Stoke V Arsenal: Wenger’s Nitro Boost Turns Out To Be Self Destruct

Right from the moment the starting line up was announced it was clear this one was going to be an uphill battle. Things got worse right in the first minute as Stoke capitalized on their first salvo. Delap fired the only real weapon in the hosts’ arsenal and Fuller made sure it found the target.

The worst part of this goal was that it was down to poor awareness on the part of Arsenal defenders and the keeper. In other words, Stoke were fired up and ready from the word go whereas Arsenal were tentative and caught on the back foot.

Given the way Fabianski handled the rest of Delap’s throws there is no reason to believe that he couldn’t have handled this one had he been prepared to attack it and catch it at the highest point. Unfortunately for us, it took a goal for the realization to sink in. Since he is not a regular starter, you have to wonder if the coaching staff and the manager had prepared him well for the task. The rest of the game tells me they had but Fabianski was not switched on early enough.

The other complaint against the young Pole is that he should have at least caught Fuller arriving from the corner of his eye and made an attempt to reach for the ball. Maybe the goal was an eye opener for the Arsenal number two!

Similarly our defense was caught unawares. We had four players marking two Stoke players with both central defenders really close to one attacker. To me it seemed like it was Silvestre with his man and Sol Campbell in no man’s land. Once again, he has been out for so long that it’s all matter of preparation rather than a question of ability.

When the first goal went in, I was really worried if this might turn into a rout. As it turned out, it was a scrappy game with Stoke hassling us all over the park but offering little threat of their own (kicking our players with intent is not counted!) In the first half they had fifteen attempts at putting the ball in our box, but apart from the first one Arsenal were able to hold fort.

After initial pressure from Stoke, we settled down and started getting into the game without creating any chances. To me, the main reason we struggled was that our defensive midfielders completely failed in their job and we got control of the ball only after Cesc dropped deep. With Walcott and Vela forced back to cover for the inexperienced full backs we hardly had anyone forward as the debutant JET cut a lone figure.

Neither team dominated the first half as Stoke’s strength was their destructive ability and Arsenal failed to get their game going.

For the second time in two games at the Brittania, we scored via a double deflection. Denilson the beneficiary this time. Unlike some others, I didn’t find anything controversial about the free kick decision.

The second half was a continuation of the first and I thought Arsenal looked more and more in control as the game went on. When Le Boss made the triple substitution I felt this would be the killer blow for Stoke. For a while Arsenal looked more in control as Ramsey imposed himself in the middle and gave Cesc the freedom to move forward. We also had more control in the final third.

Unfortunately, Ramsey in his enthusiasm picked the wrong pass, especially given the fact that Traore had made a good run forward. It was a really poor pass but shouldn’t have been a source of concern as Sidibe was five yards inside the Stoke half when possession was lost. The big striker glided into the right channel effortlessly as a hopeless Denilson chased shadows.

Firstly, the Brazilian failed at something that is his strength – reading the danger and nipping it in the bud. The run from Sidibe and the pass to him were really obvious and the only choice Stoke had from that position. Secondly, he was beaten for pace by a hardworking Sidibe highlighting his physical incapability for the job. Finally, he didn’t have the awareness to commit a professional foul and help the team recover it’s shape. Thus showing his mental incapability for the role.

Silvestre was at fault for not rushing out to cover for Traore. He is not very quick but at one point he stopped his run as if expecting Sidibe to cross or cut inside. This gave the Stoke striker a clear run to our box and an unchallenged opportunity to cross. At this level, even Stoke players are good enough to take such a gift.

Even after the second goal we should have recovered and equalized. I thought the problem was that Arshavin and Eduardo took a long time to get into the game and that allowed Stoke another chance to pressurize our defense.

A long kick by Sorenson was missed by Campbell and Denilson but Eastmond was in the right position. Unfortunately, the youngster failed to keep his balance and Tuncay was able to nick it off him. Once again Denilson was standing and watching as Etherington got a free run with the Right Back out of position. His cross was similar to that of Cole’s from the Chelsea game. Once again our central defenders were guilty of not making an attempt to clear it and Traore unaware of Whitehead’s presence. The hapless Fabianski left with no chance of making a save.

