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Arsenal Stoked After 2-nil Victory
Ted Harwood is a regular guest contributor to Arsenal Station. He lives in Chicago, IL, and has been an Arsenal supporter for the better part of a decade. Here, he takes a look at the new USA Arsenal site and I follow-up with my own thoughts on it below. Ted also writes about movies, music, and other cultural artifacts on his blog, Running Downhill. (For the record, Ted did not write the horrible pun in the ridiculous title.)
Arsène Wenger could look out of his office window and examine the barbarians at the gates of the Emirates. Rampaging centre forwards, calculating pundits, and the apocalyptic figure of Pestilence scrawling names on his list were gathering their forces. The Stoke team bus honked its horn and pushed them all aside, because, despite the nightmarish scenes outside of the stadium, there was still a football match to be played this weekend.
From the first five minutes of the game, one could tell that this was only going to be Arsenal’s day. Even without the suspended Song holding down the midfield, Arsenal opened the game dominating possession and looking decidedly hungry. Some might say that this is the way Arsenal always look before conceding one goal from one shot on some strange counterattack, but honestly, yesterday, Stoke just looked like they couldn’t be bothered apart from some speculative Delap Specials and the fruitless occasional run from Tuncay. The midfield trio of Cesc, Nasri, and Denilson all looked solid in retaining possession and sending balls forward to Eboué, Rosicky, and newly-minted striker Arshavin. The Russian’s first touch maybe just slightly let him down in the fifth minute after being slipped through on goal by another slick ball from Cesc, and Sorensen was able to slide in and block the chance.
After the opening few minutes, Stoke looked a little healthier, forcing a number of long throws and corners, but at the end of the day, not a single ball into the box from the Potters connected, Arsenal’s “weak” players marshaling every pass and throw out of the box. Arsenal soon regained the initiative, and in the 21st minute, Arshavin’s craft rewarded him as he poked the ball past Delap who stuck out his leg and gave away the simplest of penalties. Sorensen, who was quite good on the day, denied Cesc’s PK, having left his line a little earlier than allowed. Little use in complaining about that these days, though, it seems, and Arsenal merely continued their possession game, little bothered by the miss.
Five minutes later, the Spaniard and the Russian connected again, Arshavin collecting Cesc’s return pass inside the box, holding off his defender, and shooting it low into the far corner across Sorensen. 1-0. It was a deceptively simple goal, but it must be said that the way that Arshavin can generate power on a strike without his leg even moving can be quite stunning. The ball looked as if Arshavin had fired it out of a gun, his lack of backlift perhaps catching Sorensen off-guard. The rest of the half was all Arsenal, including a moment of tragicomical bad luck as Traore’s cross deflected off the far post and fell right in Cesc’s lap, only for his shot to rifle off of Eboué’s leg on the line as the Ivorian tried to leap out of the way.
The second half was more of the same, Stoke generating the occasional minor threat from crosses and throws but never troubling Almunia aside from one Ricardo Fuller effort late in the action. The score remained 1-0, but despite the best efforts of the television announcers to make it seem otherwise, supporters were never too nervous, and ten minutes from time, Aaron Ramsey collected a pass from Arshavin at the top of the box, took a touch, and used the outside of his foot to place a shot past a perplexed Sorensen. 2-0 to the Arsenal, and shades of what is hopefully to come from the 18-year old midfielder for many years.
The game was effectively over, but there were post-match worries about knocks to Gallas, Traore, and Rosicky, the latter looking set to miss a stretch of time again. If Traore is to miss time, it is probable that Silvestre will feature at left-back. The good news is that Diaby and Walcott should be back for Wednesday’s game in Greece, and no doubt the boss will be resting some players ahead of the Liverpool match. For now, though, 2-0 to the Arsenal, Chelsea lose in the North, and suddenly the hands of the pundits are reaching out to take back the trophy they’d handed over, showing the uselessness of making predictions about sports before the season is halfway over. Up the Gunners.