This was supposed to be a preview of sorts of our trip to the land that football forgot but first, I must go off on a tangent and <rant> Today I made the mistake of wondering had Santi Cazorla cost Arsenal £32.5m like the amount that Chelsea paid for Hazard, would we see a collective press drool fest like we have over Hazard? That’s all I wondered. Of course, people wasted no time in taking offence, assuming that I was criticising Hazard (I wasn’t) and pointing out his five assists in two games. Good for him, but my point wasn’t really about him at all. At the time I didn’t have the stat to hand that Cazorla had created seven goal scoring opportunities on the opening day of the season, more than any other player in the league, and he can hardly be held responsible for the failure of the rest of the team to convert these to assists. My point had merely been how people tend to think that to get a quality player you have to pay a ‘quality price.’
The source of this debate had come about after Arsene had said that he was looking to buy ‘special players’ and a few people said, to paraphrase, that he needed to stop being stingy and pay ‘special prices,’ but that’s not how it works in football. Not any more. Can you sit there and tell me that that Podolski is not as good as Andy Carroll because he cost less than 50% of the Englishman’s price? Too many people think that a ‘big’ signing should come with a ‘big’ price but a look at some of the biggest names to come through Arsenal in recent years shows that this is simply not the case.
Granted, I am aware that we sometimes don’t go that extra mile to get the players we want and Wenger can be too strict on his ‘my price or no deal’ policy, but the belief that a player is only as good as his price tag is laughable, now more than ever in an over-inflated market.
So. Stoke at the weekend and we will be without Koscielny who has still not recovered from his calf injury which kept him out of the opening day’s match. That gives The BFG a chance to line up against Mordor’s finest, something he missed out on last year because of his own injury. Speaking to Arsenal.com, Per said
I didn’t go to Stoke last year because of my injury so this is a completely new experience for me as well. I hope to adapt quickly to Stoke and the situation and the way they play.
We have to switch on quickly and do the right thing. We have done a lot of things [in training] concerning set pieces, throw-ins and crosses.
We have to cover each other even more than the other games because they are very dangerous players, especially up front, and very tall players. Maybe we have to behave differently but we always want to show our own qualities.
I played against him [Crouch] at Wembley so it is not a new situation. When you look at Sunderland and Sessegnon and then one week later you play against Peter Crouch, it’s weird but you have to deal with this.
It’s good to hear that they have been practicing defending set-pieces because in 2011/12 Stoke scored more from set-pieces than any other team (58% of their goals came via this route). They can’t play football remember? Six of the nine goals we have conceded at the Britannia have come from a set-piece. Warning indeed.
We know exactly what we are going to get up there and since they returned to the Premier League in 2008 we have travelled to the Britannia on five occasions in all competitions and have only managed to win once (three defeats, one draw).
Wenger loves his stats and he should be aware that Stoke have managed to get on the scoresheet first in all five of those games and in four them the goals came within the first 11 minutes. We need to be awake from kick-off, of that there is no doubt. There is no time when facing Stoke at home to ‘get in to the game.’ To them, this is some sort of cup final and they will be ready for it.
As if our record in Stoke is not bad enough they are currently unbeaten at home in their last seven matches, although they’ve drawn the last three, the first of those draws being the 1-1 result we managed to get the last time we travelled through time to the land of the orcs.
I hate Stoke. I do. I can find no features about them that make them even slightly less detestable. They boo a player for having his leg broken and daring to be annoyed about that. Their manager sees nothing wrong in being nasty about our manager but yet their fans have a pink fit should Wenger dare mention them. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
I suppose the only good thing is that we are getting this game out of the way now and then we can forget about having to travel to that shit hole for another year (or longer if the football gods finally see sense and send them down).
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