Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal
Man of the Match - Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Another frustrating goalless draw was played out today, and despite the fact that we are yet to trouble the goal scoring charts, there are plenty of positives to be taken out of a game, that was at times, cagey and well contested by the rugby team, we all have come to despise.
There has been a lot of animosity between the two clubs, and there were already rumors that Stoke fans were planning on doing a massive Wenger imitation, the disrespectful cunts that they are. There also had been a war of words between Tony Pulis and Arsene Wenger, prior to the game.
Arsenal made a couple of changes from the side that drew to Sunderland last week, with Vito Mannone coming in for Wojciech Szczesny, who was ruled out with a rib injury. Theo Walcott was dropped to the bench with Olivier Giroud coming in place of the England winger.
Stoke handed a start to new recruit Geoff Cameron (haven’t got the slightest idea about him) and Jermaine Pennant passed a late fitness test as well. Mathew Etherington was replaced by Michael Kightly.
There was clear logic in starting Giroud to Walcott. Giroud’s height and physicality would come to good use, and it would be just easy for Stoke’s defenders to close out Walcott completely from the game, had he started, in the early stages itself.
Arsenal were the first to get their game going as they worked out some space in what was a tight and hard-working Stoke unit. It was Stoke who had the first big chance, when Peter Crouch set up Jonathan Walters, and the latter had the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be called offside.
Arsenal’s first chance came when Lukas Podolski almost took advantage of some slack defending and slip ups, with a trademark left-footed shot, but it came off the hand of Wilkinson. Podolski was making a lot of straight runs into the Stoke box, and he was pounded by fellow German Robert Huth to the ground, right outside the penalty box. Cazorla’s resulting low free kick hit the wall. Kieran Gibbs then misplaced a cross, with Giroud in a good position to score.
Stoke looked happy to absorb the pressure, and break on counters, and on one occassion, Kightly tested Mannone but the Italian was equal to it. Santi Cazorla had another shot at goal, with a long range effort, but it was well saved by Asmir Begovic.
The second half saw both teams starting off sloppily, losing possession. Jermaine Pennant made a fine dive, yet it wasn’t enough to fool the referee, after the slightest of contacts from Kieran Gibbs. Giroud then acrobatically put the ball over the bar from a Cazorla freekick in what looked like a well worked training ground move.
Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby had a couple of great opportunities to put the Gunners into the lead. Arteta was played in by Giroud, but shot too quickly, despite having the time and space to exploit. Abou Diaby was caught in a tangle of Stoke players, and his hasty shot was wide.
Olivier Giroud almost scored a spectacular late winner, when his long range chip almost went in. He should however have spotted out Aaron Ramsey, who was in a better position.
In the end not a bad result at all, considering the team is very new, but of course, we will all be feeling gutted that we haven’t scored a goal or secured a win yet. The defence looked solid today, and the effect of Steve Bould on the coaching staff is clearly rubbing off. You could see Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson playing a much more tight-knit unit, and barely allowing any crosses to come in, which goes to show a lot of work has been done. Last year, Arsenal would have been battered by a barrage of crosses.
More noticeably, was the fact that Thomas Vermaelen looks more ‘captainy’ should I say, knowing well his defensive duties. Rarely did he venture forward yesterday. It was also interesting to watch the battle of the logs, Peter Crouch vs Per Mertesacker.
The midfield was quite tidy, with neither Arteta or Diaby being too defensive or too attacking. This was probably tactical to have them both be in and around the box to stifle Stoke inwards as well as help create chances through the centre. Cazorla was at his best again. He wasn’t the quickest player, but that is completely overshadowed by his technical nous and skill. He was at the centre of everything good about Arsenal today.
I was a bit disappointed with Gervinho today. As good as he was last week, he was very poor today. He had a couple of good chances to set up others, but preferred to take on defenders. Olivier Giroud worked very hard today. He shielded the ball well, and also allowed others to come into play, very intelligently. A real mark of a great forward. Podolski had his good moments as well, but clearly there is still something lacking up front.
The introduction of Walcott and Chamberlain did bring some pace into the game, albeit very briefly. Arsenal did lack width today and this made it very hard to create chances in what was a crowded Stoke defence.
So, there we go again. Another 0-0 draw, and already there is an outpouring of views and analysis from people all over on Twitter and Facebook. The manager has reiterated his desire to bring in some more players before 31st.
2 games and 2 clean sheets ain’t bad at all. Plus, we got Stoke away out of our system. Good to know we won’t be playing them cunts till next season
So, keep calm and support the Gunners.
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