Stoke start the holidays early
24th May 2009
The sun was shining, the temperature nearly 25 degrees, but this was North London, not San Tropez and I think someone forget to tell the Potters that the season was not quite over yet.
Stoke City fell victim to some woeful first half defending that cost them four goals in scenes that were reminiscent of the first game of the season at the Reebok when we were 3-0 down by the interval and apparently doomed to relegation.
Luckily, in the mean time, we've had some slightly better performances on the road and vastly superior home form that meant that a 4-1 defeat at the Gunners was not the catastrophe it could have been - just very embarrassing.
The pre-match omens did not look good. Matty Etherington had to drop out after coming down with a dicky tummy and Tony Pulis decided to rest Thomas Sorensen after he sustained a slight groin strain ahead of some Danish internationals and put the normally reliable Steve Simonsen between the sticks. Salif Diao and Carl Dickinson were also given places in the starting eleven.
Whilst the Potters started brightly, it only took ten minutes for the wheels to start coming off. Fabregas and Van Persie's short corner was struck into a mass of bodies in the six yard box and James Beattie couldn't seem to remember if he was a striker or defender and so decided to turn the ball into the back of his own net. Further anguish followed just six minutes later when Ryan Shawcross's trailing foot upended Van Persie in the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. Van Persie put the resulting kick past Simonsen who guessed correctly but couldn't stop the shot.
2-0 down rapidly became 3-0 just two minutes later when Van Persie's free kick was headed past Simonsen by Diaby.
We managed to hold it together after Simonsen was forced off with a hip injury to be replaced by Sorensen who was hardly fit himself. But some joy did come to one small corner of the Emirates on the half hour mark when Ricardo Fuller was brought down on a rare foray into the home side's penalty area and he slotted the penalty kick past the Gunners' third choice keeper, Mannone.
At 3-1 down, half time couldn't come quickly enough for Tony Pulis. Tone's half time team talks have worked wonders in the past and we'd come back from a two goal deficit twice already this season to rescue a point at Newcastle and Aston Villa. So all was not yet lost.
But with just four minutes until the break, the Potters gave themselves Everest to climb, rather than just a small mountain in Wales. Rory Delap inexplicably decided to try and head the ball back to Sorensen inside a crowded penalty area. The header wasn't hard enough and it fell at the feet of Van Persie who sent it past Sorensen and into the back of the net.
So, 4-1 down and it was only half time. The second half was only notable for Stoke fans in that we didn't let any more goals in, but Arsenal treated the Potters to an almost exhibition performance - even if it wasn't quite what most of us wanted to see.
Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna (Eboue 57), Toure, Song Billong, Gibbs, Diaby, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin (Vela 71), van Persie, Walcott (Bendtner 46)
Subs not used: Szczesny, Ramsey, Silvestre, Djourou
Stoke City: Simonsen (Sorensen 21), Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Dickinson, Lawrence, Diao (Pugh 64), Whelan, Delap, Beattie, Fuller (Cresswell 69)
Subs not used: Olofinjana, Kelly, Tonge, Sonko