Exclusive

And so to Stoke…

By Frank Lee

The Britannia Ground is Arsene Wenger’s Reebok of the Emirates era

Saturday teatime. Arsenal, with three fixtures remaining, almost certainly need to win them all to give themselves some hope of a top four place. To Arsene Wenger, who has for a long time held his consistent ability to deliver Champions League football without failure (except for the season when he first arrived in England, when only two sides qualified), it’s a matter of personal pride, perhaps even vindication.

Adam tackles Sanchez – Not rugby of course

Will the club’s finishing position have an influence on whether he stays or goes? CL qualification would certainly strengthen his position, in the event that there is some doubt, although perhaps the bigger factor may be whether the manager is willing to work under a different structure, with some of the staff that work with him recruited by a director of football – even if the manager somewhat farcically claims not to know what a D.O.F. actually does. Maybe he should have a word with the club’s main transfer negotiator, Dick Law, who seems perfectly clear what the role entails.

Anyway, in a sea of uncertainty currently surrounding the club (and who know which players will be there at the conclusion of the next transfer window, whether a new manager will be picking the team or if not, then working under a different CEO), at least one thing seems beyond doubt. Arsenal need to win at Stoke tomorrow.

Since the Potteries club were promoted to the top flight under Tony Pulis in 2008, Arsenal’s record at the Britannia in the Premier League reads Played 8 Won 1 Drew 3 Lost 4. To complete the picture, Wenger’s side also lost an FA Cup 4th Round tie there in January 2010, the same season they achieved their solitary victory in the league.

So, with two home matches to follow against teams with nothing to play for, it is fair to say this is the make or break fixture. Punters who wish to find the best sport betting offers online will find that Arsenal are actually clear favourites to win tomorrow. Recent form is certainly on their side, having won five of their last six games. Stoke, on the other hand, have only won one. And yet, there are different rules when it comes to this particular meeting. It does not seem to apply when Arsenal are the hosts, but at the Britannia, there is no doubt that the home crowd raise themselves for this game.

It’s developed into a real must win match for them, the equivalent of a derby in its intensity. Mark Hughes may be the manager now, and made them slightly more of a footballing outfit with the use of players like Shaquiri, but there is unquestionably still a physicality in their approach, one that their supporters will ensure is carried out with total commitment. This is real ‘they don’t like it up ‘em’ stuff. The origins of this dislike go as far back as the memorable clashes in the early 1970s, not least the FA Cup Semi-Final in which Stoke narrowly lost to the Gunners after a replay.

However, in recent times, the bad feeling has been refueled. In their first visit to Stoke after their promotion, Arsenal were bullied off the pitch and lost 2-1. They were unable to handle Rory Delap’s long throw-ins, had Adebayor and Walcott injured due to bad challenges and Robin van Persie sent off. In fairness to Wenger, he did not complain too much, but things changed soon enough. The following season saw the infamous match in which Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg with a wreckless challenge and the following August, Wenger described Stoke as a rugby team by talking about a game his team were not even involved in.

The atmosphere was intense enough before that, but ever since, this is one match the home support, and the players, get themselves worked up for and love to win. So we see things like Stoke fans sporting Wenger masks and flailing their arms around in imitation of the Arsenal manager, and Charlie Adam tackling Alexis Sanchez by the throat.

Wenger could pull off a remarkable fourth spot if Manchester City, or more likely Liverpool, drop points, but if they do, it will mean them winning a fixture they have only managed to once in their last nine attempts. So whether you rely on the law of averages, form, or an Arsenal team turning up, don’t put your mortgage on an away win. The Gunners’ last three defeats have been to sides managed by Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce and Mauricio Pochettino. On none of those occasions did it look like the players really wanted to win their physical battles against more determined opposition.

12th May 2017 17:51:22

(6.5/10)

Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Time for change  19:22pm 12th May 2017

Hope Arsenal doesn't win. Fifth place and DOF and Wenger will walk. Wenger and Kronke out. - Post No. 107086


mbg  19:32pm 12th May 2017

If any game is to get TOF's apologists ranting and raving again with their conspiracies and excuses it's this one, how the rugby team are/were to blame, (even if they do out play us) it's just not fair, and how they would/will f*****g love it especially Hughes that's if their even bothered i'd imagine their more interested in the tempeture of the San Miguel in Spain, swing low sweet chariot. We want wenger out. - Post No. 107087


CORNISH GOONER  19:39pm 12th May 2017

Today's "Telegraph story", if correct, is beyond a joke & utterly, utterly depressing. Underachieving Premier League club managed by a grossly overrated, past it egotist & based in one of the world's richest cities is sliding inexorably into mediocrity & faces an inevitable eruption of a disillusioned, rebellious fan ****storm. I need a drink! - Post No. 107088


David1  20:36pm 12th May 2017

Arsenal can beat any side when 4th place is up for grabs - it's their comfort zone and summit of the abilities and confidence of half the team - Wally, Rambo, Giroud, the Ox, Xhaka Khan, et al. They look good - full of promise, some great touches of Wengerball, pace, great goals, solid. They beat the bogey teams and the top four teams. It's when there's the chance of winning the PL that the pressure exposes the limitations of the side and they crumble. With that well and truly gone, Arsenal must be odds on to finish in the top four. And Wenger and the AKBs will continue the delusion for another year. In all probability two years. - Post No. 107089


mbg  0:32am 13th May 2017

CORNISH, the first part of what you say is quite true and has already happened, and when the second part does come (and it most certainly will if this sad old past it manager signs on, or is allowed to sign on again) and the rebellious eruption and s***e storm from fans arrives I hope they remember the ones who already knew, and have already been rebelling for a good few years now, and if/when they don't we'll make sure and be here to remind them when they're rebelling and spitting their venon. Wenger out now. - Post No. 107090


mbg  1:06am 13th May 2017

Well done Chelsea, we can only dream, Arsenal are as far off now (even further) as they were Ten years ago, thanks wenger you past it old fraud. Go now wenger. - Post No. 107091


