Arsenal – Stoke City: postmatch comments

We are privileged to have Jeremy Lim again to share his views on the Stoke City game played last Sunday at the Britannia Stadium. Of course, we missed the curtain-raiser at the Emirates when the Gunners hosted Sunderland but from now on, as far as time allows, we’d post updates whenever possible.

JL: “Arsenal v Stoke City: The game where Steve Bould’s presence was felt.

The match was indeed a predictable one if one would have to base it on statistics. We do not have a good record against Stoke away from home. Not forgetting the history we have against that “Shawcross”. Stoke came with only one game plan, score a goal with the long balls tactic and playing the counter attack game. Thankfully, there was no Rory Delap to launch missiles into our own half.

I think we did very well in handling Peter Crouch (Mertesacker did a good job in man marking him). Vermaelen showed us why he was made the captain with his defensive qualities. Steve Bould’s presence can be felt throughout the entire game. I do hope that we will carry on defending in the same manner for the entire season. When Koscielny and Sagna are back, we will have one of the strongest defensive line ups in Europe (I reckon Open-mouthed smile).

On the attacking side, we clearly lack the cutting edge or someone who will produce something out of nothing to win us games. I will not say that we are missing RVP but clearly with him in the team, the chances of us scoring a goal would be higher. However, Podolski and Giroud need time to gel with the team and all the naysayers should not discredit them to soon. Give them a few more matches and I am sure goals will start flowing.

Santi Cazorla? I think along with Hazard, he should be the buy of the season. He was the heart of all attacking moves against Stoke and Sunderland. This talented Spanish playmaker will definitely rake in many assists this season. He has everything you need in a playmaker. And the best part, he is not afraid to shoot!

Next game- Liverpool. Another 0-0? I hope so not. My instinct tells me that Cazorla will score the winner Winking smile

Artur: Now, I never fancied trips to the Britannia Stadium for the following reasons.

First – there are embarrassing scenes emanating from the most disgraceful fans in the Premier League. Let’s be clear that one of your players broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg in the first place, so for you Potteries fans to jeer and boo Ramsey everytime he had the ball at his feet reflect how classless and clueless the Stoke fans really are. I even saw sections of these deluded fans getting ready an improvised Wenger face-mask and ready to do the ‘Wenger flap’ impersonation. I’ve witnessed M. Wenger did that arms-flapping routine so many times that it has gone stale and boring – so for these Stoke fans to take up where the French tactician left off is just petty and calculative. In fact, I believe that I could easily give these particular Stoke fans some coins to play with and they’d come away thoroughly thrilled and amused.

Having said that – the Britannia Stadium is also an imposing fortress and admittedly a difficult away venue for most visiting teams. Aside from the hostile reaction from the Potteries’ fans, the Arsenal team hadn’t really gelled well in attack, so there was this persisting impression that this game has got a draw written all over it.

Some points I’d like to touch on other aspects of the game as well – Per Mertesacker is really in good form here although on one occasion, a Stoke through-ball could have been costly for the Gunners. I think that the lumbering German was a step too slow in catching up with the Stoke player who had gone through and was saved because of the tame shot at the goalkeeper.

Vito Mannone did well between the posts and was an assured presence for the defense.

It’s interesting that you have commented on the work and influence of Steve Bould which has pervaded the new approach employed by the Gunners’ defence. I was fortunate enough to watch Steve Bould still play for the Arsenal in his twilight years as a professional footballer and agree that the previous Arsenal back four (all Englishmen) together with Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn were the solid bedrock around which Wenger’s tactics could unfold and allow the more creative upfront players to weave their magic. So, if there’s one masterstroke of Wenger’s this season, it’s the appointment of his new second in command.

If it’s down to cutting edge, though, Wenger has not really addressed this issue. We have seen teams come to the Emirates to defend for a point; we have seen how delighted Tony Pulis looked after the final whistle last Sunday despite playing for only a draw. It makes for textbook reading, really – if you stop Santi Cazorla, then the entire team’s creative fulcrum would grind to a halt. Lukas Podolski was also largely quiet during the game for someone who had scored almost all the goals for his own team last season.

I’d be more generous with the Robin van Persie observation, though. If you had seen his first goal for Man Ure, then this guy could really conjure up goals from the most improbable of positions. That the Arsenal could do nothing to summon any real sort of clear-cut opportunities at the Stoke goal should not easily discount the fact that RvP could have fashion chances from out of the blue or make incisive runs that baffled the opposition team. Olivier Giroud shaved the net with a sublime shot but he did seem to be invisible at most times during the match. Of course, reasonable time should be accorded to our new-look frontline but the overall lack of shots at goal irked me somewhat because I had thought that the Stoke game was a very winnable one. Gervinho, for one, didn’t improved on his performance level during the Sunderland game and even Abou Diaby offered little in the midfield area. If you have noticed, most of Arsenal’s corners are mostly deflected near the D-area of the Stoke penalty area but there was always no one there to intercept it.

I think that Santi Cazorla’s opportunities to shoot at goal is a welcome sight for Gooners everywhere. If he keeps it up, then it goes without saying that he would eventually find the right side of the net.

We have yet to see frantic Arsenal transfer activity despite the transfer window closing very soon – not necessarily for players to sign for the club, but also for the existing players who find it very hard to stay a moment longer here. Names like Yohan Cabaye and Ibrahim Afellay had been bandied around by the media but I find it very hard for the Arsenal to splash the cash for players that they don’t really need to sign in a heartbeat and even less chances when their respective clubs haven’t given their slightest indication that these players could soon move on.

The upcoming Liverpool game should be a cracking match, and I hope that the Arsenal scrape by 2-1.      


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