Well good morning all. The great thing about football is the next game is always around the corner and you have a chance to put the last game behind you. Today we travel to Stoke City after the worst five minutes of Wenger’s Reign. So Insiders lets be positive and hope we see a backlash today. I’ve been talking to Potters fan Richard about their first season in the Prem and our trip to the Britannia Stadium.
PGL: So is the Premiership what your expected?
Richard: Yes I think it is. We expected to get less chances than before and be punished for our mistakes and that is exactly what has happened, but we have remained competitive in most of our games and surprised a few people. Many people, including some Stokies, expected us to “do a Derby” but we have proved we are better than that.
PGL: Is there an extra buzz with one of the ‘Big Four’ arriving?
Richard: There is certainly a bigger build up and they are obviously the first fixtures you pick out on the fixture list. For Stoke fans though Arsenal and Man Utd are the 2 games they pick out, not Chelsea or Liverpool. With United it is for the obvious anti-glory hunter reasons, but with Arsenal it is mainly due to long memories of older Stoke fans from the 2 epic FA Cup semi-finals in the 70’s. I was brought up by my Dad building up Arsenal as the team to beat and for many that remains to this day, particulary those fans over the age of 40.
PGL: I can’t imagine many Gooners have been to the Britannia Stadium, what can we expect?
Richard: Expect possibly the coldest ground in England. The stadium is built on top of a hill and somebody had the genius idea of keeping the corners open, so when the wind blows it can be bitterly cold. Also expect a lot of noise as this year has been great with all sides of the ground joining in the singing and Sky measuring us as the loudest in the league.
PGL: Dave Kitson seems to be having a tough time settling in, have Stoke fans been impressed with him?
Richard: In a word, no. Not only has he failed to score but he has started to look like he can’t be bothered and that is something we can’t warm to here. To be fair to him we have not really played to his strengths as yet and he has enough about him to get it right in the end. I think he will win the fans over eventually but he still has a way to go on that score.
PGL: You’ve been given the ‘long ball, physical side’ tag this year. How do fans see this? Are you just playing to your strengths like any other Premiership side?
Richard: I think the “long ball, physical side” is a little harsh, I would say more “direct, competitive”. We do get the ball forward quickly and play once it is at the other end of the pitch, but a lot sides do this to a greater or lesser degree, only when they do it is a “wonderful long pass”. If sides think we are the old kick and rush Wimbledon then they will come undone as there is much more to our game than that (see Fuller’s goal v Aston Villa and the second v Spurs). As for being physical we are certainly going to hassle and harry and throw bodies around a bit, but again this is just our strength. If we ignored what we are good at and sat back to let others play a bit and then tried to out pass them going forward we would stand no chance. I think none of the fans care how we are viewed as long as the matches are entertaining and we pick up points.
PGL: Rory Delap’s long throw seems to be talked about every week, in every football show, is this distracting from the good work done by the rest of the side?
Richard: Rory’s throw is a weapon that every side would use if they had it and it is better than a corner. Strangely the Championship defences seemed to cope with it better than Premiership ones. I agree that it is taking away from the rest of the team to the outside media but I assure you that the Stokies appreciate the efforts of the rest of the team. As long as people continue to focus on the throw then we can still surprise people with the efforts and abilities of the others.
PGL: With our defense looking shaky, will Ricardo Fuller be the key to your game plan?
Richard: Ric is a problem for any defence as I don’t know any defenders who enjoy a striker who loves to turn and run at them. He has the ability to produce a bit of magic from anywhere and now he is approaching full fitness again he is starting to find the net (and the post 4 times in 2 games). There are others though who can cause problems – Sidibe doesn’t score many but he is a real handful who can hold the ball up and Delap (ball at feet), Soares and Olofinjana all pose a threat. Oh and of course the throws-ins!
PGL: We suffered a real dent on Wednesday, are you worried about a blacklash from our players?
Richard: We were going to be worries about your players anyway so I am not sure a backlash is going to make it any worse! The last minute or so on Wednesday was one of those rare events that happen in football to make it the great game that it is and I am sure Arsene Wenger will not let it happen again. The Arsenal players will be out to prove a point to everybody, but so will we and it should make for an interesting game.
PGL: And finally, what’s your prediction for the game?
Richard: This is a real heart vs head question. You will put us under a lot of pressure and we must concentrate and not make any slip ups at the back otherwise we will be punished. By the same token if you concede throw-ins anywhere within 30 yards of goal then anything can happen as they can be a nightmare to defend against. I am going to be brave and say 1-1 with Stoke hanging on for a precious point!
PGL: I really don’t know what to expect today Insiders. Nothing less than three points will be acceptable. It will be interesting to see the response of the players and indeed the manager. Nothing less than 100% concentration will get us through this game. Stoke will cause us problems in the air and of midfield and defense will have to work as one collective unit. Who will get the armband? Kolo is the official vice-captain but perhaps Cesc will be asked to be more vocal too. This side needs leaders.
I’m going for a 1-2 win. Squeaky bum time yet again.