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Arsenal 3 Stoke 1: Lessons Learned from the Gunners’ Victory

Ramsey is one of the most in-form players in Europe at the moment

The world’s most exciting league had its fair share of twists and turns as Gameweek 5 began with Liverpool knocked off the summit of the table following a surprising home loss to Southampton. If you thought that an away victory for So’ton against Liverpool was astonishing, I’m certain that I saw a rainbow outside my house in Lagos, Nigeria as John Mikel Obi, yes, the goal-shy John Mikel Obi, scored his first league goal for Chelsea since the days King Arthur ruled Camelot.

Sunday began with a lunchtime fixture between Arsenal and Stoke City and lot was spoken in regard to the Gooners’ profound hatred for the lead Orc, Ryan Shawcross, after he halted Aaron Rasmey’s fledgling career, albeit temporarily, with a horrific tackle but the Welsh Dragon had put the past behind him and focused on the game ahead.

Despite the fact that he was in a very rich vein of goalscoring form, Arsenal fans were hoping that he was going to score against a dreadful side like Stoke, although they aren’t that dreadful under Mark Hughes, as he has transformed them from a Rugby outfit to a rather decent footballing side.

At the end of 90 minutes, Arsenal earned an all-important victory that propelled them to the top of the Premier League, and this has given the fans a renewed sense of optimism as this might just be the year *coughs*

Without any further ado, here are some lessons I’ve learned from the Gunners victory over Stoke.

Mesut Ozil – He Assists When He Wants

https://twitter.com/goonerdaily/status/378895576450211840

Despite the fact that he signed just 22 days ago, it still seems like a fantasy.

Mesut Ozil, Europe’s most potent creative force in the last five seasons, is actually a Gunner, and he has picked up where he left off as it took him just 11 minutes of Premier League football to create his first assist in Arsenal colors. When the Gunners traveled to the French riviera to take on Marseille, Ozil executed a neat back heeled pass to Kieran Gibbs and if the fullback had converted that chance, it would have been assist #2 for m-OZIL-la Firefox.

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In his home debut, Ozil was a class act yet again as he supplied all three assists for his teammates. The first was a delightful free kick that was parried by Asmir Begovic into Ramsey’s path and the Welsh Dragon wasted no time in picking his spot and slotting it past the goalie. The second assist was a neatly executed corner kick that was nodded by the Big Friendly Giant, Per Mertesacker. Ozil’s final assist on the day was an inch-perfect cross that was converted courtesy of a dipping header from Bacary Sagna.

As expected, Arsene Wenger was effusive in his praise for his German perpetual assist-creating machine of the first kind, 

“When you look at Ozil’s numbers, the assists are not a coincidence, it’s just the reality of his game. I believe that once he is completely integrated we’ll see even more of him but he has shown today that he is a great player.”

In rather simpler terms, Mesut Ozil assists when he wants.

The Ramsey Inferno Keeps Burning

I really think that we need some ice around the Emirates, because the Gunners’ Welsh Dragon, Aaron Ramsey, is scorching hot. After just eight appearances, Ramsey is leading the Gunners’ goalscoring charts with seven goals to his name, which is his best goalscoring return in a top flight season.

News Photo: Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal celebrates scoring a goal…

Arshavin-esque celebration (via Getty Images)

The fascinating thing about Ramsey’s goalscoring form is how simple he has kept his football, eradicating his previous over-elaborate style of play and now his every move is now carefully thought out, which shows maturity way beyond his years. Amazingly, Ramsey has also shown a predatory instinct in the box as well as the edge of the area and his composure has allowed him to convert his chances with clinical accuracy.

With Mikel Arteta on his way to full fitness, Mathieu Flamini will be to be sacrificed because Ramsey is on supernova at the moment and we can only hope that his amazing form continues.

Arsenal – a Threat from Set Pieces?

At some point in my life as a thoroughbred Arsenal fan, I loathed and dreaded games against Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side because their Route-One style of play, coupled with the massive beasts of players in their disposal, was more than a match for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side that was all peaches and cream. Anytime that Bolton side had a set piece, the Gunners were always sweating in their pants as the chances of conceding a goal was very high.

As the years went by, Arsenal focused so much on creating goals from open play but offered little or no threat from set pieces due to the surprisingly limited amount of natural free kick takers as well as defenders that hardly threatened from attacking corners. Stoke City on the other hand, are a team renowned for the prowess in dead ball situation and they applied it to devastating effect in the league.

