Belfast Telegraph

Potters prey on Arsenal again

Stoke showed the Britannia Stadium's fear factor is alive and well by sending Arsenal home with their tail between their legs, according to Potters striker Peter Crouch.

The Gunners have won only once on their last nine visits to Stoke and were three down at half-time on Saturday before fighting back to 3-2.

It is the fixture Potters fans relish more than any other, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger a long-standing critic of Stoke's style of play and physical approach.

Ryan Shawcross' tackle in 2010 that broke Aaron Ramsey's leg and the unsavoury aftermath has not been forgotten by either team and the extra spice to the atmosphere has served Stoke well over the years.

Crouch said: "The crowd are always so up for it, and that obviously gives us a boost. But we had a game plan and that worked to perfection.

"I think it does help, everything that surrounds this game. There's a bit of history, words have been exchanged and things have happened in the past. There is a little bit there and it's always nice to make sure we get the win.

"I've been an away player here before and I know it's not a nice place to come. I've been here with Spurs, with Liverpool and, as a big club, you come here and it's like, 'Do we have to go to Stoke?'

"And that's something that we have to maintain. It's all right playing good football but we still have to have that fear factor and I think we've proved that we've still got that."

Mark Hughes made evolving Stoke's style of play a priority when he took over as manager from Tony Pulis in the summer of 2013.

Stoke have already beaten Manchester City and Tottenham as well as Arsenal this season but their three home defeats are as many as they suffered in the whole of last season.

They could not have made a better start against Arsenal, with Crouch netting after just 19 seconds, and goals from Bojan Krkic and Jonathan Walters made it a dream first half.

The match turned in a five-minute spell midway through the second half.

First Bojan had a fourth goal controversially ruled out for offside - referee Anthony Taylor deciding Mame Biram Diouf, who looked level anyway, was interfering by blocking the goalkeeper's view.

Arsenal went up the other end and won a penalty, converted by Santi Cazorla, and two minutes later Ramsey pulled a second back, but Stoke held on.

Taylor's decision caught players and fans by surprise, and Crouch said: "That was frustrating.

"You go 4-0 up and in the blink of an eye it's back to 3-2. That could have killed us off. He's had a shot from outside the box and I was scratching my head wondering why it wasn't given.

"The ref said that Diouf was impeding the goalkeeper but I don't think he moved. It's a bit of a grey area that one.

"We knew they would come back into it in the second half but we had to show that character and determination to get the result."

Amid all of Arsenal's talent, it was Bojan that shone brightest on the ball.

A somewhat unlikely summer signing from Barcelona, the little playmaker once known as the new Lionel Messi initially looked a fish out of water in the Premier League.

But, since coming back into the side just over a month ago, Bojan has blossomed into Stoke's most important attacking player and Geoff Cameron thinks the moniker might fit after all.

The American defender said: "It's not easy to come from other countries and to adapt to the Premier League. It's more physical, a faster pace. It took some time for him to adjust and now he's starting to fit in his shoes really well and he's proving he's a big-name player.

"He's a fantastic player. Technically he's amazing. He's a guy that you want on the pitch because he can change a game. He's that spark. You could say he's like a little Messi but I don't want to fill his head too big."

Bojan linked up particularly well with Crouch, and the striker will hope it is a partnership Hughes wants to see more of.

Saturday's game was the first he had started for more than a month, and he responded with his first goal for more than two.

The 33-year-old said: "It's been really frustrating. I've been really disappointed to miss out the last few games and it was a case of trying to take the chance once I got it. Hopefully I've done that."

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph