Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Arsenal nick lucky draw in remarkable comeback

Watching the first 20 minutes you can see why Barcelona are the best side in Europe, and what Arsenal need to do to match them. Barcelona pressed from the front, and won the ball back, and passed it with ease. The possession stats say it all: 71% in the first half, 65% overall.
They lined up in a 4-3-3 that could switch to a 4-2-4; Keita started on the left of the centre midfield, Pedro on the right wing, and Messi just off Ibrahimovic. Both William Gallas and Cesc Fabregas started, with Arshavin and Nasri switching flanks because of Nasri's greater defensive qualities.
Almunia made some great saves and Barcelona were unlucky to go into the break at half time at 0-0. Meanwhile, Arsenal had already made 2 subs due to injury-- Gallas going off with a calf injury which could be him for the season, and Arshavin also with a calf injury. Eboue came on for Arshavin, and Eboue's more defensive qualities helped Arsenal defensively, as Eboue would track back, and prevent Barca's fullbacks from pressing, unlike Arshavin. In fact, Barcelona didn't really have a great chance after Eboue came on, and then after half time, Arsenal's defense pushed up for a higher line, which squeezed the space but also lead them susceptible to the long ball, which is how their two goals arrived. The first, a mere 24 seconds into the second half was a bit of a mistake from Almunia, off his line, but it was a good finish from Ibrahimovic. The second was a mistake from Vermaelen who pushed forward to try and catch Ibrahimovic offside, but he was easily onside, and made it 2-0. But those were the only chances Barca had in the second half, and if you look back at the 2 goals they conceded, there was no pressure on the man with the ball at all;
As this picture shows, right when Pique kicks the ball, Bendtner is still a good couple of yards off of him, and for the second goal
It was almost a carbon copy of defending for the second goal, Abou Diaby doesn't press Xavi, and he ahs all the time in the world to play the perfect ball.
Walcott came on in an inspired sub, and was the difference. Arsenal had pace to hit Barca on the counter, and unsettled Maxwell. Walcott is at his best as an impact sub, and scored after Bendtner played him in. It was Walcott's cross that lead to the penalty that Cesc put away, though damaging his leg in the process. A great comeback, but possibly a costly one.

Barcelona Preview

Arsenal-Barcelona tonight is the pick of the quarter finals, and as Arsene Wenger said, could be the best game of the decade. So yeah, it's a big one.
Arsenal will go into it with Cesc Fabregas as a big doubt.
He didn't appear in training because at the moment he is not fit to play. We will give ourselves 24 hours more and we will assess the situation tomorrow. But today he would not be available. Sometimes you do not want to take a gamble in training because 24 hours more can help. You don't want him to get another kick so it was better that he didn't train. I would say it is 60 against, 40 for him playing.

Barcelona will be missing Andres Iniesta, so instead of playing the 4-2-4ish formation that they had been playing recently, they will play in a more traditional 4-3-3, with Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Yaya Toure, the last 2 as holding midfielders, with Toure a little higher advanced than Busquets. Up front it will be two of Ibrahimovic, Henry or Pedro with Messi on the right. If Pedro comes in for Ibrahimovic, Henry will play as a false nine, as he has in their 4-2-4ish formation.

For Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri should start after training. William Gallas could start as well, and if he can, he should. If Fabregas does not play, I think Samir Nasri will come in for Fabregas in the midfield, and Tomas Rosicky will play on the right wing. Alex Song will be restored to his midfield position, and hopefully Abou Diaby will be fit enough to start in the midfield as well. Nicklas Bendtner will start up front.

Both sides obviously play the same style of football, so it may come down to the managers out witting one another. One thing that Arsene Wenger could do is play Andrey Arshavin on the right flank and play either Samir Nasri or Tomas Rosicky on the left flank. They both have more defensive awareness than Arshavin, and with Messi on that side, tracking back will be important.