Yesterday, Arsenal beat Stoke in their own game (not Rugby though), as Arsene Wenger’s side scored all three goals from dead balls courtesy of some excellent delivery from Mesut Ozil. Last season, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta tried their luck from dead balls in the course of the campaign, but more times than normal, their attempts were wasteful.

In Ozil, the Gunners have a player that is blessed with a cultured left foot blessed by the gods of Mount Olympus themselves, and the more Ozil will get on the end of those set pieces, the better for everyone in the team. An assist can only be worthwhile if the pass is converted into a goal so due credit must also go to Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna for picking their spots in Begovic’s goal.

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There are a lot of lessons that have been learned from Arsenal’s victory against Stoke. Feel free to share yours with your comments.

Sayonara.

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Post-Stoke Ramblings and More on Monreal

Couldn’t have wished for a stiffer test than Stoke

When the odds were firmly stacked against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they shocked the football world by ousting the tournament favorites, Ivory Coast. Emmanuel Emenike sent in an unstoppable piledriver to but his team ahead but Chieck Tiote equalized early in the second half for the Ivorians.

When Ivory Coast thought that they were going to run away with the contest, Sunday said MBA!!!

It was truly another great weekend of Premier League action as various teams strutted their stuffs yet again in England’s elite competition.

Manchester United edged closer to their 20th Premier League crown through Wayne Rooney’s individual brilliance against Fulham. While everyone continues to annoyingly sing van Persie’s tunes, Shrek has been phenomenal for them as well.

In the blue half of Manchester, Roberto Mancini’s petro-goons didn’t do enough to put pressure on the league leaders as they dropped points at home to Anfield. Steven Gerrard’s belter was a goal worthy of winning any contest but Pepe Reina’s stupidity was on show as Kun Aguero did really well to score from a somewhat impossible angle.

The battle for the other Champions League positions intensified as Chelsea’s malaise continued with a loss to the Francophone Newcastle, Everton were lucky to share the spoils with Aston Villa and Tottenham’s Chimpanzee was the difference between a point and three.

After week 25, it’s “as you were” in the top as Arsenal remain in sixth place after the well-deserved 1-0 victory over Stoke. The victory helped Arsene Wenger’s men to close the gap on the teams above them and as we all know, the Gunners are running out of games so they have to make everyone count.

Unlike in recent times, the defending was better and Arsenal’s first clean sheet in six Premier League games was highly welcome. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were relatively untroubled by an isolated Peter Crouch but the team defended some scary throw-ins from Shotton.

While Arsenal’s defense flourished, the attack was on song and it’s fair to say that the 1-0 scoreline was flattering to Stoke. Asmir Begovic turned on the style to make some top drawer saves but none can be compared to his spectacular save from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first timed effort after receiving an inch-perfect pass from Jack Wilshere.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud threatened the Stoke back line as well, and it was heartwarming to see Walcott giving Andy Wilkinson a torrid time. It took a Wilkinson tackle on Walcott to create the goalscoring opportunity on the edge of the area and Lukas Podolski took the chance clinically, taking his tally for the season to one dozen.

The return of Mikel Arteta was timely, and he worked his arse off in midfield alongside Wilshere and Abou Diaby. For the first time in a long while, Arsenal excelled on the pitch without Santi Cazorla’s magic but when the going got tough, Wenger summoned his midfield conjurer and he almost had a hand in what would have been the match clincher if his shot was a few inches lower.

There was a player that was cheered every time he got the ball unlike Ryan Shawcross that was rightly booed when he was close to the ball as well. This player inherited the jersey vacated by Alex Song and after having just one training session with his new club, he was sent straight into battle against Stoke City.

In his role as at the left back position, Nacho Monreal put up a great outing in his baptism of fire against Stoke. I really enjoyed that moment when he clashed heads with Jon Walters and it was the Stoke forward that came second best, causing the Stoke physios to wrap his big head with a bandage.

Monreal was very disciplined in his debut with the Gunners and he balanced his attacking and defensive play superbly. While doing a relatively efficient job at the back, he showed off his attacking prowess when he connected well with Wilshere before swinging in a cross towards Giroud’s path but the Stoke rearguard did their bit to quell the attack.

After the game, Arsene Wenger was pleased with his new recruit’s performance (via Sky Sports),

“Nacho Monreal had a good start for a player who just arrived yesterday and is in the team.