One worrying aspect is that Arsenal do not have the ability to lay siege at the opposition goal while chasing a game. I have said this often in the past, if Chelsea or United were chasing the game you can be certain the opposition defense will face a barrage of attacks. We don’t know how to maintain our attacking shape and more worryingly we tend to leave the back door open for counter attacks. Champion teams convert defeats into positive results but how often have we seen us losing from a position where we looked like we can win!

Individual Performances

Fabianski: Bad mistake for the first goal. Struggled with some crosses but had a decent game overall. I don’t blame our goalkeepers for our defensive problems.

Coquelin: Baptism by fire for the young man. Worked hard and made some good tackles. Looked a bit nervous and lost the ball on occasions but overall an excellent effort given his age. Big prospect for the future.

Campbell: Was at fault for the first goal and to some extent for the third goal. Got some good tackles in. Clearly in need of match practice.

Silvestre: Almost gave away a penalty and was partially at fault for the second goal and third goals. But I never expect him to be impeccable.

Traore: Was excellent going forward and put some great crosses in. Did a decent job defensively.

Eastmond: Was useful on set pieces early on and did a good job at Right Back. Doesn’t have the ability to impose himself on such a physical game but we can’t fault him for that.

Denilson: Really poor. It’s not often you feel that the only goal scorer was the worst player on the pitch. It’s three games now and he is not good enough without a strong DM.

Cesc: Tried hard. I would love to know his genuine thoughts on playing in such a team in such a game. I think Wenger should have started him in a deeper role.

Walcott: Totally out of sorts. There is a simple problem – he is not a natural footballer. Without regular games he will always struggle.

JET: Decent debut for the youngster. I thought he looked better when he dropped deep. I felt he would have been a better choice for the center three.

Vela: Worked hard and had a few good moments. Another player who needs some games. Provided decent cover for Traore.

Subs: Ramsey looked lively and it’s great to have him back so soon. Eduardo and Arshavin failed to get going.

22 Responses to Stoke V Arsenal: Wenger’s Nitro Boost Turns Out To Be Self Destruct

  1. Diceman1984 says:

    To be honest Desi, I think we showed many times this season that we could turn a game. Granted we also dropped a few games but to me, personally, it’s better to lose this game than lose to them in the league.

    Wenger will always be criticized when the team lose, it’s easy to say things in hindsight. The problem we have is when we chase games, we threw everything at the opposition and sometimes left

    • hmm... says:

      better to lose a cup early and title rather than remaining in the cup for a long time… matter what u think, hopes of winning the title is very very less……it depends only one person at the moment……u know d name….

    • hmm... says:

      and of course the fact…for how long tv5 and gallas can stay fit…

    • desigunner says:

      I agree that we have come back often.

      My concern is that we tend to concede a soft goal when we are looking good. Other top teams lose or draw when they are playing poorly. We can do it even when we are playing well.

  2. Diceman1984 says:

    big big holes in defense.

    And will Theo come good? Well, people always forget he’s still 20 years old, it’s way to early to say anything about him. With run of games like Diaby, he will certainly only get better.

    No more distraction and excuses, from now on Wenger can only play his best team. Let’s see what are we really made of…..


    Solution is very simple. buy 2-3 quality players and simply dump Theo Walcott (should have been an athlete), Denilson (worst Brazilian I have ever seen), all three goal-keepers (not fit for a club like Arsenal), Vela (over hyped but useless), Silvestre (no adjective can define his uselessness) and so on. But unfortunately, AW is a deaf person but one day he will be exposed. Arsenal has a global support base. AW can not play with millions of hungry supporters.

    • hmm... says:

      lol dude….ur blaming the very person due to which u started supporting arsenal……

    • desigunner says:

      You want to replace 7 players by 2-3 quality players?

    • Diceman1984 says:

      Hmm is spot on…Wenger is the sole reason Arsenal is a Global club.

