Here we go again, eh? Before getting too far into it, let’s bury at least one hatchet, eh? Shawcross’s scything of Ramsey is seen ’round these parts as horrific accident brought on by bad timing, not sinister intent. It was horrific to watch, and you can see how shaken Shawcross was in its aftermath. One other factor Gooners overlook is the help Glenn Whelan offered to Ramsey as he lay there on the pitch. To say that the incident only poured more fuel on an already burning fire is an understatement. Keep in mind, though, that by this point, we’d already witness two other similarly stomach-turning leg-breakings, those of Abou Diaby and of Eduardo da Silva. “Once bitten, twice shy” and all. Thrice broken? Well, you can see where we might get upset.
Neither one of us does ourselves any favours, though, do we? We at Arsenal continue to bang on about playing football the “right way,” with precious passes and delicate, balletic interplay set to music played by flutes and oboes and the occasional patter of applause just a whisker softer than that at a golfing event. You at Stoke continue to maul and maim, supposedly, while the ground shakes… the drums, drums in the deep.
There are rivalries, and there are rivalries. Some of them are borne of history or of geography, but this one is borne of sociology. Are there any two Prem clubs further apart in their identities than Stoke and Arsenal? The contrast between our clubs and followers would make The Hunger Games pale by comparison. Stoke inhabit one of the far-flung, backwater districts whose labor and toil supply the capital, in this case Arsenal, full of effete snobs who sneer down on those who dare to dirty their fingers for a living, preferring instead a manicure and Malbec to manual labor or manufacturing. These are the caricatures of ourselves we each endure, accept, or embrace.
The departure of Pulis might have dampened these caricatures but for the hiring of Mark Hughes, perhaps the only manager who might infuriate Gooners more than José Mourinho. Arsène has been high-handed with Hughes in the past, but the man has brought some interesting changes to Stoke’s set-up. Players life Bojan, Shaqiri, and Afellay, to name just three, indicate that these Potters are not content to rely on the old hoof-‘n-hope; indeed, they mght even prove that a squad can play some pretty-damned pretty football. If anyone can graft Pulis’s pure physicality with Arsène’s arrogant artistry, maybe Hughes can. He’s engineered a few upsets over Arsène in the past, if memory serves.
I’ve only met one Potter in person, and he was far more posh than I’ll ever be. We chatted a bit. His mountain bike cost more than I’ll earn in several months. The car to which that bike was strapped cost more than I’ll earn all year. There are caricatures and stereotypes, and there are actual people.
Feh. I’m gettin’ right preachy, ain’t I?
Long story short, let’s move past the complicated socioeconomics. Let’s kick a ball around the pitch and see who wins.