“He did not have time to think about it, but he got stronger and stronger during the game.

“There is no better culture shock than Stoke when you come from Spain! They had a very physical game and I think he dealt well with it.”

Wenger also stated that his team has improved in their physicality and he gave his reasons why he signed Monreal. The boss openly stated that Gibbs untimely injury forced his hand and he signed a player that he believed would be able to integrate easily into Arsenal’s style of play.

Monreal on the other hand, has stated that Arsenal’s style of play is beneficial to him (via Arsenal.com) and he intends to take some inspiration from his compatriot and former Malaga teammate, Santi Cazorla, that has been an instant hit since his arrival to the Emirates.

Monreal’s experience will come in handy in the coming weeks and Arsenal will hope that their new left back would get better and better with each passing game. This also means that it’s the end of the line for Andre Santos, that will probably be on the move in the summer.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 1 Stoke 0: Football Prevails Over Rugby

What a relief!!!

What’s not to hate about Stoke City?

The fact that they are football’s rugby outfit? Their baseball bat wielding gaffer? Ryan Shawcross? You name it…

Despite the fact that Tottenham dropped points yet again to Norwich, Everton’s win against West Brom in midweek reshaped the destiny of teams vying for that coveted fourth place finish and every game has more or less become a six-pointer for Arsenal.

With another inspiring performance in midweek that failed to reap dividends, Arsene Wenger made five changes to the squad that shared the spoils with Liverpool. Newbie, Nacho Monreal was handed his Arsenal debut in Andre Santos’ stead, Laurent Koscielny replaced the injured Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta replaced Aaron Ramsey in midfield and there were spaces for Abou Diaby and the Ox as they replaced Santi Cazorla and Podolski.

The Ox was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Stoke back line and he drew first blood with a tame effort that went wide. Arteta carved open the Stoke rearguard with an inch-perfect pass to Theo Walcott but the Englishman’s cutback evaded his teammates in the box.

Arsenal’s wing play continued to flourish and another chance came from the right when Bacary Sagna flicked the ball to Diaby whose control was perfect as you would expect from the lanky technician but his cross to Olivier Giroud didn’t reach its intended target, as some pressure from Robert Huth made Giroud nod the ball wide.

Walcott used his pace to devastating effect against Andy Wilkinson but his cross was very poor to say the least. Jack Wilshere swung in the resulting corner and an unmarked Ox fired the ball straight at Asmir Begovic making a great chance to go begging. Arsenal continued to threaten Stoke with more cross and the Emirates crowd was shocked to see Giroud look for a teammate in the six-yard box when he should have headed his effort at goal.

Right at the death, Wilshere showed off his trickery to find the Ox with a pin-point pass and the winger wasted no time in latching his effort to the top corner but Begovic was on hand to make another superb save.

Begovic had a stormer in goal

At the stroke of halftime, Monreal clashed heads with Jon Walters, which caused the Stoke forward to get wrapped up as he was second best in the challenge.

Arsenal began the second half with more urgency and new boy, Nacho Monreal, showcased his attacking prowess when he executed a neat one-two with Wilshere but his cross was blocked with Giroud lurking.

Wenger brought in reinforcements in the forms of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski for Diaby and the vibrant Ox.

Sagna committed a needless foul on the right hand side and I feared for the worst when those goons from the Stoke rearguard came into Arsenal’s box but the Gunners defended the set piece well and launched a counter attack through Santi Cazorla. Glenn Whelan took one for his team by impeding the Spanish maestro.

Cazorla’s influence in the game continued to grow and he located Giroud with a perfectly timed cross but the Frenchman’s dipping header just glanced wide.

After huffing and puffing for the best part of 78 minutes, Arsenal got a break when Walcott was fouled on the edge of the area and after some discussions between the dead ball specialists, Podolski got the nod to take the free kick. The Emirates held its breath at the sound of Chris Foy’s whistle but went into raptures when Podolski’s effort deflected off Whelan to beat the red-hot Begovic in goal.

While the Gunners celebrated their well-deserved breakthrough, a moment of controversy arrived when the linesman, who was probably high on free-to-air weed decided to raise his flag for what he felt was an offside by Olivier Giroud. The livid Arsenal players surrounded the official and Chris Foy had a decision to make.

To the relief of Arsene Wenger, the players and Arsenal fans worldwide, Foy made the right decision and awarded the goal much to the delight of the home crowd at the Emirates.

