Stoke City produced a memorable victory against a lackluster Arsenal side scoring two goals from long throws.
The first came on 11 minutes, Ricardo Fuller getting the merest of touches to Rory Delap’s throw and beating the challenge of Toure.
The second came in the 73rd minute and effectively killed the game off. Olofinjana went for a diving header but the ball came off his chest, back off the ground and through Almunia’s legs. Robin Van Persie then saw red for reacting to Thomas Sorenson’s tease by dropping the ball to the floor from a save and taking his time to pick it up. The Dutchman then barged the keeper over in a silly but provoked incident.
Clichy got a late consolation in the fourth minute of injury time, as his shot from 25 yards took a couple of deflections, the last off Higginbotham and into the bottom corner. It was a bad evening for the Gunners who didn’t have much in the way of chances while Delap had a header cleared off the line and Diao, a shot tipped wide from Almunia with the best for Stoke. Arsenal have injury worries too as Adebayor and Walcott went off and could miss the game against United.
Arsene Wenger spoke before the game of not being mentally obsessed with Stoke’s long throw tactics but succumbed to just that with his team selection. He opted to leave out man of the match Robin Van Persie to deplot a central 4-4-2, with Denilson and Diaby at each end to provide the width. This never happened as Stoke parked a midfield and defensive bank of four in front of the box and the Gunners had no answer to what was in front. The movement was lacking, as was the desire for the midfielders to commit themselves to the box which resorted to Arsenal having to play in front of the box and occasionally shoot at goal.
The lack of inventiveness created no chances of note for Arsenal. Kudos to Stoke for doing what they do best even though it’s not pretty. I’ll continue to keep the faith but we all know the title is all but gone.
Stoke: Sorensen, Griffin, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Amdy Faye, Olofinjana, Diao (78 Whelan) , Delap, Fuller (86 Cresswell) , Sidibe (90+6 Kitson)
Subs: Simonsen, Soares, Wilkinson, Sonko
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna (57 Walcott ), Toure, Silvestre, Clichy, Denilson (65 Van Persie) , Fabregas, Song Billong, Diaby, Adebayor (72 Vela ), Bendtner.
Subs not used: Fabianski, Nasri, Ramsey, Djourou
Referee: Rob Styles (Hampshire)