Projected lineups
Arsenal (4-2-1-3); Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song, Diaby; Nasri; Arshavin, Bendtner, Rosicky
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Dani Alves; Puyol, Pique, Maxwell; Xavi, Yaya Toure, Busquets; Henry, Ibrahimovic, Messi

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Not Only Almunia was at fault

Obviously, the main talking point is Manuel Almunia's inability to catch Kevin Phillips' deflected shot effort, and how the title chances look over again. Yes, Almunia should've dealt with the effort, and it came from a stupidly conceded free kick. Andrey Arshavin should be going into the corner rather than the penalty box at that stage. Personally, I thought that the goal shouldn't of counted because Chucho is offside when the ball is played and is interfering with play.
In regards to the title, we need Man United to drop 5 points, and Chelsea 4 because of how far behind we are in terms of goal difference. Can they drop those points? Obviously, a dour 0-0 draw between the pair, with Rooney, Drogba, Terry and Vidic being sent off is the best result, or any draw. If we win, and they draw then we are only 2 points behind Man United and 1 behind Chelsea. The title is still doable, but it is difficult.
I also have a problem with the team selection. Arsene Wenger said this before the match:
I don't choose at the moment, I think the League for me is the most important. Birmingham is the absolute priority for me
Yet, despite saying that, Arsenal started both Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky, instead of Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin. Walcott and Rosicky were fairly ineffectual, though Walcott was not as bad as some said, he just didn't get the ball to run at people. Nasri and Arshavin came on, and made a difference as Nasri scored, and Arshavin opened space. Nasri could've scored again, so too could've Arshavin. After the match, he said that Arshavin had a groin problem and Nasri a bit of a knock, but I think thats bullshit. If they weren't fit enough to start, then they aren't fit enough to be on the bench. Obviously he had Barcelona in mind, he gambled and he lost. But that could be a decision that comes back to haunt us if we lose the title by 1 or 2 points.

But Almunia is still at fault. The shot was right at him, and he flapped. I'm not sure what the complete ratio is of shots on target/per goal and how much you can draw into that, but one thing you can look at is his kicking. Against Birmingham, his kicking was horrible, and not for the first time. On the other hand, Joe Hart made 17 out of 31 passes successful, and most were longer passes than Almunia. Hart is a top class goalkeeper, Arsenal need a top class goalkeeper, and we don't have one.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Arsenal Got to have Sol against Birmingham

With Thomas Vermaelen's appeal being denied, and the injury to William Gallas, Arsenal have a centre back injury crisis. With 4 games in 10 days, it's going to be an issue.
Against Birmingham, Sol Campbell must start. He, unlike Mikael Silvestre, can control a defence, and help Alex Song, who is inexperienced at centre back. Arsenal must think about Birmingham before Barcelona; as Arsene Wenger said "one game at a time", and winning the league is more realistic than winning the Champions League game. Also, Vermaelen is back, and rested against Barcelona, and has 2 options for his partner: Either Sol Campbell can recover in time (he has 3 days) or Alex Song has to be drafted into defence again, while Denilson will play in his role.
Sol Campbell is the first choice defender, and in all 13 Cup Finals, he must play in them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

League scenario

This year, the Premier League is going to go to the last day of the season, and it's still a 3 horse race. Goal difference is a major factor, and after having been ahead early, Arsenal are now behind in goal difference, and if it comes down to goal difference, I think Arsenal will not win the league.
Here is how the table reads right now




Man United









So, in the course of the next 7 games (8 for Chelsea), United need to drop 3 points. United are away to Bolton, home to Chelsea, away to Blackburn (after the Champions League), away to Manchester City, away to Spurs, away to Sunderland and home to Stoke. They could definitely drop 4 points in draws with Chelsea and City.
Chelsea, if they beat Portsmouth, will have 68 points. They need to then drop 2, and do that by drawing with Man United. Their fixtures are: away to Portsmouth, home to Villa, away to United, home to Bolton after the FA Cup semi final, away to Spurs, home to Stoke, away to Liverpool and home to Wigan.
Assuming both United and Chelsea drop 4 points (United in draws with Chelsea and City; Chelsea with draws with United and Liverpool), and Arsenal win all their remaining games, the table will look like this:
Team Pld Pts
Arsenal 38 88
Man Utd 38 86
Chelsea 38 85

We are only in control of our own games, but lets hope that Chelsea and United drop points, starting with Chelsea home to Villa.