Podolski almost turned from hero to villain when he uncharacteristically gave possession away but Cazorla did very well to intercept the ball and waltz into the 18-yard box before blasting his shot over the bar.

Wenger wasted some minutes by bringing on Ramsey for Walcott and the final whistle was like music to the ears of every Arsenal fan as the victory over Stoke propelled the Gunners into fourth place following Everton’s enthralling 3-3 draw with Aston Villa. To make things even sweeter, Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko inspired 3-2 over Chelsea has put the Gunners just two points behind their London rivals.

A win for Tottenham will drop the Gunners to fifth place though.

Arsene Wenger lauded his team’s belief and confidence in his post-match interview (via Arsenal.com) and he also shared his thoughts about his new signing and that Ryan Shawcross tackle on Koscielny.

All in all, it was a very good performance for the Gunners and it’s okay to say that once again, football prevailed over rugby.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Arsenal’s Draw with Stoke City

The Battle of Beanpoles won by ze Big Fuckin’ Giant

After a somewhat disappointing draw against Sunderland, the stage was set for another gruelling encounter for Arsene Wenger and his Red Army. The Gunners braced themselves to visit a ground that they had managed to record a meager four points from their last four visits, the dreaded Brittania Stadium.

Stoke almost drew first blood when Peter Crouch cushioned a header to Jon Walters that dispatched his effort goalwards but the offside flag spared Arsenal’s blushes. Chances in the first half were few and far between but there were some long range efforts from Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Stoke’s Michael Kightly with both efforts saved with consummate ease by both goalies.

The second half was a familiar story as both sides showed off their sloppiness but a scary moment arrived when Kieran Gibbs was adjudged to have fouled John Legend…Jermaine Pennant in the box but the ref was having none of it. I’m pretty sure that it might have been a different outcome if it was Eden Hazard.

Olivier Giroud had a great chance in the box to give Arsenal the lead when he was unmarked in the box but he chose to go for the spectacular when he had enough time to control the ball before blasting at goal. It was also reminiscent of the defense-splitting pass Cazorla handed him against Sunderland but he rushed his effort and a good chance went begging.

A rush of blood to the head I guess.

Giroud almost put his name on the back pages when he attempted an audacious speculative effort late on but his long-range shot skimmed the roof of the net to go over the bar. That act irked Arsene Wenger in the dugout, as he knew that Aaron Ramsey was in a better position to score after he had made a lot of ground in anticipation of a pass from Giroud.

Giroud stated afterwardsthat he had not noticed his teammate so he had to go for it,

“I hoped it would go in. I saw the keeper off his line and I did not see Aaron [in the middle] for a cross. So I tried to take my chance.”

In the wake of Arsenal’s goalless stalemate against Stoke that felt like two points lost rather than a point gained, here are my carefully considered thoughts on the team’s performance.

VITO MANNONE’S ASSURED PERFORMANCE

When Gooners learned that Wojciech Szczesny had suffered a minor rib injury and his deputy, Lukasz Fabianski, wasn’t fully fit as well, the panic button was pressed so hard, it sprang out of its remote control. Arsenal’s “want-away” third choice goalie, Vito Mannone, was to be the custodian between the sticks.

There were complaints about his lack of concentration like the horrendous act he committed when Arsenal played Olympiakos but these same fans that criticized Mannone heavily before the game sang his praises when he put up a five-star performance against Fulham in Craven Cottage a few seasons ago.

Despite being protected like a baby by Arsenal’s rearguard, Mannone came up with the goods as he commanded his area admirably by jumping the highest to claim crosses as well as keeping his concentration levels in check against a Stoke side were concentration was key in challenging the aerial threat they posed. He also did well to palm Kightly’s shot and looked assured all game long.

Mannone will probably go back to the bench when the Polish duo are fully fit but I’m sure that he got a pat in the back from his boss for keeping a clean sheet. Keepers are also paid for that as well.

Good third choice goalie?

 

AN EFFICIENT DEFENSIVE OUTING

With Kenwyne Jones warming the bench, Stoke’s gaffer, Tony Pulis, started with Peter Crouch and Jon Walters in his forward line, with a simple tactic worth its weight in gold – for Crouch to pluck out the ball from the air linking up well with his strike partner, Walters. In the seventh minute, a lofted ball into Arsenal’s box was cushioned to Walters’ path by Crouch, and the forward wasted no time in slamming Mannone’s goal but the offside flag came to Arsenal’s rescue.

