Should we show Stoke any respect tonight?

By Avenell Dave

A friend of mine supports Brighton and made the journey to Stoke last weekend to see his side play the Potters.

I told him to expect a lot of long balls, a lot of physical stuff and not a lot of entertainment and he said afterwards that he would be so fed up if he was a Stoke fan - their football even against lower league opposition was direct, painfully brutal and unsophisicated.

Had Brighton's reserve goalkeeper not had a case of the jitters early on, it could have been a different game.

Tonight will be no different.

Stoke will rely on set pieces and throw-ins to cause the most concern for our defence and since we've let in the most goals from set plays in the top flight this season, we'll have to deal with that. In Sebastien Squillaci I do not trust.

The news that Laurent Koscielny and Robin van Persie are both out is something of a blow, even if their fitness on Sunday would be preferable to aggravating injuries against a side we have had issues with since they got promoted.

Ryan Shawcross is a limited player and will get a lot of abuse for his assault that robbed Aaron Ramsey of a year of his career at Arsenal.

They will no doubt try to 'get amongst us', as Tony Pulis likes to describe it, and it's up to us not to respond and avoid any more injuries at this crucial time of the season.

I read yesterday that Stoke fans were giving Arsenal fans some vile abuse on Twitter and that may be so.

But we have to remember we are Arsenal.

For every Ryan Shawcross, there is a Glenn Whelan, who showed professionalism and humanity when he tried to do his best to help Ramsey when he was hacked down.

Arsenal are there to be shot at and as the most successful club from Southern England, we have standards to maintain.

I'm not suggesting that we should shirk out of tackles or allow ourselves to be bullied, but we have a way of playing that means we can pass through and around Stoke and just have to hope no stupid errors result in our boys getting hurt.

Interestingly, Stoke have not had another card apart from the red for Shawcross in the past four meetings with Arsenal, so hopefully they will maintain that tonight, turn up and give up as we batter them and get a bit closer to M*nure.

With RvP out, I expect Nicklas Bendtner will play and I hope he shows more determination and more respect to the Arsenal shirt than he did on Sunday against Orient.

Squillaci will come in for Koscielny and I have a feeling Manu Eboue will play ahead of Bacary Sagna.

Wojciech Szczesny needs to be at his best to deal with the aerial bombardment that will come his way and while it may not always be pretty, I suspect we will do enough, even if Sunday and the promise of silverware looms large.

Addict XI


Eboue Djourou Squilllaci Clichy

Song Wilshere Fabregas

Walcott Bendtner Arshavin

Who do you think should play tonight? Let us know in the comments below...