Delap reveals ‘bizarre’ Arsenal legend Wenger ‘measured grass’ at Stoke; how Man Utd stopped his throws

Joe Williams
Rory Delap takes a long throw against Arsenal

Rory Delap thinks Stoke City got in Arsene Wenger’s head during their time in the Premier League with the Arsenal boss “measuring grass” before their fixtures.

During his four full seasons with the Potters in the Premier League, Delap used to cause havoc in the opposition’s penalty area with his long throws.

And Arsenal, in particular, had a tough time up against Stoke during that period with the Potters winning three out of their five home matches against Wenger’s men during Delap’s time at the club, while the Gunners won just one in February 2010.

Delap’s gigantic throws caused carnage in the opposition box with the likes of Ricardo Fuller, Mama Sidibe and Ryan Shawcross the beneficiaries.

And Delap has revealed how former Arsenal boss Wenger used to go to great lengths to try and figure out how to beat Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

Delap said on the Shoot for Love YouTube channel: “We’d beaten him sometimes before the game because he was out measuring grass. An unbelievable manager, so successful and a great team – but he’s at Stoke measuring the grass and stuff.

“Teams like Arsenal would want to come and pass the ball so our manager would request the grass to be left a little bit longer. It was only millimetres longer but it did affect the roll of the ball and it slowed the ball down.

“There’s a minimum and maximum you can have the grass in the Premier League, I don’t know if you know that, but we did it to the maximum.

“Likewise we brought the pitch in, only a metre either side – which isn’t massively different – but it helped us because we didn’t want teams to play around us, we wanted teams to try to play through us where our numbers were.”

Delap added: “I think it was after a cup and he’d had enough, saying there was this kid who was using his hands more than his feet.

“But it was part of it and part of the psychology we would use to our advantage.

“I’ve been on courses with some of the Arsenal players and they’d say for the week before they played Stoke he was just transfixed on defending throws. It was bizarre.”

But not all sides succumbed to Delap’s throws with Manchester United figuring out a way to deal with the Stoke City player’s weapon.

Delap continued: “Man Utd would ask their defenders not to head it unless it was short. They’d leave a path for Van der Sar. That was really effective and we never had success with it against Man Utd. Chelsea were very similar and we didn’t have success against Chelsea.

“I spoke to Shay Given and (Man City) used to ask their defenders to deal with it and we had success against them with it because if it went over someone’s head it was there for anyone.

“It’s been interesting since finishing to speak to different lads about how they dealt with it and everyone had a little bit of a different way of dealing with it.

“I think Man Utd’s one, when they wouldn’t attempt to win the ball but stop the man they were marking heading it so the keeper could come and catch it or punch it and it worked. I’ve let the cat out of the bag there.”

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