With Liverpool losing against Southampton yesterday, this was an excellent opportunity for Arsenal to move into pole position in the league, and at home against Stoke it was definitely an opportunity we should be taking. Signs weren’t great, with referee Mike Dean being assigned (who we have an appalling record with), and then Walcott pulling out of the game two minutes before kick off to be replaced by the inexperienced Serge Gnabry. But we have an excellent record at home against Stoke and recent results had everyone feeling positive.
Things were certainly looking positive after 4 minutes, when Jack Wilshere earned a free kick in a promising area. The shot from Özil was parried by Begovic, but only as far as our in form Welshman, Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey put it away easily for Arsenal’s first goal of the game, and Özil’s first assist.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with Arsenal, we seemed to take our foot off the gas a little bit after going in front. We had a lot of possession, but with very little penetration. We definitely need to learn to be more cut throat, as was demonstrated after twenty five minutes when a seemingly harmless Stoke attack saw a lofted through ball find Arnautovic far too easily. It seemed like the post had saved us but the ball rebounded to an unmarked Cameron who passed it into the back of the net. Back on level terms and with the momentum seemingly in Stoke’s favour.
The deadlock didn’t last long however, and ten minutes later we scored a very German goal. A corner came in towards the near post from Özil, and Mertesacker got his head on it and directed it across goal towards the far post. Koscielny was following it in, but dummied the header, fooling Begovic, and leaving the ball to drop straight into the goal. Arsenal back in front thanks to our German contingent and another set piece.
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Yet again we seemed to drop off the pace a bit after the goal, and Stoke were having far more possession than they should have been allowed. We were being pushed back into our own half, and the roles seemed reversed a little at times, with Stoke playing the ball along the ground, while we were playing long balls up to Giroud.
Gnabry seemed completely out of his depth in the first half, being pushed around by the Stoke defenders and being dispossessed far too easily. It seemed that all he needed was a bit of confidence however, because he came out for the second half a completely different player. He was taking players on, shooting from distance and linking up well with Özil and Giroud. He almost crafted a goal after a beautiful pass to Giroud took Huth out of the game, and left acres of space for the young German to run into for the return pass. Huth spotted the danger though, and cynically took the youngster out with a shoulder block. The referee played advantage and Giroud should have done better really, his shot earning a corner when he really should have scored or laid it off to Özil.
Arsenal still weren’t looking comfortable approaching the latter stages of the game, with the Potters still seeing far too much of the ball. But another set piece, from another Wilshere driving run, gave Özil the chance to put in another good cross. Sagna climbed high between two defenders and sent a looping header back across goal and over the outstretched arms of Begovic. A hat trick of assists for Özil, three uncharacteristic set piece goals, and a comfortable 3-1 scoreline for the Gunners to see out.
Although he didn’t perform too badly today, the inclusion of Gnabry in the starting lineup really illustrates how weak we are in terms of depth at the moment. When you have a commanding lead these weaknesses aren’t as noticeable, but had we needed something from the bench, we didn’t have anyone who could really make an impact. We saw the return of Mikel Arteta for the last 10 minutes today which is great news, but we really need the likes of Podolski, Cazorla, Chamberlain and Rosicky back soon, or the current eleven could start to suffer. Flamini had a fantastic game today, and Ramsey’s form so far this season has been exemplary; so is there a spot for Arteta at the moment?
This win sees us top of the League, so let’s hope we can kick on and make that spot our own. With the Manchester Derby coming up next, one of them has to drop points, could we be the dark horses this season? Let’s hope so!
on the performance…
We were in a position where we could take advantage of our home game and we did it. We had two [different] halves, the first one was fluent, we did well going forward. In the second half we looked jaded physically and lost our game a bit. In the end we lost our technical quality but we have shown again another aspect as well, that we can dig deep and fight when we are a bit under pressure. In the end, when the third goal went in, we just kept the result. It’s been a positive, very good week for us because we won in Marseille, we won in Sunderland, we won today. Overall it was a very positive week.
on Mesut Ozil’s set-pieces…
When you play against Stoke you don’t expect to score three goals from set-pieces and that is basically the biggest surprise to me today. It shows as well how important the delivery is. He [Ozil] is a player, when you look at his numbers, the assists are not a coincidence, it’s just the reality of his game. I believe that once he is completely integrated we’ll see even more of him but he has shown today that he is a great player.
on being title contenders with Ozil…
Look, it’s not only him. He gave a lift to everybody at the Club and, for the rest, it will be the quality of our teamwork and our teamplay that will decide that. The only thing of our position at the moment is that we are in a position where we can focus on improvement in a stable environment, so that’s a good basis. For the the rest, [in] the table everyone is mathematically together.
on Ozil adjusting to English football…
It shows you that football is football. When you have the ball, you make a good pass or a bad pass. The good players make a good pass and the bad players make a bad pass – [whether it is] in Spain or in England, it’s exactly the same.
on Ozil’s room for improvement…
Yes because you could see today he has a good pace as well. At the moment he focuses a lot on his passing but he can create individually as well.
on Theo Walcott’s late omission…
He had an abdominal muscle problem, I don’t really know what it is. Is it a question of days? I hope so, because he had a test before the game and I decided to play him. I hope it’s nothing.
on Mathieu Flamini’s performance…
[He did] pretty well, and the two [of them] together [Flamini and Ozil] cost £21 million!
on Jack Wilshere…
Jack played now five games. Normally I should have rested him today but he did fight very hard and he was a bit exhausted in the end and that’s why I decided to take him off. Certainly I will not play Jack on Wednesday, we have to rotate the squad because we play again on Saturday and after that we have a massive home game in the Champions League. On Wednesday I will of course rotate the team.
on Nicklas Bendtner…
I haven’t decided [if he will play in the Capital One Cup] but he has a chance.
on how the mood has lifted…
I said many times, even when everyone was unhappy, that my job is to make everybody happy. So when they are, I feel well. But that’s just linked with the results so let’s keep playing well.
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker(c) Gibbs
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