Denilson's great game

Denilson scored a goal on Saturday, but was still somewhat underrated. However, despite not playing a deadly ball like Cesc Fabregas does, he kept possession well, and made 73 passes, all of which were successful. He also won 6 out of 10 tackles, and also made 3 interceptions.
Denilson gets some criticsim from Arsenal supporters, some deserved, but mostly underserved, and you can see why he's played: not only does he have a nice 30 yard shot, but he keeps the ball well, which was important against 10 men, and will be important in 8 days time against Barcelona.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Sunday, March 21, 2010

10 Men Arsenal Go Top

First off, Arsenal showed why it is so hard to play against 10 men, and why there is an increasing trend of 10 men winning games. Arsenal were compact, organized, and they didn't change their shape all that much, especially when Abou Diaby came on, allowing Arsenal to play something like a 4-1-3-1, with Andrey Arshavin up front, and Emmanuel Eboue on the right of the 3, Abou Diaby on the left, and Denilson, who had an excellent game, holding. Alex Song dropped back to replace Vermaelen in the defence. After the first 10 minutes of the half, Arsenal looked more threatening to score than West Ham, and that has to do with the introduction of Abou Diaby. Bendtner was up front on his own, and Arsenal needed a midfielder to help defensively, which Andrey Arshavin can not do. Diaby came on, Arshavin was freed of his defensive abilitites, and Diaby played very well.
Arsenal were fairly comfortable after that, and the only real difference from the first half is that there isn't as many passes to the left wing in the second half after Bendtner was withdrawn for Diaby.

Arsenal's passing was similar in the second half despite having 10 men
by Guardian Chalkboards

West Ham failed to take advantage of the extra man, and they did not make many passes in the final third.
by Guardian Chalkboards
Sagna came on for Nasri, allowing Eboue to push up forward, and not only was he involved in the second goal, and also allowing for Eboue to cancel out Daprela's runs forward.
Arsenal were more likely to score, and that happened when Fabregas won the ball the back, passed to Eboue, recieved it back, and clipped it off the hand of Upson. Upson was lucky not to get a second yellow and be sent off. Fabregas duly scored the penalty, and Arsenal were home and dry.
I know I recapped the second half first. In the first half, we scored with maybe our first attack of the game. A 6 pass move, with Clichy crossing to Bendtner, who knoked it back to Denilson, who played a 1-2 with Bendtner before firing into the bottom right corner for his 6th goal. Another early goal, this one 5 minutes in, and Arsenal had other chances to double the lead. Denilson should've passed to Fabregas a few moments afterwards, and Fabregas almost played in Nasri. Then, almost at half time, the otherwise excellent Song lost the ball in midfield, a long ball was clipped, Vermaelen got behind Franco, and tangled with him. The linesman signalled for a foul, a penalty was given, and Vermaelen was given a straight red by the referee who was miles away from play. It was a bad decision from an inconsistent referee, and a bad decision from the linesman. For one thing, Franco didn't have complete control of the ball, and Campbell could've got a tackle in as well, there was barely any contact, Franco went down easily and for me it wasn't an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Almunia made a great save from Diamanti, and the good news is that Vermaelen will only miss one game because he was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
We go top, though Chelsea has 2 games in hand, and plays Blackburn away today, and Man United are at home to Liverpool, and lets all hope Fernando Torres celebrates his birthday in style.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Arsenal get Barca in one for the purists

This quarter final will be one for the purists and the neutral, as Arsenal drew Barcelona. I think I can speak for many Arsenal supporters when I say Barca and Man United were the 2 I wanted to avoid. While I look forward to the chance for revenge from 2 years ago, the thought of Lionel Messi against Sol Campbell scares the hell out of me.

