Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke: Podolski breaks Stoke hearts, and I laugh

Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke
Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

This wasn’t a great game…
It’s hardly surprising when you consider the opposition.  Stoke are a horrible side, in every respect.  I find their style of play and their character equally repulsive.

Their performance at the Emirates was one of the most negative I’ve ever seen by a Premier League team.  It was a strange tactical decision when you consider our vulnerability at the back.  If Stoke had gone for us, we might just have buckled.

As it was, we simply had to be patient, and the late introduction of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski helped bring about the tipping point.  When Stoke did occasionally venture forward, Mertesacker and Koscielny had more than enough to deal with anything The Potters threw at them.

I’m delighted the goal was scored in ‘controversial’ circumstances…
The brief reprieve provided by the linesman only made the crushing blow of Podolski’s goal all the more profound for Stoke’s players and manager.  It hurt them, and I’m glad it did.

Nacho Gonzalez…
…had a solid if unspectacular debut.  I suspect we’ll accustomed to describing him in that manner: he seems to be a no-nonsense, safety-first kind of player.  That’s fine by me: not enough of our supposed defenders are willing to be defenders first and foremost.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain…
…is having a difficult season.  If only there was a cliche to describe the struggles of a player who made a significant impact in their first season, only to then struggle to replicate that form second time round.  Alas.

Chamberlain has two basic problems.  The first is that the outstanding form of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski has limited his opportunities.  The second issue is that when he is afforded a chance to start, he invariably tries too hard to impress.  On one occasion on Saturday he beat his man to get to the byline, only to turn back and try to beat him a further two times.  By the time he eventually got his cross away, all the men in the middle were marked.

The Ox could learn something from Podolski: efficiency is key.

One of the most interesting battles took place away from the pitch…
Bizarrely, the Arsenal stewards decided that the second half of this heated game would be the opportune moment to try and convince the singing section of the crowd to break the habit of a lifetime (well, six-and-a-half years) and sit down.  Needless to say, they failed, and gave up after about ten minutes amid chants of, “Stand up if you love Arsenal!”.

On the subject of the Arsenal fans…
I can’t help but chuckle at our continued failure to master the scansion of one of our own chants.  Arsenal fans are fond of singing a certain ditty that implies that the mother of the manager of our local rivals may be seeking employment as a lady of the night.

Whenever the manager changes, so must the chant.  While there is usually a period of adaptation, we are now six months in to Andre Villas Boas’ reign, and still that chant dwindles embarrassing out whenever it reaches that crucial point.

The problem, it would seem, is the sheer number of syllables in Villas Boas’ name.  Might I suggest using the popular acronym ‘AVB’, and that way we can get on with questioning the honour of his mother in the time-honoured tradition.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.