That was the only setback Arsenal had defensively all game long as the rearguard worked extremely hard to quell every threat Stoke posed from the air.

The stand-out performer was the Big F*ckin’ Giant, Per Mertesacker. Many Gooners are in the opinion that Laurent Koscielny will be an automatic starter alongside club captain, Thomas Vermaelen but Mertesacker’s performance against an aerially-adept side like Stoke showed his importance to the squad. Time after time, the German threw himself in the line of fire to deal with his fellow beanpole, Crouch, and he won a large chunk of his aerial duels with Crouchinus.

Thomas Vermaelen put up another disciplined performance as he aims to be Arsenal’s new Tony Adams. Last season, Vermaelen made many forays forward leaving loopholes behind but both games against Sunderland and Stoke have shown that Vermaelen has adhered to Steve Bould’s instructions and he knows his role in the team.

There was a moment when he attacked the Stoke back line but he was clattered by Andy Wilkinson with a tackle worthy of a sending off but the ref chose to brandish a yellow card. Vermaelen also leaped as high as a pole vaulter, without the poles of course, in his bid to win aerial balls in the air.

Vermaelen on Shaolin mode

Kudos must also go to Arsenal’s young starlets on the full backs positions, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. They didn’t offer much in attack but they are compact defensively and offered no breathing space to Stoke’s wingers, Michael Kightly and Jermaine Pennant. In a brief cameo upfront, Jenkinson drilled in a brilliant cross to Abou Diaby, but as expected, the lanky Frenchman ran out of ideas and he spurned the chance. Gibbs on the other hand, was quite poor with his distribution in attack as he worked well with Lukas Podolski on the left but his output on the final third was found wanting.

ANOTHER INDUSTRIOUS MIDFIELD PERFORMANCE

An Alex Song-less midfield went through another game without creativity from the middle of the park and there were no trademark projectiles to feed the forward line. Songinho has also been on the news lately, revealing that he left Arsenal because the club failed to offer him a new deal.

His 204 games, 10 goals and 24 assists are now a part of history but focus must be on the players that want to be in the team, not others that left for the greens and reasons best known to Chuck Norris and the King Cobra that died after five days of agonizing pain.

Arsenal’s midfield triumvirate at the start of the game was Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla. The diminutive magician was an inspired form yet again as he continued to pull the strings in midfield, linking up brilliantly with his teammates and spraying passes all over the place. Cazorla also took responsibility for taking Arsenal’s boatload of corner kicks but Arteta picked up where his fellow Spaniard left off when he was substituted for Aaron Ramsey.

Diaby put up a better show that his stinker against Sunderland as he didn’t dwell on the ball too much and he was on the end of some neat one-twos. However, Diaby should have done better with the chance offered to him on a platter inside Stoke’s box but he blasted his effort wide after dallying on the ball.

Despite another performance that has seen Diaby end the game unscathed, I still feel that Arsenal will be better suited with a ready-made replacement for Alex Song, as Diaby cannot be trusted to stay fit all season long. Arteta was industrious in Arsenal’s midfield and he covered Diaby’s tracks well when he waltzed forward.

Santi was watched closely by his Stoke opponents

ANOTHER TOOTHLESS ATTACK YET AGAIN

Arsenal played six matches in the pre-season and had ten goals to show for it. The game against FC Cologne was so encouraging and it’s worth noting that two forwards, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho, got on the score sheet in that fixture. However, Podolski and Gervinho have started both fixtures against Sunderland and Stoke but they have no goals to show for it.

Gervinho was breathtaking against Sunderland but he put up an atrocious performance against Stoke. His decision-making was suspect yet again and he kept on taking on defenders when a simple pass to a teammate was a better option.

Podolski on the other hand had a quiet outing when he spearheaded the attack against Sunderland but he was very direct in his approach when he started from the left hand side on Sunday. He had a couple of shots against Stoke and the signs looked encouraging, but strikers are judged on goals, and Podolski has been found wanting.

Olivier Giroud has been touted as Robin van Persie’s replacement and I have a hunch that the burden of expectation is taking its toll on the forward. He had a great chance in the box to get his side forward but he chose to attempt an acrobatic effort that bounced on the ground before going wide. He also fired a speculative effort late on that went over the bar.

