Tuning into Stoke City taking on Arsenal in recent seasons has proved most entertaining as Arsene Wenger's aristocrats faced the wrath of the hard-hitting locals both on and off the pitch at the atmospheric Britannia Stadium.

But in this year's encounter, a football match was threatening to break out, such is the quality that has been added to the Stoke squad with Bojan Krkić, Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautović and Ibrahim Afellay now residing within Mark Hughes' ranks in the Potteries.

However, with such quality on display - not to mention the star-studded Arsenal XI - I found myself drawn to the performance of a player often criticised by many on this side of the Irish Sea.

The man in question, obviously enough, Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan who was handed the tricky task of nullifying the rampant Arsenal attack, which is prone to cutting sides open at their leisure.

But the unassuming Whelan took his place just in front of the back four and proceeded to put in a most effective, yet understated, performance, which, with the help of keeper Jack Butland, kept the league leaders scoreless for 90 minutes of attacking football.

Every Arsenal foray that ventured into Whelan's domain was carefully coerced out to either flank with the Irishman orchestrating those around him into the right positions to keep the attack at bay.

And in possession, the Dubliner was equally astute, playing solid, yet simple passes, while always offering an outlet to a player on the ball. 

In fact, Whelan’s passing was virtually flawless throughout, whether hitting that safe, sideways ten-yard ball or opting for the odd diagonal effort, finding men in space on either wing.

And the Stoke vice-captain almost capped off a perfect display with a 35-yard half-volley, which was flying goalwards before an Arsenal defender bravely diverted it off course with his head.

The Dubliner was also singled out for special analysis on Sunday’s Match of the Day show, which was high praise, considering the other excellent individuals on display.

Jonathan Walters was also deemed necessary as the manager looked to his big players to step up to the challenge of taking down the league leaders and, as expected, the Ireland striker put in another huge shift and was almost rewarded in the dying moments as his near-post header was cleared off the line.

Shane Long has really hit form in recent weeks for Southampton and the Ireland striker again played an integral part in the Saints’ 3-0 victory over West Brom on Saturday.

There were no goals for Long on this occasion but, playing alongside Sadio Mane, the Saints strikeforce proved too much to handle for the Baggies back four all afternoon.

Needless to say, Long’s recent form, coupled with the arrival of new striker Charlie Austin, has kicked the silly season rumour mill into top gear with reports of an €8million bid for the Ireland striker from Liverpool, and swiftly rejected, or so the story goes.

Should the rumours prove correct, however, the Tipperary man might be best advised to remember what happened Robbie Keane at Anfield and stay put now that the Southampton management and fans have seen the real qualities that the striker possesses.

Former Red and RTÉ football pundit Didi Hamann on the other hand, disagrees.

James McClean was on the losing West Brom side and helped keep the scoreline down to three with a timely clearance off the line in the first half.

Bournemouth enjoyed a much-needed victory over Norwich at the weekend, aided by Irish pair Harry Arter and Eunan O’Kane with the latter replacing the former with ten minutes remaining.

Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan were part of the losing Canaries side

Rob Elliot continues in goal for Newcastle and witnessed a rare victory for the Toon as they beat West Ham 2-1, while his international rival Darren Randolph was back on the bench for the Hammers.

Josh Cullen was another Irish player on the bench for West Ham but failed to get the nod in the St James’ Park defeat.

Rumours are coming out of the east London club this morning that the Ireland Under-21 international will be sent out on loan to gain some valuable first-team experience.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Sunderland’s John O’Shea and Crystal Palace’s Damien Delaney had weekends to forget as they shipped eight goals between them on the back of 4-1 and 4-0 defeats respectively.

Euro 2016 hopeful, Alan Judge, was on target again for Brentford but ended up on the losing side on Friday night as Stephen Ward’s Burnley maintain their challenge for a return to the Premier League.

Judge’s former teammate, Jonathan Douglas, played as Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town slipped out of the play-off places after being held by Eoin Doyle, Alan Browne, Greg Cunningham and their Preston North Enders.

A positive for the Tractor Boys saw Daryl Murphy hit the target from the edge of the box to grab the equaliser at Portman Road.

Stephen Gleeson was also on the scoresheet as his Birmingham City side proved too strong for the much-fancied Derby County, which included Jeff Hendrick, Cyrus Christie and Richard Keogh in the starting XI. The Blues are now up to eighth in the table and just two points outside the play-off places.

There was no need for the tough-tackling David Meyler in the Hull City XI as he watched on from the bench as his side smashed Charlton Athletic 6-0.

Meyler’s Ireland colleague probably wished he was also watching from the sidelines but Ireland keeper Stephen Henderson was the unfortunate recipient of the aforementioned six goals. An afternoon to forget for the Ireland stopper.

Meanwhile, Chris Hughton’s Brighton & Hove Albion eventually got back to winning ways as the Seagulls won their first Championship game in eight attempts, beating Blackburn Rovers 1-0. Former Dundalk midfielder Richie Towell was an unused sub for Brighton, while Darragh Lenihan started for Rovers.

Anthony Stokes will be looking to rekindle his Euro 2016 ambitions after missing out on the majority of this season thus far at Celtic and a move to Hibernian looks imminent for the former Sunderland striker.

Should Stokes move to Edinburgh and down a division, his place in the pecking order may be taken by Aberdeen frontman Adam Rooney who scored again at the weekend in the 3-2 victory over Ross County.

Back in England, Anthony Forde was the only Irishman to hit the target in League 1 as he scored for Walsall in their 3-2 victory over a Bury side containing Ian Lawlor and John O’Sullivan.

David Forde’s Millwall are still eyeing the play-offs but things are not going to plan for the one-time Ireland number one as he was left out of the side on Sunday, which beat Port Vale 3-1.

There were five Irish players in action as Peterborough United took on Southend but the sides could not be separated in the scoreless stalemate. Cian Bolger, Gary Deegan, Noel Hunt and Dave Mooney all played for the Shrimpers, while former St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Chris Forrester made the headlines for the wrong reasons as he missed a stoppage-time penalty, which would have secured the three points for Posh.

The top two sides in League Two won at the weekend with both teams boasting Irish scorers as Carl McHugh was on target for leaders Plymouth Argyle as they beat Stevenage 3-2, while John-Joe O’Toole helped Northampton keep up the pressure at the top with a 2-1 away win at Dagenham and Redbridge.

Crossing the English Channel to the Netherlands as Manchester City loanee Jack Byrne continued his education in the Dutch top-flight, playing the full game for Cambuur, albeit on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline to Vitesse.

Further afield, Cillian Sheridan played in Omonia Nicosia’s 0-0 draw away at Apollon Limassol and remain in fifth place in the table, while Andy Keogh was again in action for Perth Glory in their 2-2 draw with Melbourne City.