Not really too much to write home about after today's match, but let's go over a few talking points:
* We started brightly and with a lot of purpose, so it was only natural that we conceded with Stoke's first shot on goal. We do this far too often, and it's almost become a bit comical how we don't make it hard enough for teams to score against us. You only have to think back to Wigan, less than two weeks ago, to see how sloppiness in defence causes us problems all too frequently. We've now conceded 44 goals this season - a record for us in a 38 game Premier League season. Yes, the 8-2 has skewed things - but those 8 goals still count. Ultimately, teams which concede sloppy goals don't win trophies, especially when they so frequently mis-fire at the other end of the pitch as well.
* Watching the goal, it's disappointing to see Vermaelen at fault once more. Yes, it's difficult to defend against a player who, really, is a freak of nature. But in the second half, Koscielny out-leapt Crouch, winning the ball, and taking him out (fairly) in the process. Vermaelen could have done more to prevent the goal than he did, ultimately. For me, these little errors that TV makes in defence keep on adding up - and they have cost us a lot of goals this season. By contrast, Koscielny was magisterial once more. In any season, he'd be my run away player of the season.
* But LK isn't because Robin van Persie is a phenomenon. A neat little goal, his first in open play in 7 games, was a welcome sight. He had chances to win the game, but we can only be so harsh on a player who's basically saved our season.
* Tomas Rosicky had a good game, and supplied a fantastic ball to van Persie for the goal. I still worry about Rosicky's almost complete lack of goals, but when's he creating so many goalscoring chances, and he's running his arse off in midfield, he's a great part of our midfield.
* Two other midfielders who I thought had a good game were Benayoun and Ramsey. Yossi is just a consummate professional, and put in a great shift - it was he who won the ball that led to our goal. I like his tenacity, and I think he is a greater goal threat than Rosicky, even if YB doesn't have the same ability to dictate the game. I would love it if he stayed, but I don't think he will because he wants regular football. As for Ramsey, I thought he put himself about, didn't hide, and linked play neatly. He has had a real dip in form over the last few weeks, but today he did the simple things well, and put in a solid 7 out of 10 performance. He just needs to get through the last two games, and have a decent pre-season, and I'm sure we'll see a much better player next year.
* Someone who didn't have a good game was Gervinho. He has had a distinctly average first season in English football; you could even call it a poor one, if you were to be unkind. He has the pleasing ability to get past players and find himself in decent positions, but his decision making is terrible, and he ultimately squanders possession and opportunities far too often. He has to make a big step-up next season if he wants to remain at the club - but with another African Cup of Nations on the horizon, I worry about his future.
* We were lucky in the end not to lose it. We looked fairly flat in the second-half after a decent first 45 minutes, and it was Stoke who came closest to taking the three points. We generally just about dealt with their long-throws and punts downfield, even if Sagna had to acrobatically clear at one point, and Szcz had to make a few rather unconvincing punches. That said, the lack of protection afforded by the ref to Szcz was borderline disgraceful. I kinda missed Jens - I'd have loved to see some of the Stoke players try it on with him in the box.
* I don't think the push on Benayoun was a penalty. If that had been given against us, I would have been furious. Yes, we should have had more penalties this season, but that wasn't one of them. Shawcross's handball was clear as day, in contrast, even if it was probably just outside the area.
* To a degree, the lack of options on the bench was frustrating again. I can understand Wenger's reluctance to play the Ox, because we needed our midfielders to be defensive solid, and there was also the chance that Stoke might try to destroy another one of our player's careers. Santos and Diaby did OK after they came on, but they didn't really change the game for the better. I almost laughed when Chamakh came on. He is a completely pointless player. The occasional ability to hold-up the ball is not enough for a player who probably takes home an eye-watering weekly pay-cheque. He has been an enormous disappointment as a signing, and I can't wait till we see the back of him.
* Stoke fans - it doesn't look good when you boo a player because he had his leg snapped by one of your players. I'd ask you to think about your actions, but this involves, well, thought. I suppose I'd be permanently pissed off if I lived in Stoke, though.
* Ultimately, it's a good point. This has become my least favourite game of the season, and I think I'm right in saying that we haven't beaten Stoke at the Britannia when they've had eleven men on the pitch. Lest we forget, we put in one of our worst performances of the season during this game last year, so today's game was definitely an improvement. With Newcastle getting routed, unexpectedly, our fate is now firmly in our hands. Personally, I think one more win will see us over the finish line, and both our remaining games are eminently winnable. We need to ensure that Norwich at home doesn't turn into one of those games where the team think they've won before they take the field. Complacency may well be our biggest enemy as we head into the final stretch.