Stoke vs. Arsenal: 3 Key Lessons Learned from the Battle of Britannia

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Stoke vs. Arsenal: 3 Key Lessons Learned from the Battle of Britannia
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The match between Stoke City and Arsenal ended in a 1-1 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 on which Aaron Ramsey suffered a leg fracture two years ago. 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 preseason 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 rediscover 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

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.

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