Arsenal and Barcelona play very similar passing games, obviously, pressing games and formations. Both are regularly described as a 4-3-3, and while Arsenal's was, both, independently have switched from a 4-3-3 to what is more like a 4-2-4 type. Arsenal's 4-2-4 is better described as a 4-2-1-3, with Cesc Fabregas playing just off the main striker in a ponta da lanca role. Barcelona's 4-2-4 type formation is different. As pointed out in some excellent articles on Zonal Marking, Barcelona's 4-2-4, which is their plan B, comes from pushing Andres Iniesta higher up on the left wing, and moving Pedro over to the right, and pushing Messi inside. Thierry Henry plays as the centre forward, but drops off like a false nine.

Both formations allow for a playmaker behind the forward line, as Fabregas is given license to roam at Arsenal, while at Barcelona, with Pedro and Messi both on the right, Messi can roam in a similar position to Fabregas.

Defensive solidity will be the key for Arsenal; both sides are very good going forward, but Barcelona have only conceded 16 goals in La Liga this season while Arsenal have conceded 33 in the Premier League. If Barcelona score, they're more likely to hold on to a league than Arsenal, which is why keeping a clean sheet at home is crucial. If we don't concede at home, even in a 0-0, it would be more pressure for Barcelona because they know even a draw would see us through. So, for Arsenal there can be no defensive mishaps, otherwise the Champions League is surely over for another year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hull 1-2 Arsenal: Last minute goals gets Arsenal 3 points

For the second half against Hull, you could almost substitute the second half against Stoke and not notice the difference. A crap pitch, hostile crowd, lots of injury time, and Arsenal trying to break through a packed defence.

by Guardian Chalkboards
The second half against Stoke and Hull were similar as Arsenal struggled to find a breakthrough.
Obviously there wasn't a horrific injury to an Arsenal player, but there could've been from the first half. George Boateng deserved a straight red for his challenge on Bacary Sagna, and in my opinion, it was worse than Shawcross'. Boateng's was high (on his knee), late and studs up, while Shawcross, which was reckless, was lower and wasn't studs up. It could've been much worse for Sagna, and Boateng should've been sent off earlier for poking Bendtner in the eye. Inexplicably, Bendtner was booked along with Boateng.
The first half was quite promising; Arshavin scored after 14 minutes after great build up play by Eboue, Sagna, Nasri and the final ball to Arshavin. It was a great goal, and Hull were on the ropes. Then the referee and the linesman decided to help Hull back into it, and Hull got a penalty when the ball was flicked over to Venegoor of Hesselink, and Campbell nudged him and he went down. Venegoor was offside, and the linesman was looking right at him. Phil Brown thought Campbell should've been sent off for it, but V of H did not have full control of the ball (it was behind his head), so it wasn't an obvious goal scoring opportunity. In fact, it was the kind of penalty that we don't get; Bullard put it away and it was 1-1.
The second half was all Arsenal; Hull had maybe one attack, when Zayatte broke forward, and got injured when Campbell tackled him. Again, Phil Brown wanted him sent off for it, but for me it was an excellent tackle. The BBC interviewer tried to compare it with Shawcross' but Wenger was having none of that.
Arsenal continued to press forward, but it didn't look like happening. Our passing wasn't the best, and Arshavin missed a glorious chance to score, when Walcott set him up, and he hit it about 30 yards in the air. He also missed a couple in the first half, so it wasn't a great game for him despite the goal. Eduardo came on for the disappointing Nasri, who didn't have the cutting edge that Fabregas might've had in this game. Nasri, though was jaded, and Eduardo played in Walcott, but he couldn't get his shot away. Bendtner had a shot blocked, and even though there were 6 minutes of added time, we really didn't look like getting anything until Denilson, given time and space, shot from 30 yards. The ball was swerving and dipping, but their keeper should've dealt with, but he parried to Bendtner, and the Dane coolly finished for his 6th goal in 5 games. A tough game, but a big three points; this might've been a game previous Arsenal teams would've lost, as Arsene pointed out in his post game interview
We needed the three points and we got it after 90 minutes, exactly like at Stoke. It tells you that it was a difficult game, but as well that we have desire and mental strength and we never give up. And for such a young team that is great

