. Kicker is talking about making me breakfast. Bacon, beans, eggs… I feel loved.

37′ — Arshavin is everywhere, he nips the ball from Denilson, dribbles into the teeth of the Stoke defense, plays in Cesc, who’s shot is smartly saved by Sorensen. It should be 5-0 except Sorensen is having a great 1st half.

40′ — Typical English refereeing: let the foreign players get kicked, thrown, tackled and man-handled out of the game and as soon as they retaliate with a little tackle, it’s a foul. Is there any wonder why there are no English refs in the World Cup?

45′ — Arsenal dealing very well with the long throws of Decrap. Looks like they have settled down a bit.

47′ — Arsenal closing down space to finish the first half, denying the Stoke players room to lob in their long balls.

48′ — Shout for hand ball as Nasri hits the ball off a Stoke defender falls on deaf ears, Nasri’s shot high and wide.

Halftime — Arsenal look very hungry to get their season back on track and if it weren’t for bad luck and incredible goalkeeping they’d have at least 3 goals at this point. Let’s hope that bad luck doesn’t come back and bite us.

Vela on, Rosicky off — I have to think Rosicky is injured as Wenger subs him for Vela at half time.

47′ — Wilkenson stamps TV5 and Crapenburg calls for a foul, he must have mistaken Vermaelen for an Englishman.

50′ — Arshavin with a snap shot and another great save from Sorensen.

51′ — Do the announcers actually know anything about football? One of them just called Huth throwing Sagna down in the box a “good old fashioned shoulder charge.”

54′ — Stoke’s 5th defender, Eboue, comes off for Rambo. I suppose Wenger will push Cesc up front? Also, fingers crossed that Eboue not’s injured.

56′ — Cesc puts in a great ball over the top and Arshavin just bothered enough by Faye to keep him out of the goal. I feel a hat-trick is in the cards for the Russian. Oh, and Rambo is playing wide right, odd.

60′ — Arsenal reverting back to form, lots of cute passes, some standing around, and Vela has had only one touch in 15 minutes. We’ve taken our foot off the gas a bit…

63′ — Beattie on Sidibe off, Arsenal deal with the long throw again.

64′ — Arshavin’s shot deflected again.

66′ — Vela, two touches, one time on the ground. Keep your feet, son

69′ — Great pass and run by Rambo leads to a corner and Arsenal have had 8 corners with 0 shots on goal from them.

72′ — Lots of good interplay but the final ball is not quite there for the Arsenal. Stoke, for their part are content to sit back and wait for their one shot.

75′ — Vela, 5 touches, 2 times on the ground. To be fair, the Stoke player did foul the hell out of him on the last one.

76′ — Stokes Wilkeson leaves his foot in challenging Traore on a cross and Traore goes down. The physio came over and checked him, and he’s back up. Is that  the bit of luck we were looking for?

79′ — RAMBO DRAWS SECOND BLOOD — 2-0 to the Arsenal as Rambo pursues on a broken play, dribbles into the teeth of the Stoke defense and fires low into the short side. Lovely bit of individual play from the Welsh Wunderkind.

81′ — Decrap off, WHO? On.

83′ — Arsenal look like they smell blood in the water and want to pile more pain on Stoke, everyone is playing lively now, even the normally quiescent Denilson.

85′ — Jesus makes deft touch, flicking the ball over his opponent and then playing on to the Ruskie, who’s first touch lets him down and allows Wilkeson to put in a tackle. Another blown chance off of some of the most beautiful football I’ve ever seen.

88′ — Traore off, Silvestre on, fingers crossed it’s not another injury.

89′ — Vela with a nice bit of dribble and pass to Rambo who’s shot is straight at the keeper. Easy save for Sorensen, his easiest of the night I reckon.

90′ — 4 minutes of “Rory Decrap Wiping off the Ball” time.

90′ — I just noticed that Silvestre is the master of the high pants

Full time

Arsenal were outstanding over the entire 90 minutes, the bad luck and even carrying a passenger (Denilson) didn’t hurt them too much and it’s 3 points in the bag. Warren Barton (who people keep assuring me is an Arsenal supporter) has ruled Arsenal out of the title race, despite the fact that Chelsea take on Man City in 30 minutes and could easily drop points there and bring Arsenal within 8 points of the leaders.

Right, that’s it for today tune in tomorrow for the Good, Bad, and Ugly.

WAG of the Week (WoW) #1: Claire Merry and her Dirty Pretty Things

Claire Merry shows us the goods

I’m wanting to expand the blog a bit, so I’m trying something new by introducing a WAG of the Week (WoW). The women might not always be current girlfriends/wives, though I will try, and they will almost certainly not be limited to Arsenal players. One other thing, I won’t be posting private photos or anything that I consider paparazzi fare. Basically, if she’s not a model and it’s not a pro shoot I’m not posting it. That’s why it’s impossible to limit this to just Arsenal players! The Arsenal guys are all so wholesome it’s not even funny. I mean, Jermain Defoe has more stripper/model/porn actress WAGS associated with him than the entire history of the Arsenal side. And that was just last month.

Anyway, without further ado, the first fits all the requirements; she was married to Thierry Henry, she’s hella (yes, I did use ‘hella’) hot at 31 years old, and she’s pushing a new lingere line called Dirty Pretty Things. I can’t guarantee that these clothes will make your old lady look like Claire Merry, but I can guarantee if you buy some, you will have a “Merry” Holiday!

Anyway, this one below was my favorite off her site, meander on over there and tell us all which one is yours!

Nice, erm, unders!