A match against Stoke. There are predictions that can be confidently made ahead of the match. High on the list is that you will see a terrible challenge by Shawcross. We can tick that box. What wouldn’t have been on there would be that you would see Michael Owen throw a punch at an opponent. Yes, little cherub Michael Owen. That is what happens to players when they play for Tony Pulis.
I had a perfect view of the middle-aged man in the baseball cap throughout, barking out instructions at his charges, slamming the back of one hand into the palm of the other as he urged his pack to snap into challenges. Nacho Monreal, welcome to the Premier League.
For over an hour we watched a potential stalemate unfolding. Stoke sent the ball long into Arsenal territory, defensively assured again we retrieved it and pushed forward, with what I can only describe as “a little bit handbrake”. Not for the first time the visiting ‘keeper was inspired. It is not hard to see why Begovic is attracting the attention of the bigger clubs.
That endless cycle was broken when Arsene introduced Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski with just over twenty minutes to go. Fresh legs lifted the tempo, and for the umpteenth time a cynical Wilkinson foul on Theo Walcott brought us a free-kick in Poldi territory. The German did the business, but it would take a touchline conference between hapless officials to confirm the validity of the strike.
Cue the introduction of three strikers, and a hitherto unseen sense of urgency from the visitors. Arteta, to be fair, initiated the Owen incident with a trip every bit as cynical as Wilkinson, but all around witnessed the exchange that followed except the aforementioned hapless officials. Temperatures were raised, but thankfully this time supporters were venting their displeasure outwards rather than on each other. We can be grateful to Stoke for that at least.
So three vital points were gained on a day when Chelsea and Everton faltered. The post mortem in good company back at the pub was an even more enjoyable affair for that. Two league fixtures remain in February. Win them and we might just be right back in the mix for third and fourth places.
350 Responses to “Even Little Mickey Has Embraced The Dark Side”