Vermalen was excellent again, he was a bargain for £10 million. Denilson was alright, but we'll be happy to see Song back next week, Nasri was so-so, Eboue was good, and was upset to be subbed off, he's been in good form, and Sanga and Clichy did well attacking on the flanks. Clichy should've had a penalty in the first half when he was brought down by Boateng, I think, but we don't get those kinds of penalties.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Positioning v Porto

The Telegraph have players average positioning graphic in their match reports, and looking at Tuesday's, I find it very interesting that Nasri, Eboue and Bendtner all occupied the same area. This shows that Bendtner was dropping deep, either defensively or to pick up the ball from midfield, and it also shows Nasri's role meant he was able to play right behind Bendtner, with Song and Diaby giving midfield cover.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Arsene Wenger gets the tactics right as Arsenal hammer Porto

Arsenal went through to the quarter final with a 5-0 victory, which at times wasn't as comfortable as the scoreline suggested. Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboue's goals 90 seconds of football apart made the final 20 minutes routine.
Arsene Wenger went with Samir Nasri in the Fabregas role as expected, and Arshavin, Diaby, Song, Campbell and Sagna came in for Fabregas, Walcott, Denilson, Silvestre and Eboue. Arshavin on the left was big, as it gave Nasri the freedom to roam behind Nicklas Bendtner, and Arshavin provided another creative option in the absence of Fabregas. It was Nasri who found Arshavin before the ball rebounded to Bendtner for the first goal. Arshavin was involved for the second goal; Fucile gave the ball away, and Arshavin's brilliant run then cross found Bendtner to tap in. 2-0 25 minutes in, and it looked smooth sailing. However, Porto pushed back; while they didn't threaten that much (Nasri cleared one of the line just before scoring), they held the ball, and forced Arsenal to give it away. That all changed in the 62nd minute, when Nasri got the ball from Diaby, cut inside, beat 3 defenders and finished with aplomb. It was a brilliant goal, and Nasri's freedom to roam allowed him to get into position. Also, the training that Arsene Wenger has Arsenal do, like keeping the ball in tight spaces really came out in this goal.
Arsenal's fourth than came 90 seconds of football later; Porto's corner was headed clear by Clichy, Arshavin broke and played in Eboue who was steaming forward, Eboue than took it round the keeper and finished with his left foot. Porto were beaten, Arsenal spent the next 20 mintues controlling the ball, and we got our 5th when Eboue was tugged down in the area. Bendtner completed his hat trick with a good penalty, and the hat trick will do him good after the misses against Burnley.
At time Arsenal's play wasn't the best; we gave the ball away a lot, but we ruined Porto's gameplan within 10 minutes, and we were clinical.
Arshavin on the left gave space to the midfield trio of Nasri, Song and Diaby. Song in Paticular was getting forward more than usual.
Defensively, Vermaelen was excellent as usual, and Campbell had some dodgy moments due to his lack of pace, but knew what he was doing. Clichy had one nervy moment, but both he and Sagna were good going forward. Almunia still needs to work on kicking. Bendtner showed again that he does get into good spaces. Also Eboue's corners were surprisingly impressive and more dangerous than the usual corners that we have.
So, Arsenal are in the last 8 of Europe for the third straight year, and unlike the last 2 years, we still have the league to fight for.
Possession: 54%
Shots: 17
On Target: 12
Passing: 80% successful

Monday, March 8, 2010

Samir Nasri can replace Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas came off against Burnely with a tight hamstring, and Arsene Wenger might take a gamble to play him against Porto. Personally I think he will be on the bench like he was against Aston Villa.
Update: Cesc Fabregas is out for the game against Porto, Arsene Wenger confirmed today.

