There was definitely an eerie sense of deja vu as Arsenal again failed to secure maximum points after largely dominating their clash against Stoke at the Brittania Stadium. Similar to last week, the press were quick to jump on the Gunners inability to find the back of the net, in particular highlighting the absence of former captain Robin van Persie.
Although admittedly Arsenal did look short on ideas in the final third, as I said last week it is always going to take some time for our attack to get on the same wave-length, particularly when our three new signings make up the bulk of our attack and our established winger Gervinho very much had an off day. You could see today they were trying, but it was evident that they have not yet had enough time to become familiar with each other, which often delayed crucial passes in the final third.
When you couple this with Stoke’s organised defence, which like Sunderland last week was compact in the middle and deep in their own area, it looked unlikely that Arsenal were going to score that ‘perfect’ goal they so often seemed to be pushing for. I am optimistic however that with training and game-time we will see our combinations begin to fluorish.
While the Arsenal trademark is so often to try get that ‘perfect goal’, this also brings to me my other point being Arsenal’s reluctance to shoot from long-range (besides of course Giroud’s extreme long-range attempt). During the course of the match, there was plenty of times I found myself wondering why a shot hadn’t been let off in and around the 18-yard box. A few times space was opened up for a shot to be taken, but often the players were looking for someone else that could walk it in, rather than simply chance their arm and test the keeper. We really only saw Begovic tested once the entire match.
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Anyway, enough with the negative. On the positive side, I must say that Arsenal looked very comfortable defensively. Predictably Stoke tried to trouble Arsenal with their trademark direct aerial ball on many occasions, be it through a throw-in, set-piece or from open play. While Arsenal have often struggled with this in the past, today they stood upto the task with unexpected ease. Mertesacker contained Crouch well, while Vermaelen was rock solid. Jenkinson and Gibbs also proved very difficult to get the better of, while Manonne commanded the area well. Defence definitely looks up to the challenge this season!
With two draws from two games, I guess you can say it has been an OK start for Arsenal. There are plenty of positives to take from each match, particularly on the defensive front. We now look forward to a difficult upcoming match against Liverpool, who held champions City at Anfield this game-week. It will no doubt prove to be a very tough clash, especially at Anfield.
P.S. I don’t often come out with jeers at opposition fans, but I found it disgusting the Stoke fans booed Aaron Ramsey after he was substituted on late the match. No sense of morality.
on the performance…
We showed we are very strong spirit-wise and we were dominant in the challenges. We were prepared, highly-focused, defensively very strong overall. Offensively we still have some work to do because we miss a bit of accuracy in final third, in our movement and in our passing. We are used to finding each other blind in the final third and there is still something missing. But I still think we should have won the game 1-0.
You have to give credit to Stoke as well, they defend very well and they have experience at the back. They are very strong defensively and as long as we didn’t score an opener they were happy with a point, you could see that. Is it a point gained or two dropped? I would say it is two dropped on the game but it is maybe a good point because it is difficult for everybody to take points at Stoke.
on what is missing up front…
It is an understanding because you have Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud… one month ago they didn’t know each other. So that will come. There is some work to do on the training ground but you can feel the potential. You can see as well that there is something missing – we are not spontaneous enough in some situations. I am very positive about my team. People will say ‘OK, you didn’t score for two games’ and I cannot deny that. We played against two teams who defend very well as a unit – Sunderland and Stoke. Overall I believe we can be a good surprise in this championship.
on references to Robin van Persie…
Of course [that will happen]. Look, if you want to convince me that we lost an exceptional player, you are wasting your time. I was the first to say that. We have to find a way to get around that by sharing the goals more than we did before with Van Persie. I think we can do that. Giroud scored 20, Podolski scored 20, and I am convinced we will get some goals from Diaby and Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho. We have to share that around a little bit.
on criticism of the strikers…
I do not listen too much to what people say [on TV]. I listen and I try to see if it is exaggerated or not. I have worked for 30 years on the football pitch every day, and I know what it is to improve a football player and what it is to go out morning and afternoon and try to make a player. Not everybody can say that.
on building the understanding…
It can be very quick. The more you speak about the problem, the bigger it becomes in our game. Giroud does not have to think that he has to replace Van Persie with the number of goals he needs to score. We want to play as a team and if we play as a team we will score goals. I would just like to say I had the same questions when Thierry Henry left as I have had with Robin van Persie, exactly the same. And even last year I had to answer questions about why I played Van Persie as a centre forward. You have to take that into perspective and what for me is positive is that you feel there is potential there.
on fears of making a slow start…
We played a 0-0 against Sunderland and we came here today and we have taken a point. Some big teams will drop points here – it will be easy for no team to come here and just take a win.
on pushing for a late winner…
I feel we played against two teams who are highly focused to defend. When you see other games you see they are open games. We played against two teams who were really focused on defending, defending, defending – and they did very well. I have seen other teams who go forward, they play and they open their game. After it is easy to score, but today it was a fight for 90 minutes. What is the most important thing is that you learn about your team and see they are capable of standing up. You could see we behaved like men who are ready for a fight. That is the most important thing at the moment.
on a relatively comfortable game against Stoke…
Yes, certainly defensively we had no major problem. They had one good chance in the second half when we lost the ball in midfield but apart from that we dealt very well with them in the air. They have six basketball players, size-wise! It is difficult on set pieces because we had plenty of corners but when you look at their back four and then the guy they brought in, Cameron, the midfielder, he is two metres tall! It’s difficult to take advantage of set pieces against them.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Gervinho Cazorla Podolski
Vito Mannone | 6.5: Stood upto the task when he was called into action, but surprisingly was rarely called into action with Arsenal largely dominating the match.
Carl Jenkinson | 7.0: Looked surprisingly strong defensively and proved to be extremely hard to get by on his flank. Looked at home in the first-team.
Per Mertesacker | 7.0: Was understandably tasked with keeping Peter Crouch under wraps and did so to good effect. Only lost a few aerial duels with the gangly Englishman.
Thomas Vermalen | 7.0: As usual, the Vermintor was strong and consistent. Won his fair share of aerial duels and looked solid all night.
Kieran Gibbs | 7.5: Excelled in both defence and attack, overlapping Podolski and helping out on offence at most opportunities.
Mikel Arteta | 6.5: Looked precise with his passing and also didn’t shy away from some physical challenges. Will be disappointed with his free-kick however and his fluffed shot in open-play.
Abou Diaby| 6.0: The Frenchman seemed to hold the ball for longer than necessary and at times telegraphed passes that were easily intercepted. Otherwise showed good movement and good passing ability.
Santi Cazorla | 7.5: Again was Arsenal’s most effective player and the creative hub of the team. Although in saying this his influence did drop somewhat in the second half. (81′)
Gervinho | 4.0: Was very quiet tonight and unfortunately lacked any kind of a final ball. Always tried to drive to by-line which ended in failure on most occasions. (77′)
Lukas Podolski | 6.5: Had great off the ball movement and didn’t back down from the physical side of the match. Had a golden opportunity blocked, but unfortunately was unable to make another significant contribution. (77′)
Olivier Giroud | 6.5: Was similar to Podolski in the sense that he tried very hard, but ultimately was unable to make any telling contribution. Held up the ball well however and won a good share of aerial duels.
- No Notable substitutions
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