Lukas Podolski - Stoke City v Arsenal - Premier League

Andy Wilkinson’s last-ditch block against Podolski

Giroud has urged the fans for patience and Arsene Wenger stated that the club lacked oil in its engine but Wenger was quick to defend his misfiring strikeforce,

“If you want to convince me we lost an exceptional player [in Robin van Persie] you are wasting your time. I was the first to say that. “We have to find a way to get around that by sharing more of the goals than we did before with Van Persie. Giroud scored 20 [last season], Podolski scored 20. We will get some goals I’m convinced from [Abou] Diaby, [Aaron] Ramsay, [Theo] Walcott, Gervinho, so we have of course to share it around a bit.” 

Overall, it was labelled as a disappointment against a Stoke side that the Gunners were capable of beating, but plaudits should go to Steve Bould and his defensive unit for instilling some confidence in Arsenal’s rearguard. The zonal marking on display was very impressive and many Gunners were never afraid to put their bodies in the line of fire in their attempts to win the ball.

Despite having over ten corners or so, Arsenal didn’t threaten Stoke from set pieces but the odds of beating Stoke in their own game was slim to none. Even with the height advantage Mertesacker, Diaby and Giroud offered, Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth got the upper hand in many aerial duels.

Finally, I must say that I’ve been hugely impressed with the new signings as they’ve already integrated themselves in the Arsenal way of life. Santi Cazorla has been dissed as a poor man’s Fabregas but the Spaniard has been a shining light in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield as he continues to pull all the strings in midfield.

Lukas Podolski played very well on the left wing and he made direct runs forward, winning free kicks for his team. Olivier Giroud has been showing off his great off the ball movement and he has really linked up well with his teammates.

In due time, the floodgates will open for Arsenal’s new forwards and the goals will start creeping in.

A true test awaits the Gunners at Anfield.

I just shared my thoughts on the Stoke game.

Feel free to share yours with your comments. Sayonara.

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3 Key Lessons Learned From the Battle of Britannia

Apologies for not publishing the Stoke match report yesterday.

I spent a large chunk of yesterday with i.am.OGB and the Cousins of Ciroc popping a thing or two and having a blast at Elegushi Private Beach. The night was quite young so I, my cousin El Nnanna and his crew went to Caliente to have a swell time but it was accompanied by a long hangover afterwards.

Despite all these shenanigans, I took some time out to watch the replay of the Arsenal – Stoke game knowing fully that it ended in a draw. However, I took solace with the fact that the consistently inconsistent Wigan tore the Premier League script to smash four past Newcastle. While the ball for third place still remains in Arsenal’s court, there’s a new twist in the tail of the final coveted Champions League spot.

Kyle Walker got on the score sheet against Blackburn and people went haywire on Twitter, saying that he has justified his PFA Young Player of the Year award with the goal. As this tweet rightly puts it, rating him above Sergio Aguero is the philosophy of a fool. Tottenham’s victory over Blackburn propelled them back to fourth place and a victory in their game in hand will still put them where they’ll forever be – in Arsenal’s shadow.

Elsewhere, there was another miracle witnessed in Stamford Bridge. It’s certainly not as significant as the parting of the Red Sea or turning water into wine, but the fact that Fernando Torres actually scored a hat-trick is as surprising as Gareth Bale declaring openly that he’s not a chimp.

Chelsea’s 6-1 thrashing of Queens Park Rangers also put them in contention for the final Champions League slot and they’ll have a real battle on their hands to end the season in that position.

Arsenal visited the Britannia to play a Stoke side that is renowned for their aerial style of play that works for them week in week out.

This was the ground Aaron Ramsey suffered a leg fracture two years ago but scares emerged when Dean Whitehead had a rough lounge at Alex Song but the midfielder came out unscathed. Despite being a defensive midfielder that’s meant to break up play and make challenges, Song has been on the end of some nasty tackles this season.

A few weeks ago, Mario Balotelli almost snapped his leg like a twig. It’s heartwarming to know that there won’t be any African football tournament this summer, so Song can relax with his family, recharge his batteries then get ready for Arsenal’s pre-season adventure this summer.

Stoke scored the match opener in typical fashion, but it was after some complacency from the usually reliable Bacary Sagna. Matty Etherington swung in a cross that was duly dispatched by the beanpole, Peter Crouch, after out-jumping Thomas Vermaelen, leaving Wojciech Szczesny rooted to the spot.

