Arsenal have Sol, but no heart as Stoke triumph.

First things first, apologies for the clumsy title. It’s been a horrible day to be an Arsenal fan and quite frankly i’m in no mood to think of anything better. I think I speak for the majority of Arsenal fans when I say I expected this result as soon as I saw the line-ups yesterday morning. Despite our team containing just two regular starters, the commentators still went into hyperbole mode, proclaiming Stoke’s victory a huge upset. Get real.

Amongst the litter of players making either their debut, or one of their first few appearances was Sol Campbell. The 35 year old signed a contract with the Gunners until the end of the season and was a surprise inclusion in the starting line up. The ex England international, who won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups in his first spell at the club, put in a good performance considering this was his first dose of first team football for months. His every touch was greeted with loud cheers from the travelling fans.

Fabregas seemed every bit as keen as the Arsenal faithful to see Sol make a good start, aiming every corner at the big centre back in an attempt to get him a goal on his return.

Much was made about the two teams’ contrasting styles in the build up to the game, and their intentions were clear from the first minute. With Lukasz Fabianski apparently oblivious to Stoke’s most lethal weapon, Ricardo Fuller was able to reach a Rory Delap long throw to head home from just eight yards. The home side sensed a weakness and continued to assault the visitors’ six yard box with a combination of throw ins, corners and free kicks throughout the first half.

Arsenal snatched a fortunate equaliser just before half time, and despite the disparity between the respective teams most would’ve expected the Gunners to go on to win the game. This wasn’t the case as, after a brief resurgence from the visitors, Stoke were able to regain their foothold in the game and progress through a brilliant second from Fuller and a late goal for Dean Whitehead.

One small side note from the game, how does Rory Delap consistently manage to avoid being yellow carded for timewasting? Despite eating up minutes of games by drying the ball with a towel at every throw in, the midfielder has escaped caution for the offense this season.

On a different note, Serie A really is a bit of a joke nowadays isn’t it? Watching the country’s two finest teams contest the Milan derby last night, it felt more like it’d tuned into Monday Night Raw. The crowd plays along as the players roll around at the slightest touch, and theatrically wave imaginary cards at the same time. If only Mourinho had interfered with a steel chair when Gianluca Rocchi dismissed Wesley Sneijder for dissent.


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