A match against Stoke, for me anyway, is a battle of emotions.
After the shockingly horrendous incident where Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken, it is a fixture that riles me. Note how I don’t refer to it as an “accident” because it wasn’t that.
I don’t care what anyone says, the incident was reckless, disgusting and still angers me to this day. The way the Stoke fans, players and staff defended Ryan Shawcross made the incident even worse.
If you’ve played football at any level, then you know about intent on the pitch and there’s something called awareness for other players a responsibility to not injure others. Otherwise football would be like Street Fighter where players were flying in from all angles. When Shawcross flew in that that he knew full well that he was going to hurt someone. When you don’t have possession, football is about getting the ball back. So by his actions instead of me closing down a player and trying to win the ball it would be perfectly acceptable for me to fly in on someone who had their back against me and was shielding the ball? My defence then would obviously be that “but I was going for the ball”.
Of course that’s not acceptable.
But what is worse is the idiotic Stoke fans who somehow thought it would be acceptable (and funny no doubt) to mock Aaron Ramsey throughout every subsequent game.
I can understand some fans banter and I’m sure Arsenal fans are not completely innocent throughout the years, but the Stoke fans really take the biscuit.
I know what the Stoke fans chanted yesterday and it’s interesting to note that the behaviour of the supporters in the ground never gets media coverage. There’s a fear of isolating football clubs and tarnishing the games reputation – the chants Manchester United fans direct at Arsene Wenger also come to mind – but burying our heads in the sand is counter-productive.
Fortunately Arsenal fans can use social media to highlight these incidents but it still disgusts me how the Stoke fans “behave”.
And because of all that, it is a game with more significance that most other league fixtures.
It’s game where Arsenal fans badly want a win because it would “show Stoke”. And yesterday, it was another battle.
We were without Mesut Özil, which was a good thing because a player like him would probably get injured against a physical Stoke side. But without Özil we struggle creatively and chances were few and far between.
Olivier Giroud who has been on fire of late was denied a couple of times by Jack Butland who was in excellent form. Firstly from a header and then he came out quickly to deny Giroud when he was put through by Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Stoke had several decent chances too and Petr Cech, once again, was sensational.
Without Cech in goal Arsenal wouldn’t be title contenders, plain and simple, and we would be fifth in the table right now.
I can think of countless matches (Newcastle at home for instance) where he kept us in the game. It’s easy to highlight the influence of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil but Cech has for me, been our best player this season.
When I see the saves he makes, I can see Szczesny conceding those shots and the difference Cech makes is unreal. He has easily earned us 10 points this season already, which would put us in 7th place, below West Ham United.
I asked the Twittisphere yesterday whether Arsenal fans thought it was a good point or bad point against Stoke, and most fans replied it was a good point. And it’s hard to disagree. Stoke away is always a tricky fixture and perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect a win at their ground, and maybe leaving their with something is the most important thing.
We’re still top of the league (level on points with Leicester City) and we just need to keep looking forward and getting those points on the board.