Aaron Ramsey’s last minute goal line clearance took Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League following a goalless draw at Stoke City.
In truth, there wasn’t much to get excited about in a game that was high on needle, at least in the stands, but low in quality on the pitch. Nevertheless, having watched Arsenal capitulate time and time again since Stoke’s promotion to the Premier League, to me, the draw felt like something approaching progress.
With Mesut Özil joining Alexis on the sidelines for this game, the onus was on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey to provide the creative thrust for an Arsenal team looking to win their first game at Stoke since the Welshman was so cruelly injured in 2010. It didn’t quite go to plan for the Gunners who really struggled to find their rhythm in a hostile environment.
Stoke City fans continuing to boo a player on the basis that his leg was broken by Ryan Shawcross has to be one of the most senseless, tedious experiences of watching Premier League football today. As early as the second minute, the chant “Stand up if you hate Rambo!” could be heard reverberating around the ground. Perhaps Ramsey was affected by these chants, perhaps he just had – by his standards – a quiet game.
In a tale of two crosses, Ramsey might have created a winning goal for Olivier Giroud when his corner found the head of Giroud. Unfortunately for us, Giroud’s header guided towards the bottom corner of the Stoke goal was, just, kept out by Jack Butland’s left hand. Despite our best efforts, with the home side defending resolutely, we wouldn’t get close to testing Jack Butland out again. Ramsey, in particular, seemed to be closed down very quickly whenever he was in shooting range.
So it was that “Rambo” would have to wait until the last minute and his headed clearance from a Jon Walters header to make his biggest contribution to the Arsenal side. In that moment, he ensured that Arsenal would finish what has been an extremely testing week away from home top of the table.
I’d have taken that at 4pm on Sunday afternoon, wouldn’t you?