What club can transform a seemingly nice bloke and a previous talent like Michael Owen into little more than a street thug? Yes, Stoke. The epicentre of anti-football. This was a better and more gritty display by Arsenal and it had to be. Getting stuck in with tackles is and trying to fight your way through a 1-9-1 formation is part of the job description. The other part is that despite their tough guy attitude, Stoke are a collection of drama queens, who bleed and whinge, led by a man who wears a baseball cap. They rarely try to win games and after trailing, Tony Pulis thought it fit to put in three strikers.
A managerial stroke of genius because all it did was provide a comical interlude in which Owen swats at Mikel Arteta after a legitimate challenge. Both tumble to the ground, the Spaniard gets up, shoves the former striker and things heat up with Wilshere getting into the action. The FA is reviewing the incident and Owen might be booked retrospectively.
The clip above is Poldi's free kick in the 77the minute nestling in the net after a deflection and it does not give you the number of chances that Arsenal should have put away as Asimir Begovic proved that he is one of the few gems at Stoke.
The Gunners were made to sweat as the linesman seemed to rule it offside which led to a consultation with Chris Foy as players from both teams milled around arguing their case. Thankfully, it was allowed to stand. Ryan Shawcross's meltdown after that was a thing of beauty to behold. Earlier, he tried to end Koscielny's happy endings with a studs up tackle to his family jewels. Shawcross's brand of punishment might be more useful in dealing with the gang r*pists of the world.
How was Nacho Monreal's debut? Solid. He tracked back, made himself available to receive passes, and was not afraid to surge forward. It was good to see his team mates turning to him instinctively when under pressure as he earned their trust, a change from the skittish demeanour engendered by Andre Dos Santos. He got his first proper introduction to the English league when his clash of heads with Jonathan Walter left the striker bleeding and requiring six stitches. Here is a nice sample of his first outing.