Petergooner  6:44am 13th May 2017

Yes well done Chelsea stopping Tottenham from winning league. Next Cup Final result 1-1 at 90 minutes in 91st minute I am sure Cesc Fabregas realises who made him the great player he is and at a Gooners corner accidentally puts the ball into his own net. Final score 2-1 Gooners. Also Wenger says he does not want Director of Football. Well we do need one and the best signing we could do this summer is get David Dean back. He will sort things out as he did originally and get us back playing like we did 10-15 years ago and win the league and even Champions League because he will get the top players in. - Post No. 107092


mbg  8:10am 13th May 2017

PeterGooner, keep dreaming and kidding yourself, there's only one change we need, and if you haven't realised that by now there's no hope for you. @no new contract, we want wenger out. - Post No. 107093


Hi Berry  8:33am 13th May 2017

Anyone in any doubts as to why Chelsea are champions and Arsenal are perpetual also-rans should read this excellent account of how an ambitious football club should be run: www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/39885837d - Post No. 107094


Bob Bayliss  9:51am 13th May 2017

The problem is that the club have masked their failings by playing on the fanbase's pavlovian obsession with Tottenham. However mediocre we have become, so long as we have somehow stumbled past Spurs the fans have been all too ready to overlook our failings. What we should have been doing since 2005 is benchmarking against Chelsea. Instead of bleating about Ronan Abramovich "parking Russian tanks on our lawn and firing £50 notes at us" back in 2005 David Dein would have been better advised sitting down with the manager and working out a strategy for keeping us competitive. Now, of course, the "rich foreign owner" excuse is no longer relevant. Abramovich is not writing them unlimited cheques, they are making astute signings (Kante) rather than throwing money in all directions, while Wenger has continued to pay too much money for people who are not really good enough. If this board had any ambition, they would source a manager who shared that ambition instead of continuing to pay this old has-been £10 million a year to coast. - Post No. 107095


CORNISH GOONER  11:03am 13th May 2017

Well spoken Bob B - right on the money. I congratulate Chelsea & wish we could get back the passion they show from their Italiano down through the squad. Can't help feeling envious & frustrated beyond belief at what L'Arse could have achieved over the last 10+ years. Mind you, in a one off game, I wouldn't put it past us to fluke a Cup Final win. And it would be a fluke because, if nothing else & in addition to his "spinning" skills the Old Frenchman has enjoyed more than his fair share of LUCK! - Post No. 107096


mbg  12:53pm 13th May 2017

Bob Bayliss, excellent post, and the NLD and no St Totteringhams Day this year wasn't in theirs or more precise TOF's plans, those pacifiers back fired on him big time that wasn't in his plans, but the old slimy snake in the grass still has the Cup final to keep the dissenters pacified if that doesn't back fire on him too, after all it's not second raters he's up against this time and can't rely on luck. wenger out now. - Post No. 107097


GoonerRon  19:45pm 13th May 2017

****ing loved that. Surely just for an hour or so we can all bask in the glow of beating those odious ****s managed by that dick and supported by those inbreds? - Post No. 107098


Exiled gooner in Pt  20:49pm 13th May 2017

Well said David1 , exactly that 4th place trophy and all of a sudden !! Please lets not forget the wonderful Mr Dein was quick to promote the wig wearing yank and made a lot of money helping sell our club off! Until the yank, Ivan the twat and the zip fiddler go we are nothing more than a laughing stock! We do not deserve to be in the top 5 , 9 defeats in a season does not warrant a place in the so called champions league. Absolute shambles from top to bottom, where is the club i was proud to support and fight for. We used to sing Chelski had no history will they are rapidly changing that!! Wankger out now - Post No. 107099


mbg  20:57pm 13th May 2017

At least the Eurovision song contests on at the minute it's always worth watching for a laugh at Ireland, and see everyone else gang up on England to make sure they don't win it, it's just as well Arsenal and wenger aren't in it, although it would be the perfect place for TOF to end up. Any resignation yet ? Wenger out. - Post No. 107100


Rippy  21:25pm 13th May 2017

If you can't be happy beating the orcs in mordor. You have no soul. That's was hilarious 1-4 suck on that Hughes 😂😂😂😂 - Post No. 107101


markymark  21:28pm 13th May 2017

Gooner Ron - yes we can all enjoy that one! The chippie brexit loving Orcs are put in their place. - Post No. 107102


Exiled gooner in Pt  21:56pm 13th May 2017

Fock me Stoke with nothing to play for, yes lets all run around Tottenham with our Willies hanging out!!!!! High 5 and kiss the badge the preening posers have done us pproud!! Glad my money is no longer filling the wank yanks pocket, lets all give Wankger another 2 years so we can sit and gloat when we manage to beat mid table bully boys!!!!!!!! - Post No. 107103


mbg  11:15am 14th May 2017

Like Arsenal the Eurovision didn't disappoint a bunch of wasters with silly accents talking shyte, conspiracies flying against England, and the worst song coming through and winning. Any resignation yet ? wenger out now. - Post No. 107104


Issue #265 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

28th May 2017

Per-Fect Ending

Online Ed: Arsenal win 7th FA Cup for Arsene Wenger with incredible performance