Samir Nasri stepped into his role after he went off against Burnley, and it was Nasri who set up Cesc's goal. Nasri can step into that role again Tuesday night against Porto. Nasri has the best control and passing after Fabregas. Also, the shift in Arsenal's formation can also help Nasri come into that role.
Cesc Fabregas opens the scoring against Burnley after a sparking Samir Nasri chip.

As noted in an earlier article, Arsenal's formation has changed. Instead of one deeper player and two players going forward, Fabregas is now the highest playing midfielder midfielder with Song and Diaby deeper lying, Song deeper on the right hand side, which has allowed Eboue or Sagna to get forward as displayed against Sunderland and Burnley. Diaby will attack more than Song, but is deep enough to cover for the full backs on counter attacks. With Nasri being better defensively than Tomas Rosicky, he played in the Diaby role on Saturday, but move to Fabregas' role after Diaby replaced Fabregas. Fabregas' new role is playing as an attacking midfielder, sometimes appearing right off Bendtner as a ponta da lança in what was almost a 4-2-4, but better described as a 4-2-Fabregas-3. Nasri, who is a player who has played in that role before, off the striker, for Arsenal, Marseille and France. With his passing and control skills he is the obvious choice to replace Fabregas, and also has the creativity to support Bendtner. Arshavin, who has returned, is the favourite for the left wing position, and with Eboue and Walcott impressing they can also play on the right, along with Tomas Rosicky. At least Porto, and Hull City if Fabrgas is out for that long, Arsenal should play a 4-2-Nasri-3.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Arsenal 3-1 Burnley

This game was almost a carbon copy of the Sunderland game from 2 weeks ago. Almost the same lineup, with Denilson and Rosicky coming in for Song and Ramsey. We had tons of chances to open the scoring, and should've won comfortably. However, bad finishing from Arsenal meant that the game was on tenterhooks, and it took a late goal, by Andrei Arshavin to seal it. Nicklas Bendtner had 8 shots, and no goals, and missed 2 or 3 wide open chances after good crosses from Walcott. Walcott had a much better game than against Sunderland. His final product was much better as his crosses and his well taken goal show. He answered his England critics with a fine performance against Burnley. Samir Nasri had a good game, and played really well after Fabregas left.

After Fabregas left, Nasri took a more central role.

by Guardian Chalkboards
Diaby and Denilson sat back a bit, and Rosicky and Nasri switched between the center and the wing, though once Arshavin came on, Nasri was firmly in the center. The fact that Nasri played so well in the centre makes me feel better if Fabregas is to miss the match against Porto on Tuesday, because Nasri can take his place easily. I would imagine that if Fabregas doesn't play on Tuesday it will be Nasri, Song and Diaby in the midfield three, and Rosicky, Bendtner and Arshavin up front.

The goal we conceded was a stupid one; Eboue cleared it somewhat badly, and Silvestre and Vermaelen failed to deal with a header, and Nugent shinned it past Almunia. We cannot defend like that against Porto.

Also, the support for Aaron Ramsey showed by the club and the fans was fantastic, and it was quite a heart warming moment to see the banners for him and the shirts worn by the club.

Possession: 65%
Passing: 86% (434/504)
Shots on Target: 11
Shots 20

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pressing, Lobanovskyi and Arsene Wenger

Many liken Arsenal to Barcelona; we share the same 4-3-3 formation, and a similar passing game. But there is something else that is similar between the two sides; pressing. Pressing is important to Barcelona as shown by this Pep Guardiola quote from the Champions League final
Without the ball, we are a horrible team. We need the ball, so we pressed high up the pitch to win the ball back early.

