With Arsenal dropping another two points in a 1-1 draw at Stoke on Saturday, they dodged a major bullet when Newcastle was humbled 4-0 at Wigan. If Newcastle had won, like most fans expected, they’d be just one point behind the Gunners for third place with a game in hand. A win over Stoke might have sealed third spot by giving them a seven-point lead.
As it stands now, Arsenal sits in third position with 66 points and just two games to go while Newcastle has 62 points and a trio of games to play. If things did tighten up between now and the end of the campaign, Arsenal has quite a superior goal difference at 24 compared to the Magpies seven.
Peter Crouch headed Stoke into the lead in the ninth minute, while Robin van Persie scored his 28th league goal of the season just six minutes later to earn the draw. After the match, manager Arsene Wenger told ESPN that he thinks the powers that be in football should try to curb the offensive chants that are often heard at matches.
He said he couldn’t quite understand why midfielder Aaron Ramsey was a target of the Stoke boo-birds, since it was he who had his leg broken by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross two years ago in a brutal tackle, not vice versa. It’s understandable that Shawcross was jeered by Arsenal supporters, so Wenger figures Stoke’s fans at the Britannia Stadium just want to reply in kind.
Wenger said he doesn’t let the chants bother him personally if they’re directed at him since he’s been around long enough to basically ignore them. However, he feels that football will have to tackle the situation some time in the near future, since some of the chants can be quite sensitive and/or obscene. He said it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence or courage to sit in the stands and insult others. In fact, he said, it’s quite easy to do.
Wenger continued by saying he focuses on the task at hand during games, which is what he loves about football, and that’s to see how his players act on the pitch. He said he doesn’t have any control over the way supporters act in the stands and isn’t responsible for it, but feels it can easily be stopped because all supporters’ faces can be isolated in the crowd.
The Gunners’ manager said he sometimes thinks about taking a camera out onto the pitch with him after certain games and taking snapshots of adult fans who are hateful or angry. He said he imagines sending the photos to the person’s children to see how their parents act at football matches and then see if they react the same way again next game, or to see if they have been shamed into better behaviour.
Speaking about Ramsey, Wenger said supporters shouldn’t feel especially proud of booing him since he’s done nothing wrong. He added that it’s the same old story of supporters standing behind their players, but doesn’t feel it should go as far as booing the victim of a bad tackle. Stoke boss Tony Pulis admitted that the fans can sometimes go too far in their remarks and chants.
However, he didn’t criticize his club’s supporters or agree that Arsenal and Stoke crowds need to address the stormy relationship between them. Pulis said being abused is part of the job and it’s not just Wenger who feels the brunt of it. He claimed he also takes barbs from the crowd and Alex Ferguson probably gets the worst of it from fans all over the league. He added that it’s up to the heads of football to decide what is and what isn’t acceptable when it comes to chants and verbal abuse at grounds.