      And it’s funny how people like you seem so sure how another manager will do a better job. Mourinho is the only successful manager at chelski but of course Wenger is worse than all of them….,


    To be honest does Aresen winger read this comment? If your answer is yes, when does he is heard hungry fans in over the world say Aw please sign!! sign!! player.

    I can’t say more than this thanks you for all.

  5. Siddhant says:

    “One worrying aspect is that Arsenal do not have the ability to lay siege at the opposition goal while chasing a game.”
    It appears so because 1. Unlike Chelsea, Arsenal doesn’t always have a player inside the opposition’s box hustling and tussling with defenders(a la Drogba) while balls are being whipped in by wingers or full backs. Their play is a lot different. one quick run, pin point through ball, goal. Many times such through balls get intercepted and when they do, its really frustrating. But all it takes is one good pass and the defence is carved open. A few of these passes in a short span of time and this is Arsenal’s own version of “laying seige”.

    “We don’t know how to maintain our attacking shape.”
    This is the beauty of Arsenal’s game, especially with the new formation. There is no definite shape! For the last few seasons, team’s formation had become so rigid, it was awfully predictable. In a 4-4-2, it was like LM to CM to CM to RM and back again……and when the opposition held the fort, one of the midfielders would try to force the ball into the box and the defender would hoof it away. This season the team has become so fluid. All 5 offensive players interchange throughout the game and even the DM attacks. On top of that, Vermaelen and Gallas often maraud into the opposition’s half when possible.

    “More worryingly we tend to leave the back door open for counter attacks.”
    This is something which I agree with, and I’m sure Arsene knows this very well. Full-backs get caught in the opposition’s half and the counter-attack is on. But with the amount of attacking flair in the side, you can’t prevent this from happening. It is the DM’s job to cover in such situations and Song has done very well this season, but he can’t be all over the pitch at the same time, hence, the open spaces.

    “Champion teams convert defeats into positive results but how often have we seen us losing from a position where we looked like we can win!”
    I honestly believe that the Arsenal first team is the best in the league, but when even the back up players for the first 11 are out injured, how can you expect the team to be dominant in every game they play? It is myth that Arsenal doesn’t have a strong squad. Ever since October, we’ve had atleast 5 out injured, and that number has risen to 9 or 10 in the past week. No Squad, including United’s and Chelsea’s can cope with that for a prolonged period. So please dont go writing blogs just for the sake of it.

    @ Manas – I think you’re philosophy is more suited to FM10……..

    • hmm... says:

      but dude don’t u think arsenal needs to mix their game a bit….pin point passing may work against weaker defence but against good teams it won’t work b’coz de know how arsenal can play so de close dem down very early…… other words arsenal can’t play pretty football against good teams…especially away from home…

      what u call beauty i call instability… one knows what they r supposed to do..this formation worked well with rvp…even he took time to settle in this system…but now since he is gone wenger shud switch back to 4-4-2…..

      but best 11 don’t win titles….it shud be best 15-16, quite frankly arsenal don’t have gud cover for defenders….forwards, sum people don’t rate it but i beg to differ on that…..similarly midfield is sound but no cover for song…..

    • desigunner says:

      You’ve broken up laying siege, attacking shape and counter attacks but in my opinion they are intricately linked.

      By attacking shape I didn’t mean the 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or any such number. I meant a shape that allows us to win the ball back quickly which is in itself quite fluid based on the flow of the game. Barcelona are the best at it.

      No matter what style you play, no teams scores from every effort. So on most occasions either the defenders clear the ball or intercept it. The key is how soon can we get it back. The ability of a team to prevent counters is also linked to this. It can never be down to one player as you rightly said, he cannot be everywhere.

      By the way, I am highly pro-Wenger and it can be seen from my regular posts. However, that does not mean I should turn a blind eye to the problems.

  6. hmm... says:

    coming 4 games will be gr8 for arsenal…not b’coz i think that they can win them but b’coz it’s the same period in which arsenal tends to draw continuously….but they finish the season strong…so once these top of the table clashes gets over, arsenal can again put a strings of wins to claim the title….only worrying thing is moral factor….

