View From The Bank: Arsenal 1 Stoke 0

‘One-nil to the football team’ was the chant that rang around the Emirates last night. Job done; unsurprisingly not without some casualties though, with Walcott ruled out of the Carling Cup Final and Fabregas now a serious doubt.

As expressed on the blog yesterday, our feelings for Stoke are that of utter contempt, and last night only increased these feelings. Their continuous strong arm tactics, time wasting and lack of ambition to actually play football added to the already prickly atmosphere given what happened the last time we met, and also because this was another of those ‘must-wins’.

The overall performance can be filed under the ‘professional’ category in Wenger’s mahogany (French polished, of course) filing cabinet.

A lot has been made of Arsenal’s defence for the past few seasons, none more so than this season, but last night they performed diligently against the expected barrage of crosses. And it was somewhat ironic that our winner came from a set-piece of our own.

Special mention needs to be made of Squillaci who has been shaky since returning from injury and made a scapegoat for Arsenal’s second half collapse at St James’ Park, yet this was his best Arsenal performance to date. He was solid and took his goal well also.

And how great it is to finally have a goalkeeper that isn’t caught cold in games where there is little to do! A fine save from Sczcesny (who we have an Exclusive interview with coming soon) to deny a bullet of a volley from Carew showed again that he has all the attributes, and the temperament to be a world class keeper.

Jack Wilshere was Arsenal’s best player again. He was imperious and provided the driving force, especially when Cesc trudged off with a hamstring tweak.

The much maligned Bendtner didn’t have his greatest evening, although looked bright early on. He worked hard, like a man who knows it’s make or break time for his Arsenal career. He did well to win the corner that made the goal and it was his cushioned cross that provided the assist for Squillaci’s header.

Pre-kick-off, while I took my seat in unfamiliar surroundings of the upper tier (don’t ask), I was thumbing through the programme and found some interesting quotes from Bendtner:

“I’ve finally overcome my injury 100 per cent and feel much sharper, more myself. It all adds up. There  have been some unfortunate things in the papers that I’ve been a bit down about too, with things I said being taken the wrong way. It’s unfortunate because you work hard to get where you want but sometimes you get misread – and it affects me primarily because of the impact it has on others. But I want to prove that I don’t care about that – I’m only interested in focussing on doing something right here.”

He makes some fair points there, some that are perhaps forgotten or overlooked by many Gooners who have earmarked Bendtner as a player to vent frustration at – sometimes justifiably, but often unfairly.

Not for the first time at home this season, the performance of the referee was baffling. At one point one particular Gooner bleated:  ’Do us a favour and send yerself off ref!’ But therein lies the problem; Peter Walton doesn’t have the nous to send himself off.

Walton is 52 this year; how can he be expected to keep up with play? An experienced ref he may well be, but he just isn’t fit enough, and at 51 his sight and hearing must be on the wane. The Premier League need younger refs, and in my opinion should only employ referees that have played the game at a decent standard.

I’m not going to give Ryan Shawcross any more publicity; he’s a clogger, plain and simple (like his brain); a defender from the dark ages. And as for Pulis…