Watching Arsenal without the ball, it is easy to say the same thing. This year, Arsenal have been pressing, though they pressed much better earlier in the year. The pressing led to the plethora of goals earlier in the year, and Arsenal showed their pressing side against Stoke, when they rarely had the ball in our own half.

Pressing as we know it, for long periods of time, was invented simultaneously by Rinus Michels at Ajax and by Valeryi Lobanovskyi at Dynamo Kyiv. Arsene Wenger's sides are usually compared to to the Ajax side of the 70s, but Lobanovskyi's scientific and mathematical approach is comparable to Arsene Wenger himself, who in training, times how long each players takes in receiving the ball and passing it. Lobanovskyi's approach was somewhat different, and was explained in Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson. Lobanovskyi set target actions for each player in pressing and for what I believe, actions for his team.

While it is hard to apply that table to Arsenal (more teams press now, and Arsenal play scintillating and free scoring football, while Dynamo Kyiv were more result based) its concept can be applied. When pressing, you want to have more tackles, interceptions and passes in the opposition half than in your own half, and Arsenal tend to do so . So, one can say that Arsenal's tactics of pressing and passing originate from Ajax and Dynamo Kyiv.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Stoke 1-3 Arsenal, The FA need to address these challenges

On The Challenge
It was a 50-50 ball, and Shawcross goes into kick the ball, which Ramsey has controlled and moved, and Shawcross follows through. I don't think it was intentional, but Shawcross does have a history of being a dirty player, and he could've quite possbly followed through to make his mark on Ramsey.
But I for one don't care whether Shawcross left crying and had to be picked up by his mum. I don't care if he doesn't have a bad bone in his body (Well thats why Shawcross went through Adebayor when the ball was off the pitch and went through Francis Jeffers). This is the third time in 4 years an Arsenal player has had a serious career threatening broken leg from a bad challenge, and Patrick Barclay made a great point: If the challenge is on the ground, neither Eduardo or Ramsey get legs broken. I think the FA need to do something to prevent challenges like this happening, and it should start with Shawcross getting a lengthy ban for the challenge. I've just read Barney Ronay's article in the Guardian, and listened to Rafa Honigstein on Football Weekly, and I agree completely, with what they have to say, which is that the challenge was excessively forceful, and that these challenges are systematic with English football. Spurs, Hull, Everton may be fouled more, but we've suffered more. Also, Arseblog's post on Sunday, and today and Gunnerblog's post are very good as well.
Also fair play to Glenn Whelan who stayed with Ramsey after the challenge until he was stretchered off and fair play to the Stoke supporters who clapped him off. Those who made wanker signs should be ashamed of themselves.
The Game
Stoke started quickly as they usually do, and scored in the 8th minute. Song foolishly decided to concede a throw rather than a corner, and Delap's throw was headed across by Shawcross for Pugh to head home. However Stoke went into a shell and indtead of playing 4-4-2, they went into effectively a 8-0-2. Arsenal came back into the game, and Fabregas crossed for Bendtner to brilliantly head home in the 32nd minute. Arsenal continued to push forward, and the two central defenders, Campbell and Vermaelen did brilliantly to deal with Fuller and Sidibe. We came out the better team after half time and should've had a penalty when Ramsey, played in by Fabregas, was bundled over by Shawcross and another agricultural defender. However, we didn't get the penalty, and then Shawcross broke Ramsey's leg. After that we could've collapsed like we did at Birmingham 2 years ago, but we didn't, with Cesc galvanizing the team, and we finally got a penalty when Bendtner's pass hit Pugh's arm. Cesc put the penalty away.

Arsenal got a third when Rosicky's shot was parried, Fabregas beat Sorensen to the rebound and passed to Vermaelen who finished, and was very pumped after being one of the most devastated players with Ramsey's injury.
Afterwards the players gathered into a huddle, and you can tell that mentally this team is better than the 07-08 team. 3 points behind Chelsea, 2 behind United and with Chelsea struggling we are in a good position. A tough day, emotionally, physically and mentally, but Arsenal came through and we are firmly in the tile race.