In the run up to yet another top four chase, Arsenal face what is usually a tricky trip to Stoke City today. After bouncing back with two back to back wins, following the Tottenham game, against Manchester United and Southampton, there are good signs going into the match but as all Arsenal fans know, Stoke City away is not a given.
However, with a disappointing record of only one win away at the Brittania, or Bet365 stadium if that’s what you choose to call it now, that will be the game in focus. However, not just because of the win but also because of a moment which sparked a sort of separation between the two clubs. You’ve probably guessed it’s that Aaron Ramsey incident which occurred on February 27th 2010, a game which saw Arsenal battle from behind after Ramsey was stretchered off.
If you remember anything from the Premier League seven years ago, it’s that Stoke were a very different proposition to now, with Tony Pulis in the dugout and Rory Delap’s long throw-ins a theme to their game rather than the skill of players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic. But before we get into the match here were the starting lineups, including a certain ‘Lord Bendtner’ up front for Arsenal:
Rory Delap long throws proved to be a problem early on as Stoke only took eight minutes to profit from one. He found Danny Pugh at the far post who headed home, a mode of conceding that Arsenal were quite familiar with at the time.
But finally, Arsenal hit back with a header of their own through Nicklas Bendtner after half an hour. After finding their rhythm in a game which has been particularly difficult over the years, a young Cesc Fabregas found the Danish striker with a cross before he put the ball past then Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Unfortunately, this would be the only sight at goal for Arsenal before half time as even though the travelling Gunners began to establish themselves on the game and create a few chances, none were good enough.
Now into the second half, and looking back, this was a sign of things to come as Aaron Ramsey had a penalty appeal ignored after being brought down in the box by Abdoulaye Faye. But before we get there, there was a surprising sight as an Emmanuel Eboué shot from range almost found its way in as Sorensen unconvincingly pushed the ball over.
It was just after the hour mark when the game took a turn for the worse. After stealing the ball off Bendtner in midfield, Ryan Shawcross’ heavy touch invited Ramsey to pinch possession back, but the centre-back didn’t want to give up on the loose ball swinging his left foot into the challenge with force, shattering Ramsey’s leg and causing the medics to be called onto the pitch instantly by almost every player and the referee, with Glenn Whelan and Bendtner trying to assist him to the best of their abilities.
Shawcross was shown a straight red and deservedly so for what Arsene Wenger described as “an unacceptable tackle” but it took a bit longer to tell what the fate of Ramsey was. With the reactions of everyone around, Cesc Fabregas and Sol Campbell in particular, it could only bring back the memories of that Eduardo injury from two seasons earlier, which effectively caused the striker’s career to decline after recovering.
The Welshman was then shipped off in an ambulance after receiving treatment on the pitch. After the game, Fabregas also pointed out that this was the third incident like this he’d seen happen to an Arsenal player in five years, Abou Diaby at Sunderland and Eduardo at Birmingham being the other two occasions, which also highlighted how this wasn’t just affecting Ramsey but Arsenal as a club too.
This was evident as on the pitch as it took the players some time to find the flow they had before. However, unlike the capitulation after Eduardo’s injury at St. Andrew’s in 2008, the players dug deep to rescue 3 points from the game with Fabregas saying “We learned unfortunately when it happened to Eduardo, I think that day we lost the league, it’s very difficult to stand up after that but we learned from that and we showed character”.
Now creating chance after chance in the closing stages of the game Bendtner looked to make a crucial pass inside the area but the ball was handled by Pugh. Penalty to Arsenal. The man to step up was Fabregas who made no mistakes from 12 yards and buried the penalty in front of the Arsenal fans before making it 3-1 moments later after squaring a rebound from Tomas Rosicky’s shot for Thomas Vermaelen to knock into the net and send Arsenal players and fans alike into celebration after a well fought victory.
Luckily for Ramsey, the injury wasn’t career ending as we all know and the midfielder has become a regular player in the Arsenal squad of late. However, even though he manages to get on the pitch now there are some unsavory occurrences when he plays against Stoke as he is usually booed by their fans for reasons which are beyond me but have sparked a bit of a rivalry between the clubs.
Ramsey has also scored against Stoke since his return from injury, celebrating by shushing the travelling fans at The Emirates, so let’s hope he can silence the Potters again this time around.