Respect should be paid to contrasting styles
Arsenal fans need to get off their high horses and realise there is more than one way of playing football.
Not every team in the Premier League, let alone the rest of English football, has the resources to scour the globe for the best talent and weave it together under the tutelage of one of the world's best coaches in Arsene Wenger.
So sometimes opponents play to their strengths by being solid and competitive, and attempt to pinch a point against one of the best footballing teams in the world.
That is what Stoke tried to do on Wednesday night at the Emirates but you would have thought the Gunners were up against Satan's XI the way Arsenal fans were booing at Tony Pulis's players, tactics or tackles.
"You're a disgrace to the Premier League," one supporter shouted as he left after the hard-fought 1-0 win for Wenger's team.
Sebastien Squillaci scores from a corner as Arsenal beat Stoke 1-0 at the Emirates
This was the first time that the two teams had met each other since Aaron Ramsey broke his leg during a challenge with Ryan Shawcross almost exactly year ago, so some vitriol towards the Stoke defender was perhaps expected.The atmosphere was not exactly helped by the Stoke fans singing Shawcross's name within the first couple of minutes of the game.
But for their opposition supporters to boo every Rory Delap throw-in and the decision to book Arsenal's Gael Clichy for the worst tackle of the night made it feel like there was more than just the previous encounter in their minds.
This game, of course, is supposed to be the archetypal contrast in styles: Arsenal's patient passing versus the long-ball merchants.
So you could argue the home supporters were attacking Stoke's philosophy while defending their own.
The truth, however, was far from that stereotype. Pulis sent out his team with a five-man midfield to try and pressure Arsenal's engine room where Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Alex Song often move through the gears.
But in the first 10 minutes Delap, Dean Whitehead and Glenn Whelan could not get close to them.
Arsenal could have been 3-0 up within that time with Theo Walcott hitting the post, fluffing a volley and not connecting with a through ball where he should have done better.
Instead, much to the surprise of Wenger, the Gunners took the lead when Sebastien Squillaci headed in following a deep corner.
Yes, that's right, Arsenal won the game thanks to a set-piece against Stoke.
Does that make the victory any less valuable? Well no, they now sit one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester United.
So if Arsenal fans can accept that goal for what it is, then they should pay respect to the way Stoke play and how they improved after the frantic opening to claw their way back into the game.
They did not go around booting Arsenal players, although you would have thought that, the way the crowd were reacting to every challenge. The injuries to Walcott and Fabregas were just unfortunate.
More than that, though, Stoke almost pulled off the perfect game plan by containing Arsenal with Whitehead absolutely immense in the middle of the park.
It was a defensive display full of craft that even Wenger acknowledged afterwards.
"I think overall the game was played in good spirit, I cannot complain" he said.
"It was committed with strong challenges but overall correct. I have not an issue with the long throws or any other aspect of their game.
"Nobody likes to play against Stoke because they have a very special way to play the game but I have to say that tonight they defended in a very intelligent way.
"For 90 minutes they were disciplined and we didn't find the space and when we found a little bit of space, quickly they cut it off again and we could not take advantage."
The only minor criticism that could be levelled at Pulis's tactics was that having established a platform where only a Robert Huth error led to the Arsenal goal, they did not go all out for a point near the end.
Jonathan Walters had a fine second half on the left side for the Potters and it was his ability to get closer to lone striker John Carew that started to cause Arsenal problems.
But once he was replaced by Ricardo Fuller after 78 minutes, the Jamaican substitute took a similar position where he struggled to make an impact rather than joining Carew as a front two.
Still, Pulis will argue that his team had the chances to earn a draw with the Norwegian forward drawing a fine save from Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny in the first half and Huth and Jermaine Pennant going close in the second.
And despite what Arsenal fans might believe, the Stoke boss is well-versed enough to realise that even though his team operate in a different style, he is still a huge fan of Wenger's side.
"I've always said that Arsenal are a fantastic football club and a fantastic team," he explained after the game.
"For me and our football club we hope they go to Barcelona and win for British football and that's always the case.
"But when you play against them you need to be competitive. We didn't do it in the first 10-15 minutes and they ripped us to bits but when you get a bit closer and work against them hopefully things turn around for you."
It might not have been a classic match but in terms of a contest it was top drawer.
Stoke did not need to resort to the long passes for which they are renowned, they were too busy defending for most of the game and kept possession well for the short periods that they had the ball.
So even though you could not say it was a contrast in styles on Wednesday night's evidence, both teams acquitted themselves well in a very even and fair battle.
The time has come for Arsenal and Stoke fans to draw a line under the Shawcross episode, accept the two teams play in a different manner and enjoy the jousting that follows.
With a mutual respect shown by the two managers is it now possible that their supporters can do the same?
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