Arsenal put Stoke firmly back in their place

I woke up late. I don’t know what happened to my early alarms but I got up when my 7:25am “panic” alarm went off. It plays I’ll Give You Something to Cry About by Big Business. As soon as I hear the guitar line start in, panic shoots through my body because if I haven’t already shut it off before the guitar starts, that means I overslept.

Worse than just missing the first 25 minutes of the match, I record the games so that’s not a problem, was the fact that I had to pick my friend up from the airport this morning. I was supposed to get her at 8:10, I needed to get my daughter up, and the airport is 20 miles away. So I was in a real state.

I made coffee and then checked my texts. Her connecting flight had been an hour late. I was let off. I turned on the game.

The first action I saw was a replay of Xhaka’s foul on Joe. I wanted to find a way to excuse what happened. I yelled “that’s not a foul” but it was only a half-hearted yell. I knew it was inexcusable. Xhaka was going for the ball, but Allen poked it away from him and Xhaka turned into him to block him off. Classic obstruction. Charming Charlie Adam dispatched the penalty.

I had missed the drama with Mustafi being subbed off, which happened just four minutes before the penalty, but it figures that Arsenal would get off to a panic start. I got off to a panic start to the day, why not Arsenal?

But everything worked out.

As Avie and I drove to the airport a State Patrol car zoomed up behind us with his lights blazing. “I think we are going to get pulled over by the cops” I announce. I had been speeding. Doing about 75 in a 60. So, I pulled over and the cop kept going.

We were still driving when Bee’s plane landed. She texted me and another mini-panic set in. I hate making people wait. That’s when another State Patrol car sped by me. Then all the cars in front of me started braking. Red lights. I’m at a standstill. I voice-text her back: we are going to be late, traffic jam.

But the jam broke up as soon as it had started: a car had a tire blow out and swerved off the road. But since it had happened 1/4 mile in front of us, the jam didn’t have time to fully form around us. We kept going, clear sailing.

Arsenal took 13 minutes to get back into the match. Xhaka collected a loose ball, passed to Alexis (who by now must be making some kind of pre-assist record), and Alexis found Bellerin with a perfect through ball. Bellerin played in a pretty mediocre cross but Walcott had gotten in front of his marker (kids, GET BALL SIDE) and slapped home the first goal. I yelled at the TV, YES! Avie told me I scared her.

Bellerin didn’t look well. He looked like a player who had been out for a few weeks with injury. His crosses were overcooked. He had a “shot” which I think went out for a throw-in. But Bellerin (and Xhaka, who fouled for the penalty – and let’s not forget that Walcott’s been out of form lately) don’t need to be full strength to help Arsenal.

I had to go two laps around the airport. Those airport cops are jerks about any kind of waiting. But with Bee safely in the car, we headed home. She noticed that Avie looked like she wasn’t doing too well in the back and sure enough, almost as soon as the car was under way, Avie told me she felt car sick. “Roll down your window and stick your fingers into the wind” it’s an old trick that my family came up with to treat all of us kids when we got car sick. I can’t read in the car. Or the plane. Or anything moving. Boats also make me sick. I’m one of those people. We turned off the freeway and found a park in Tukwila.

Bee let me in on a secret while we walked Avie in the park: she was still a bit drunk from the night before. She had had a beer on the plane that morning. Ha! I thought I smelled booze! I also wondered what kind of looks she might have gotten, cracking open a cold one on a two hour flight at 7am. I’m not one to judge, I hate flying and used to take Xanax — basically get high — before my flights. Avie wants to puke now but the bathrooms are closed: closed from dusk to sunrise and December to February. Why December to February? Probably to save money.

Avie announces that she’s feeling better. She’s hungry. I mention that there’s an Ikea nearby, half-joking. Avie and Bee agree that Ikea at 10am would be perfect. Damnit. Why did I have to mention Ikea?

Ox collects the ball from Xhaka. Ox chips toward Mesut Özil. Özil sees the keeper has come off his line. Özil heads the ball over the keeper. It’s an audacious goal. Something you might see Messi or Luis Suarez try. Who has the gumption to chip header a 30 yard chipped ball? Mesut Özil, that’s who.

Avie comes out of the bathroom, “I puked a little bit” she announces, “now I’m hungry.” Breakfast at Ikea reminds me of the Army in the 80’s. You grab a plastic tray and head into a line. There you have your choice of plates of cake and pie. Or the main course which is Army eggs, clearly reconstituted from a powder, which are scooped out and plopped on your plate. Then you are given two turkey sausages which look like dried up witch-fingers. And if you’re unlucky, you get some Swedish pancakes which taste like they are made from Elmer’s glue. The coffee is terrible as well but the half-and-half is dispensed at a voluminous rate. Avie gets cornbread, bacon, orange juice, soda, a plate of eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns. She will only end up eating the cornbread and a piece of bacon. I get the glue pancakes. Bee gets apple cider. Calm down, it’s only 0.1% alcohol.

Alexis is fouled. Charlie Adam, whose teeth turned 72 years old today, runs over and stamps on Alexis for the fun of it. It’s his birthday, he’s allowed to stamp on people. Ironically, if he had played the ball instead of stamping on Alexis he might have prevented Iwobi from collecting the loose ball. But Charming Adam didn’t. He intentionally stamped Alexis. It’s pretty clear from the video replay that Adam kicks out to catch Alexis. Will he get punished? No. It looks like referee Lee Mason, who – to be fair – is the worst referee in England, plays advantage. I bet he says he saw the incident.

The Stoke away boys are showing true class now. Imagine that you’re a fan of a club that has never won the League. A club whose last real trophy was the League Cup in 1971. I imagine if I was a fan of that club and I was watching my team get beat 3-1, I’d suck my last tooth and cheer on my team’s most glorious moment: breaking Aaron Ramsey’s leg. I mean, Arsenal won the League at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane. Arsenal won back to back FA Cups two years ago. Aaron Ramsey scored the winner in the FA Cup two and a half years ago. Arsenal are top of the League. What do Stoke have? Breaking Aaron Ramsey’s leg. Merry Christmas, Stoke.

Aveline eats her cornbread. She’s happy now. She’s headbutting Bee with her unicorn horn. She’s wearing a unicorn onesie. In public. She’s also got a “circle-line Trump” button on. I get uptight about people wearing sleep-wear in public but Aveline broke it down for me one day: what’s the difference between this cotton outfit and the cotton outfit that you’re wearing? One is for sleep! I reply. I want to defend my old man ways. It’s pointless. She’s right. It’s clothes. I’m the one with the hang-up.

I’m not alone. People in Ikea are staring at the three of us. Bee is Irish and so she looks nothing like Avie and I with her short, straight black hair and brown skin. We make a strange party. Me with my bright green Polo beanie and crazy Santa beard. Avie with her unicorn onesie. Bee drinking cider behind smiling Irish eyes. “Let’s go Avie, Bee is tired from her flight, she’s been a trooper.” Avie is sticking Bee with her unicorn horn “grab me by the horn!” she laughs. “If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me” Bee replies.


Post Script

We’ve teamed up with Art of Football to give away one of their Arsenal t-shirts or prints just in time for Christmas. They have a range of Arsenal designs including Henry, Bergkamp, Ian Wright, Sanchez and that Michael Thomas league winner. You can see the full range on their web site. Winner chooses the prize! To enter simply answer the following question: how many goals has Thierry Henry scored for Arsenal in all competitions. There are two correct answers!  Email your answers to

Competition closes on Monday 12th to give them time to ship your winnings!

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