Stoke City 3 (Crouch 1, Bojan 35, Walters 45) – Arsenal 2 (Cazorla 68 (pen), Ramsey 70)
Man of the Match – Bojan Krkic (Stoke City)
3 steps forward, and 5 steps backwards, it seems. After some hard fought victories over the past 10 days, it seems like the Arsenal cookie has crumbled again. 3 solid showings, the 2-0 win over Dortmund and 1-0 wins over West Bromwich Albion and Southampton seemed like a heady platform to build the Gunners’ season upon. But, Stoke slayed all those hopes in a first half blitz that left Arsenal reeling.
With Wojciech Szczesny just having returned, Emiliano Martinez kept his place in goal. Laurent Koscielny’s absence meant Callum Chambers moved to centre-back, while Hector Bellerin started at right back. Injuries to Ozil, Wilshere, Arteta, Diaby meant Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini partnered each other again in the centre of midfield. Olivier Giroud was chosen up front, with Alexis, Cazorla and Chamberlain behind him.
With some defensive solidity having been restored, with 3 consecutive clean sheets, you would expect the team to retain that mentality to grind out another one. But, it wasn’t to be. Seconds after kickoff, a cross comes in from the right, Chambers misses it completely, Mertesacker is nowhere, and Peter Crouch slots it past Martinez, on 25 seconds. Arsenal responded reasonably well, and should have ideally equalized in the 10th minute.
Hector Bellerin made his way into the box, and crossed in for Olivier Giroud, who was completely unmarked, and under absolutely no pressure. But, the Frenchman’s header went wide. It was a golden chance, to peg the scores at 1-1. Peter Crouch almost got his second, but Bellerin was on hand to block the shot, before Martinez had to be alert to avert a Phillip Bardsley long range effort. Santi Cazorla saw his shot just sail over the post.
Kieran Gibbs’s header too had the same fate. Moments later, Peter Crouch shoved his arm into Chambers’ face and escaped unpunished. In the 35th minute, Stoke heaped on Arsenal’s misery. Former Barcelona, Roma, Milan and Ajax man Bojan, who had a gala time teasing Arsenal’s defenders made it 2-0, with a fine goal. A Jon Walters cross from the right, and Bojan’s first time effort crept past Martinez into the back of the net.
Arsenal were struggling for any semblance of momentum or creativity, with a much more energetic Stoke side managing to physically tire out the Gunners. The Potters were pressing harder, and winning duels at ease, as Arsenal failed to get grip of the game. Olivier Giroud saw yet another effort saved by Bosnia international Asmir Begovic, before Stoke struck another blow, just when half time was approaching. Crouch headed one down, for Walters to make it 3-0.
Arsene Wenger bought on Danny Welbeck in place of Hector Bellerin to spruce up the attack. However, it was Stoke who had the first attempt on goal in the second half, when Bojan almost beat Martinez, but the Argentine somehow managed to get something on it, before the ball deflected off a Stoke player for a goalkick. Alexis, who was having a quiet afternoon, almost pulled one back, when he collected the ball from half way, and beat several Stoke defenders, rounded Begovic, but could only strike the post with his effort, in the 56th minute.
It seemed like Arsenal were in for a mauling when Bojan had the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed, after it was adjudged that Mame Biram Diouf was interfering with play in an offside position. Arsenal then won a penalty, when Flamini was bought down inside the box. Alexis duly took the ball, but Cazorla snatched it from him, insisting that he take the penalty. He stepped up and scored to make it 3-1. A minute later, Aaron Ramsey hammered home from an Alexis corner to make it 3-2, and it seemed like the Gunners were galvanized and could take something out of this game.
But Arsenal hacked their own leg with an axe, when Callum Chambers received marching orders, with his second yellow card for a foul on Bojan. On the other hand, Charlie Adam got just a yellow card, for trying to murder Alexis Sanchez in broad daylight. Arsenal were left with only one defender on the pitch, as Kieran Gibbs was taken off for Joel Campbell, but Stoke held on for a win, despite a flurry of Arsenal corners.
A disappointing loss, considering the recent glut of results. Videos of Arsene Wenger being abused at the Stoke station surfaced later on in the night, and goes to show the entropy among the Arsenal faithful, who are divided among pro-Wenger and anti-Wenger. Whichever side you are on, that is no way to treat a man, who has dedicate his life to Arsenal.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes. But, this is a man who has built 3 title winning squads, won 5 FA Cups and taken the club to it’s first Champions League final. He has overseen a major transition of the club as they moved to a brand new stadium, and yet kept the squad competitive. There is an anguish among the faithful, but judge the manager at the end of the season.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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