Good evening folks. A quick round-up of yesterday’s game and other news as the WOA team looks forward to Dev’s big 30th Birthday weekend (Happy 30th Dev!). How many times can I tell you that he’s 30 in one sentence? Just kidding Dev (Grandpa).
Condensing yesterday’s game into a small paragraph or two won’t be hard, as Stoke did what they do best, which is to convert a match of football into a boring, set piece-orientated slugfest. We started the game brightly, and could have finished them off in the first ten minutes. An early chance saw Theo Walcott through on goal, but he was unfortunate when his shot rebounded off the inside of the post and generously back into the arms of Begovic. The winning goal came just a few moments later in the 8th minute. And it came from a set piece (take note and learn, Stoke). Nicklas Bendtner did well to chest down an overshot corner and volley the ball back into the middle of the 6-yard box where Squillaci was on hand to nod it in. 1-0 to the Arsenal, and it would remain that way until the end.
Shortly after the goal Cesc had to be replaced by Arshavin with a hamstring strain. I really can’t remember anything else significant happening in the first half. The game seemed to dry up completely after Cesc went off, and Sczezsny pulled off a great diving save from a Carew shot to keep us ahead at the interval. The second half didn’t offer too much either. The best Arsenal chance came when Arshavin cut the ball back to Theo who completely miscued his shot with the goal at his mercy. I remember a similar chance in another game recently, and like then, he should have used his left foot to tuck it in.
We had some bad news moments later when Theo was stretchered off with an ankle sprain. Stoke had one decent chance from memory when Huth headed over a Stoke corner from a good position. Otherwise, for all their tedious long throws and corners, you have to say we held our own extremely well, and grounded out a vital 3 points which took us to one point off the top, with Manchester United having to play a couple of tricky away games in a few days.
It has since transpired that both Cesc and Theo will miss Sunday’s Carling Cup Final against Birmingham at Wembley, which is bad news, but I am confident we can cope without them. Birmingham worry me when I think of the prospect of playing against Zigic and Martins. However I am told that we will have our full-strength back 5 available for the game, and we are always capable of scoring goals with players like Nasri and Arshavin available. I have also read reports (albeit unconfirmed) that RVP will be back for the game too. Fingers crossed he is available, and we can only hope that Theo and Cesc come back for the Barcelona game on March 8th as they will be vital if we are to stand a chance at the Camp Nou.
So, Wembley is finally upon us, and a chance to end the trophy drought once and for all. I can’t see it being a classic encounter, but that really doesn’t matter if we end up lifting the trophy does it? A few of us will be heading to The Torch by the stadium for pre-match drinks for those who are going. Otherwise, let’s cross our fingers, legs, and all other cross-able body parts and pray that Theo and Cesc come back from injury ASAP. Come on you Gunners!