  7. john says:

    I have to disagree about your take on Traore in the game. For their second goal he had started to make a run forward and then stopped when he saw that either he was going to be offside or that the play was going to be elsewhere. I thought to myself at the moment–Get back–because he wasn’t really doing anything up there once his run didn’t pan out. He even circled back a little but didn’t come back and defend–he was just in no man’s land. Denilson did try to cover for him, but just looked like he didn’t have the pace. For their third goal Traore was totally at fault. It almost looked like he was trying to play Whitehead offside or was just plain lazy. If you look at the replay you can clearly see him a yard or two behind Whitehead and not running hard

  8. Vermaelen says:

    I do not agree with the line-up and it has nothing to do with resting players, it’s just the selection. Firstly, I thought that Silvestre-Campbell combo could not work, it is better for Bartley-Campbell because he would provide the speed with our high defense line, also they have played together in their last reserve game. JET should have moved to midfield to provide more physical strength, Denilson was weak, hardly better than the other youngsters and I thought Eastmond would quickly replace him if he continued like this.

  9. bobbygee says:

    This was a hodge podge team. This is a good learning experience for the young guys. Winning the EPL is number one. Second is the Champions League. Stoke played goon futebol. They used rough play to intimidate the younger players. This also gave Wenger a chance to look at how well these players played together. It takes time for players to used to working an playing with each other. This only comes about in practice and match situations.

  10. shashi says:

    It was a woeful game.. which im sure every arsenal fan wud like to forget.. there was no tactical strategy.. it was like cesc was the only player who was trying hard. others were just too lazy.. Stoke totally deserved to win. No doubts about that.. they created more chances, were more attacking, more physical…
    I wont blame wenger much.. coz its difficult to field a competent playing XI when all ur big players are injured.. But why risk fabregas, he also deserved a rest.. and a much needed one considering the upcoming fixtures in PL, we need his influential presence. It was like expecting him to do sum magic.. while others looked on..
    Anywayz.. i would like to stay positive .. as always.. becoz i love this team called Arsenal.. Dnt knw whether wenger is doin rite by being adamant to his transfer policies and his youth philosophy, i just knw one thing we have to win the PL this time.. So fellow gooners, get on to ur Arsenal jersey and support our team wid full vigour.. Come on u gunners..

  11. 0.9 calibre says:

    @ first goal: Agreed Fabianski didnt go for the ball, but the danger could still have been averted if the defender had got ahead of Fuller, there was now for fabianski to keep an eye on Fuller with all the furore in the box.. I think it was eastmond who should have intercepted Fuller but he didnt, well, it was a question of experience and our lad didnt have it.. I am really worried about Theo.. these days when he plays on the right its like the Right wing is not functional apart from the fullbacks’ overlapping runs.. Theo just runs.. and sometime just runs into the defender.. Maybe he should get more games in the reserves level to get back on track.. the last time i saw theo give an awesome performance was against Villareal last season.. JET could learn and wasnt a bad player.. Coquelin- was he played in position? I think he is DMF.. but again was very nervous.. considering its is first start i guess there is nothing much that can be done.. Before every cup game the Boss always said that he puts out a team that has a decent chance of winning.. but this time I dont think even he was sure.. but cant blame.. with almost the whole team on the treatment table what other option has he got? But on the brighter side we dont have to worry about FA nymore and can fully focus on the title.. Lets go get those 4 games and seal the title race..

  12. 0.9 calibre says:

    And BTW Cameroon are out of ACN.. Song is coming back.. he should be here for the Manu Game! thats one good news..

  13. Samuel says:

    Typical inept defending dy Arsenal defenders again,it,s
    another Delap long throw into the Arsenal box and the defenders plus the goalie know what,s coming so head the ball or punch it away but no Campbell is watching every one else but not the ball,the 2nd and 3 rd goals
    ball watching by Campbell and Silvestre with Silvestre not going to the ball carrier and closing down the cross into the box with Sol sauntering along trying to get ahead of Fuller ,too slow ,and Silvestre not checking behind him allowing Delap to score the 3rd goal

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