Arsenal pegged Stoke back when some good intricate passing play between the Rabbi, Yossi Benayoun and the 29-year-old Tomas Rosicky. The Czech dynamo lofted a brilliant ball that was smashed home by Robin van Persie. The Flying Dutchman’s goalscoring well has began to dry up in recent weeks but the effort was worth its weight in gold.

It was the Arsenal’s equalizer that ended up being the goal that ensured that the Gunners would go back to London with a share of the spoils. It also gave van Persie some breathing space for the Premier League Golden Boot, as Manchester United’s Shrek is closing down on him.

After an exciting first 15 minutes, the game plummeted into mediocrity as Arsenal lacked that edge in the final third. There were a few saved shots and appeals for penalties but clear cut chances were few and far between. Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview was centered around his team’s battling qualities.

Without further ado, here are three key lessons I learned from the Battle of Britannia.

The Point Gained was Absolutely Vital

Arsenal actually needed all three points at the Britannia to solidify their status at the third best team in the land but I’ll rate this draw as one vital point gained rather than two points lost.

With two games against Norwich and West Brom left to play, Arsenal is sitting pretty at third place with 66 points while the other contenders for Champions League places can’t go level on points with the Gunners even if they win their games in hand.

Newcastle has been riding on a high recently but the shocking loss to Wigan Athletic has brought them down to Earth. With daunting fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City still around the corner, talks about the Magpies playing in the Champions League should be rightly gone with the wind.

Tottenham added to Blackburn’s woes with a 2-0 victory and they still have more relegation candidates to face off in their bid to play Champions League football next season. They have the easiest set of fixtures on paper and they are hugely tipped to secure the last slot.

When I published a post on 11 reasons why Tottenham can never finish above Arsenal, I was labelled as a delusional Gooner. When I celebrate St. Totteringham’s day at the end of the season, I’ll stand by my quote,

“If Arsenal ever ends up in 17th place, Tottenham will get relegated” 

Tomas Rosicky is Actually 29-Years-Old, Not 31

Tomas Rosicky joined Arsenal in the summer of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and he is renowned for his amazing ability to orchestrate the midfield with his passing, sleek movement and gifted technique that earned him the nickname “Little Mozart”.

In six years at Arsenal, he has only managed 115 league games and he has spent a large chunk of his Arsenal career on the sidelines with niggling injuries ranging from his groin to his knees and ankles.

He scored his first goal since the Feudal Age last season when Arsenal played Leyton Orient in the FA Cup but he has been on the score sheet recently with well-taken goals against Tottenham and AC Milan.

The rise to glory of promising youngsters like Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere has limited the Czech’s chances of playing week in week out but Wilshere’s long-term injury and Ramsey’s poor form have paved the way for Little Mozart to get a run-out and re-discover his form.

Rosicky has been a phenom in recent weeks, and his form earned him a new contract extension. Rosicky recently stated that he’s 29 years old, because he spent the best part of two years nursing his infamous hamstring injury. To be frank, he has been playing like a 29-year-old in his prime and Arsenal has benefited greatly from his new lease of life.

To think that Emmanuel Petit wanted him out of the club at some point this season.

Arsenal Can Always Count on Robin van Persie

In the Stoke match preview written by Dammy J on WaZoBia Gooners, Robin van Persie was referred to as “RVP PFA FWA – Our Pride”. The Dutch forward has been the brightest spark in a somewhat “dark” season for the Gunners but he came up with the goods yet again at the Battle of Britannia.

He was a bit isolated all game long as his teammates didn’t come up with those telling passes in the final third, but he showed his class yet again when he got on the end of Tomas Rosicky’s lofted cross to level the tie for his side. In this corresponding fixture at the Emirates, he came off the bench to net a brace.

As Bruno Mars quoted in his hit song, Count On Me, Arsenal can always count on Robin van Persie like one, two, three – he’ll be there.

 Honorable Mention

I’ve listed just three key lessons learned from the Battle of Britannia but there are others that deserve to be mentioned. They include:

  • Aaron Ramsey’s rejuvenated performance at the Britannia.
  • There’s still “some life” left in Marouane Chamakh
  • Abou Diaby’s never-ending injury woes
  • Gervinho’s post-AFCON disappointing performance was on show yet again and
  • Schoolboy errors from the team proved costly

Feel free to share your own lessons learned.

Sayonara.

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