So, having dropped five of the last six league points it’s fair to say that the margin for error has all but disappeared for us in today’s match against Stoke. As always a trip to play this lot away is anticipated about as eagerly as a vasectomy due partly to the fact that it will be a hard game and partly because Stoke are complete and utter twats.
We’re looking at arguably the most pivotal of the three remaining rounds of fixtures for us in the league this weekend. On paper, this would appear to be our toughest remaining game and failing to win would take finishing third out of our hands as Newcastle would have the opportunity to overtake us, Tottenham would have the chance to match our points tally and even Chelsea could potentially close to within a single point (though I don’t think all three things could happen because I’m reasonably sure Newcastle are playing Chelsea soon). Since beating Stoke is so thoroughly enjoyable, I’d suggest winning today’s match to make sure that doesn’t happen.
We’ve looked a little out of steam in the last couple of games which I suppose is natural when you have a squad of 25 players for a season and the manager can’t rely on a significant number of them with the result that roughly the same 15 players have featured in every match. It’s very possible that legs are heavy and minds are tired but the team needs to find the way to one last push to get the necessary points to make sure we end up in third place.
And really, it has to be third now. After Chelsea’s qualification for the Champions League final, finishing fourth would simply be too great a risk as Chelsea lifting the Champions League, in addition to being nauseatingly horrifying would also take our place in the competition away for next season and I fancy that prospect about as much as Ann Widdecombe. So third is officially the new fourth. We might view it as a just reward for our efforts this season, but the fact is the fight isn’t over yet and we can’t imagine for a second that it is.
Arsene Wenger says we’ll be ready for what Stoke throw (literally) at us today. At the end of the day, one thing Stoke are not is subtle, we know what to expect from them and in fairness it’s something this Arsenal team has learned to deal with over the years. The manager says,
“I believe that Stoke is always a difficult opponent for us and everybody. Every big team who goes to Stoke knows they get a game.
“From our side we are in a position where we want to win our remaining games. That is the only chance to master our future. We have our future in our own hands but only if we win the three games.
“That starts with Stoke so we are completely focused on cancelling their strong points but as well we want to score goals because that is what you need to win the games.
“They have played many games as well. They played in the Europa League and in the FA Cup so they have played many games this season. So that will not be an excuse from our side.”
This time of season always throws up a few odd results because fatigue and weariness sets in but as the manager says, it’s not just a long season for us but for our opponents as well. We’re not the only ones who have to shrug off past exertions to perform today, Stoke have had a tough season themselves, probably one they don’t reflect on too fondly when it comes to their league campaign which does appear to have suffered for their involvement in European football.
Thomas Vermaelen says the team is ready for the “battle” at Stoke today. Quite rightly he points out that if our players aren’t put off and play in the way that they like to then we’ll cause them a few problems as well. The Verminator says,
“If there is a battle, sometimes you have to fight back. But the main thing is to play our own game, with quick passing. That is the way to score.
“Of course we must fight for every ball but the main thing is to keep to our own game and score a lot of goals.”
A lot of goals. I like that. If anything’s going to give us a chance of winning today it’s scoring a lot of goals. Big goals, little goals, thin ones, fat ones, give me goals of all shapes and sizes. Knocking loads in will beat Stoke, I dare you to challenge Vermaelen’s logic.
So, it’s one of those games today where the importance is clear but the match doesn’t bear too much more analysing. We know what they’re about, we know what we’re about. Let’s get on with it, and let’s do them. I hope.
Ok, that’s all for today. Take it easy and I’m back soon.