Going into today’s game against Stoke City, Arsenal must have known it was going to be a difficult encounter. Not only would it be a physical challenge, but with Chelsea losing against Manchester City earlier in the day it became vital to collect three points.
Little did they know just how tough it was going to be.
For starters they went down to an early goal from a Rory Delap throw in. They responded well, equalising through a superb Nicklas Bendtner header.
But the real challenge came midway through the second half, with Aaron Ramsey suffering a horrendous injury after a Ryan Shawcross challenge. Sky Sports refused to show the footage again, to their credit, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find the photo online with a well-worded search.
Arsenal were visibly shaken by the injury.
Cesc Fabregas came out after the game and highlighted that this is the third broken leg sustained by an Arsenal player in five years, with Eduardo suffering an awful broken leg against Birmingham almost exactly two years ago, and Abou Diaby having his leg broken against Sunderland a few years earlier.
This point was reinforced by Arsene Wenger.
For those that remember the scenes at Birmingham two years ago, Arsenal ahead in the title race but undone by a late penalty—with captain William Gallas sulking on the centre spot. Today’s reaction was almost a polar opposite.
Their young captain stepped up to the plate, scoring a late penalty before squaring to Thomas Vermaelen for Arsenal’s third goal in their subsequent 3-1 victory.
It was a huge result for Arsenal. Not just because the gap on the league leaders has now closed to three points, but because they showed mental strength to overcome adversity. Coming from behind at Stoke is hard enough without suffering emotional turmoil during the game.
Arsenal must now continue to apply this attitude to the remaining games of the season, if they can do this then odds are they will be champions come May.
Easier said than done.