It’s been a very sunny bank holiday weekend so far, and of course, we all hope that today will be the same. For those of you who had a chance to go to the game yesterday or had a chance to watch the game or highlights on TV, then you’d appreciate the carnival atmosphere that was prevalant yesterday. The march, organised by REDaction, had an amazing turnout with thousands of Arsenal fans joining in the support of Arsene.
Pre-game, the sun was shining and smiles all round. When the line-up was announced there were a few confused people, seeing a 4-5-1 formation named, but as soon as the game started, it was clear to see that it was a 4-3-3, very much intent on attacking… the line up was:
Sagna – Toure – Song – Gibbs
Denilson – Cesc – Diaby
Walcott – Van Persie – Arshavin
With the fluidity of the team, players seemed to move around different positions with ease, and attacking wise, it was masterful. The background noise pre-game was the omission of Adebayor through a groin injury – something reported by Arsene but not substatiated by the medical staff.
The game started well with the home team obviously ready to attack and it looked the order of the day was to put on a show, the pressure was off and the boys duly applied the pressure. So much pressure, that the first goal came through an own goal by none other than Stoke’s player of the season, Beattie. It was 2-0 surely after as Van Persie was fouled in the area and scored his 19th from the penalty spot, before his pinpoint free kick saw Diaby head the ball in emphatically to make it 3-0 within 20 minutes.
Ricardo Fuller was the only player on the Stoke side with anything really menacing going forward, and won a penalty and converted it to make it 3-1 – Fuller not being in the good books having feigned injury earlier on. An instant reply from Van Persie made it 4-1 after a very bad header back to the header was intercept and volleyed into the back of the net by Van Persie. And the scoreline of 4-1 doesn’t tell the story of the first half – it could have been twice as much as Walcott, Arshavin and Van Persie were simply electric.
Van Persie hasn’t scored a free kick since I can remember and he nearly broke his duct as his free kick crashed back off the bar, a subsequent over head kick by Arshavin saved by the replacement keeper – Simonsen having been substituted on the 20 minute (3-0 down) mark.
The second half was full of chances, although, it was also clear that Stoke were on a damage limitation mode. Vela, Bendtner and Eboue all came on for three stars of the first half in Sagna, Vela and Walcott. The England man due to play for both the Under 21′s and the full national side over the coming months – more on that later – but here’s what Arsene said about the game:
“It was good to let the team get some credit. I believe we played during the whole season in a difficult position but overall it was good to finish well and have the crowd happy before we start next season. At Man United and today it was important for us not to play sloppy and to give a message out that we can come back next year and be strong.”
And experience has been surely gained by the ups and downs this season and we, as fans, have seen the becoming of players such as Song, Gibbs and a vast improvement in Denilson and Bendtner. The manager reflecting on the season:
“The difficult thing for a manager is feeling that the team has stood still. I feel that we had to re-find a balance after the departures of Hleb and Flamini and the injury to Rosicky. We had a little bit of a dodgy start but in the last 23 games we only lost once against Chelsea here.”
The manager’s decision not to add to the squad seems decisive in terms of our progress this season, but he’s ready to add to the squad in order to challenge for next season:
“I feel the team is moving forward but the question we have to analyse now is are we strong enough to win the League next year? If not, what do we need to add to the squad? That is the basic question we have to answer. There is some great quality here, that is for sure. The squad is very young, that is for sure as well.”
And finally, Arsene spoke on the support by the fans, who were all very vocal during the game and noted by the gaffer:
“It makes me feel appreciated and even more regretful that we couldn’t give them what they wanted this season. I am very respectful for their faith in me. It’s very warming and it makes me even more determined to pay them back.”
That’s it for today… there’s a picture special coming soon for the end of season finale… in the meantime, relax, put your feet up and get ready for the summer of speculation!
Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna (Eboue 57), Toure, Song Billong, Gibbs, Diaby, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin (Vela 71), van Persie, Walcott (Bendtner 46).
Subs Not Used: Szczesny, Ramsey, Silvestre, Djourou.
Goals: Beattie 10 og, van Persie 16 pen, Diaby 18, van Persie 41.
Stoke: Simonsen (Sorensen 21), Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Dickinson, Lawrence, Diao (Pugh 64), Whelan, Delap, Beattie, Fuller (Cresswell 69).
Subs Not Used: Olofinjana, Kelly, Tonge, Sonko.
Goals: Fuller 31 pen.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).