Arsenal 1 - 0 Stoke
Arsenal, who were looking to claw their way back into the top four, welcomed an out of form Stoke City to the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners were looking to move on from their draw against Liverpool, as The Potters searched for their first win in five games.
The first half was a combination of creative & penetrative football from Arsenal, and a stern defensive performance from Stoke. Nothing new there then.[quote_right]”Diaby’s presence, backed up by Arteta & Wilshere, hindered The Potters from stamping their authority on the midfield early on, which allowed the game to open up for Arsenal.[/quote_right]
Abou Diaby started in place of Santi Cazorla, to combat Stoke’s physical style, and in the opening minutes, the Frenchman was doing a fine job in the centre. Diaby’s presence, backed up by Arteta & Wilshere, hindered The Potters from stamping their authority on the midfield early on, which allowed the game to open up for Arsenal.
The Gunners were pressing well via Theo Walcott & Oxlade-Chamberlain on both flanks, and Olivier Giroud was making darting runs inside the box, causing the Stoke defence problems.
However, Arsenal’s attacking performance wasn’t without its flaws. Giroud, Koscielny & Chamberlain all had golden opportunities to put Arsenal ahead from equally promising positions. A mixture of poor finishing and great goalkeeping from Asmir Begovic, kept the scores level.
The second half contained the same elements as the first, as Stoke dug their heels in to frustrate an Arsenal side who, funnily enough, were trying to win the game. The Gunners continues to press well, but the solid defence before them was proving difficult to break down.
Theo Walcott continued to bamboozle Wilkinson on the right-wing, putting in crosses and cutting inside to create space. Bacary Sagna was also attacking fairly well, ensuring Walcott always had an outlet.
Santi Cazorla & Lukas Podolski were subbed on for Aboue Diaby & Chamberlain respectively, changing the course of the game dramatically. The Arsenal strike force was now replenished for the final push.[quote_left]”Koscielny, Wilshere & Arteta each getting physical with Stoke players, as minor scuffles broke out. A side of Arsenal which is unfortunately, rarely seen.”[/quote_left]
In the seventy-eighth minute, as Arsenal were running out of ideas, a free-kick was awarded on the edge of the Stoke area. Podolski stepped up and drilled a low shot at the defensive wall. The ball took a heavy deflection, sending it past Begovic. The linesman cut the celebrations short with a ridiculous decision ruling Theo Walcott offside, in an irrelevant area of the pitch. The Arsenal players were furious.
Thankfully, the referee Chris Foy saw sense and overturned the decision, ruling that the goal would stand. Arsenal had finally got their long-awaited goal.
The remainder of the game was seen out by a dominant, imposing Arsenal side. Koscielny, Wilshere & Arteta each getting physical with Stoke players, as minor scuffles broke out. A side of Arsenal which is unfortunately, rarely seen.
In the end, Arsenal had earned themselves a very good win against a tough defensive outfit. It was a performance to be proud of.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
Had next to nothing to do for the majority of the game, but was dependable when called upon. Managed to refrain from another Cruyff turn.
Poor form has haunted Sagna for weeks, but today the Frenchman showed glimpses of his old self. Strong in the tackle, dependable on the ball, and got forward often.
Had a job to do today on Peter Crouch, and he did it effectively. Per’s form has also dipped recently, but today’s steady performance was sound and flawless.
Did well against towering opposition, and was strong in his tackles. Made one or two creative runs forward, and made no major errors.
A good debut for the Spaniard. Monreal kept things simple for the majority of the game, but gave the ball away on occasion and let a pass slip out of play with a poor touch. However, in the second half, he put in a fantastic cross, showed that he is extremely calm on the ball, and strong in the air.
Mikel’s first day back from a long injury lay off was a good one. He kept the ball moving via quick accurate passes, feeding Diaby & Wilshere with ease, along with some fine challenges to break up play. His presence in the centre is reassuring.
Due to an extremely compact defence, Wilshere’s penetrative runs were quelled. However, the Englishman never fails to work hard, contributing accurate passes out wide paired with good holding play.
Abou’s physical presence was vital to Arsenal’s dominance in the midfield today. He put his body about, showed some excellent touches, and crafted some fine passes for Giroud & Walcott. His form is certainly returning following his injury. Replaced by Cazorla.
The Ox: [6/10]
Had a few chances to either create a goal or score one himself. A close range effort right at Begovic was particularly disappointing. Not one of his finer performances. Replaced by Podolski.
MOTM. Theo caused nothing but trouble for the Stoke defences all game, crossing well into the box, and creating space for Sagna & Diaby to run in to. His first touch was impecable from start to finish. Replaced by Ramsey late on.
Stoke’s stern defence saw that Olivier didn’t get the delivery he needed to score, but Giroud worked hard to create chances anyway. He made good runs and knocked the ball down well for runners. Had a golden opportunity to score a header, but headed across goal for a team-mate instead.
Lukas came on and showed some calmness in the final third. His free kick was nothing spectacular, but a goal is a goal, and what an important one it was.
Santi did well to win the ball back on two occasions, but failed to score a good opportunity which he conjured up well for himself.
[title]The Goal That Almost Wasn’t[/title]
Arsenal battled valiantly against a tough Stoke side, and it took a goal that was very nearly disallowed to decide the match. However, the performance overall was a big positive, the win was nothing more than a deserved outcome.
It was great to see Arsenal’s physical side on show. Wilshere squaring up to Michael Owen was my personal favourite moment. A good, strong performance, and a steady introduction for Monreal. Next up, Sunderland.
What did you think of the Arsenal Vs Stoke City match? Share your views in the comments section below.