Stoke vs Arsenal
Barclay’s Premier League
Kick off: March 01, 2014 3.00 PM BST
A lacklustre performance from Arsenal, worsened by a horrendous refereeing performance, and a very physical Stoke side. A penalty that never should have been, consigning Arsenal to their 5th defeat of the season, and giving our title credentials a blow.
The Gunners never looked like settling down, Stoke piling the pressure on in midfield right from the off, and asserting their physicality when it was clear that Mike Jones had no intention of stopping them.
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It was a relatively poor first half, Arsenal unable to get any meaningful possession on the ball, neither keeper being given much to do. Podolski got the first truly decent chance, but he skewed his shot horribly, blasting wide when he should at least have hit the target.
Whelan did manage to hit the target for Stoke as the half time whistle approached, blasting a shot with real venom from the edge of the box. Szczesny was equal to it though, making a fine save to deny him, palming it away to be cleared.
Cazorla wasted a decent chance late on, driving into space in front of the box, with options in front of him. He opted to shoot, a tame effort straight into the hands of Begovic. Podolski overlapping on his left would have been a far better option.
There were a number of obvious fouls by Stoke, but the referee was either being extremely lenient with the home side, or just plain blind.
With play being regularly broken up, and neither side looking particularly threatening, we unsurprisingly entered half time with the score still at nil nil.
Crouch was doing a great job for Stoke up front, giving them the out ball they needed and causing serious problems for Mertesacker and Koscielny. He came close several times in the second half, first having the ball stolen off his head by Szczesny, then attempting a bicycle kick which sailed just wide. He arguably then should have put the home side ahead, when Charlie Adam (who had been the filthiest player on the pitch by a mile) put a decent ball into the box following a free kick conceded by Rosicky. Crouch managed to get a foot onto it, but couldn’t direct it goalwards, the ball instead dropping in front of him; Giroud able to swipe it clear.
Having gone in studs up on one challenge, scraping his studs down Arteta’s leg during another, and being a generally dirty player all game, Adam stamped on Giroud’s leg after he was pulled to the ground. It was the second time the Frenchman had been stamped on in the match, this time being totally ignored, the first incident somehow resulting in a Stoke free kick.
Arsenal made two substitutions in an attempt to swing the game their way. First Özil on in place of Podolski, who had gone missing for most of his 70 minutes on the pitch. Then Chamberlain replacing Rosicky, who had been putting a shift in, but not seeing any reward for his efforts.
Before either player had a chance to make things happen, Mike Jones awarded Stoke a penalty, and an extremely contentious one at that. Koscielny and Walters battled for a Crouch knock down, the Stoke man narrowly reaching the ball first. He toe poked the ball up, and it struck the hand of the French centre back from less than a yard away. How that can be called intentional I have no idea, but that was the kind of game that Mike Jones (and Arsenal) were having.
Having missed his last 50 billion penalties, Jonathan Walters promptly stepped up and scored from the spot. 1-0 Stoke.
Sanogo was brought on for Wilshere to try and force things, but it was a big ask from the youngster. Özil hadn’t had much of an impact, his first decent contribution being a shot that flashed narrowly wide from a tight angle.
Giroud earned a free kick at the edge of the box, after being manhandled by Stoke all evening. It was a great position and a fantastic chance, but after a lay off by Cazorla, Arteta’s strike only made it as far as the first man.
Chamberlain had been the liveliest of the subs, stretching the Stoke defence, and putting some great balls into the box. You had to think, that had he been allowed more time at 0-0, he would have had more space to exploit and really could have made something happen. He almost did exactly that deep into injury time, cutting the ball back to Sanogo in the centre of the box, gifting him the best Arsenal chance of the game. The French summer signing couldn’t keep his composure though, and fired high over the bar putting an end to any hopes Arsenal had of snatching a draw.
A poor performance by Arsenal overall, really lacking drive, determination, and creativity. I didn’t feel we did enough to win it, neither did we deserve to lose it however. We need to learn to not let our heads drop when the decisions are going against us, and we really need a plan b when things just aren’t working out.
The title certainly isn’t out of reach, but today’s performance has definitely dented our credentials, and a Liverpool win could see us drop to 3rd, City close behind us with two games in hand.
on a disappointing result…
I felt we had a good defensive performance and overall we are unlucky to lose this game. Offensively we didn’t create enough and our offensive game was poor considering our standards. At the end of the day we didn’t score because of that. We conceded a goal that was a nice gift from the referee but it can happen.
on the penalty incident…
He [Koscienly] is one yard away. How can he take his hand away? He has no time to take his hand away from the ball. There’s is no intention at all but I feel we cannot influence the decision of the referee. I feel going forward we were not good enough to create chances and that’s why we were punished.
on what the team lacked offensively…
You have to give Stoke credit, they defended well with resilience and made the game very physical. But we didn’t cope well enough with it and we got punished.
on the referee…
Honestly I don’t want to talk about the referee.
on Giroud being on the end of a lot of challenges…
I’ve nothing to say about that. I’m long enough in the game to make my own judgement and I prefer to concentrate on our own performance.
on the team’s title chances…
It is not slightly worrying, it’s a big worry for us to lose a game like that. It is a massive setback of course.
on Ozil not being fit enough to start…
No he was fit to start. He has played many many games. He came on at the right moment I think. But we just conceded a goal. When we started to pin them back on that long ball we were dominating. We had some dangerous situations even if we did’t have any clear-cut chances but we conceded that penalty.
on the team bouncing back…
I’m not worried but in a game like that we didn’t produce the performance that we wanted. To win a title is when you are expected to perform you have to perform it’s as simple as that.
on the team being fragile today…
We were not fragile at all. I think our defensive performance was outstanding. If you look well at the chances that Stoke had today I can see maybe one cross on Crouch and after that what did they create? Nothing at all, so you cannot say that our defenders didn’t perform.
on how he assesses the team’s title chances…
I don’t assess them at all because I think what he have to focus on is our performance and play well in the next game.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“Two players take out Giroud, one then stamps on his calf, ref gives a free kick to Stoke.”
“This is a terrible game – and it’d be inaccurate to hold Stoke entirely accountable for that.”
“Ball to hand rather than hand to ball. We’re fkd for luck sometimes.”
“Ref has been a joke all game. Disaster waiting to happen.”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
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