Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Peter Walton tried his best. He did get manage to get the scalp of Walcott, who was stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious injury, but couldn’t do enough to thwart the indomitable, resolute Gunners.

This game had everything I feared; rabid animals from Stoke, a biased ref, and hypocritical commentators. Thankfully it also had one thing I truly hoped for – a fully focussed Arsenal side that did not switch off even for an instance. That, when combined with the quality that Arsenal have, is normally enough to take on and defeat the worst English football has to offer and it just highlighted the indescribable gulf in class between the two sides.

I didn’t get to watch the first half properly as every stream I found was stop-start. But I was able to watch enough to enjoy the electric start by Arsenal and the first goal.

The start was a little unexpected. I’d the feeling the visitors will start pressing at a higher tempo but they were content on sitting back. Arsenal seized the initiative and Theo rattled the woodwork just after a minute. The Gunners kept creating chances but the goal in the 8th minute was ironical. Who’d have thought that Arsenal would actually score against Stoke from a corner!

Wilshere’s delivery was excellent and for once Arsenal had a man at the back post. Bendtner did well to control the ball and even better to pass it back across the face of the goal rather than lashing it across. Squillaci was unmarked and scored from four yards. That’s how you score a legal goal from a set-piece but I doubt Stoke will care to learn.

Soon after Cesc limped off and Arshavin came on. It was supposedly a precautionary substitution but it did make a huge impact on the game. For the rest of the first half Arsenal dominated the ball but didn’t really create many chances.

I thought the tempo was too slow and Arsenal’s passing and movement was too predictable. Arshavin, Bendtner, and Walcott haven’t played together often enough and that showed in the final third. Even Nasri was struggling to influence the game as the movement in front of him wasn’t up to scratch.

I don’t know what happened in the tunnel at half-time but Stoke came out in the second half knowing that they could assault the Arsenal players with impunity. Carew flattened Djourou with a shocking challenge that was so late it was virtually off the ball. All he got from Peter Walton was a, “Well done, lad. Don’t do it again or I might have to book you just to keep my cover.” Next it was Nasri who took one in the ribs but this time the ref didn’t even blow for a foul. I guess getting within two feet of the ball was enough of a justification for a deliberate elbow in the ribs.

Soon after Delap did a Flamini and got away with it as ‘he got the ball’. I didn’t hear the commentators say it was an absolute disgrace.

All these challenges happened in the first ten minutes of the half and set the tone for the rest of the game. It would be unfair on Walton to say that Stoke won all 50-50 calls. They won even 20-80 calls. If a Stoke player shoved a Gunner out of possession it was fair. If an Arsenal player herded an animal out of the way it was a foul. If Stoke got the ball by kicking through a player it was a fair tackle. If the Gunners did it, it was a free-kick.

Clichy was booked for winning the ball!

Things got so bad that I almost expected Walton to award a penalty when Shawcross grappled Sagna to the floor. Thankfully it was too blatant even for a ref as biased as this old geezer.

Theo was injured in the 70th minute when Walton allowed Whitehead to nibble away at his legs and shirt. There were a number of fouls by Whitehead in that incident and if the first one had been called this injury would not have happened. Somebody has to make the ref explain in public what he was doing but we can all guess that will unravel the supposed integrity of League.

In the 84th minute Marc Wilson picked up a booking for a stupid foul on Chamakh wide on the left. Pulis, who was right next to him on the touchline, was shouting “Don’t foul, don’t foul.” Sadly for the zoo keeper his instructions in the heat of the moment weren’t able to override the instructions he gave before opening the cages.

In the very little football that was played, Arsenal did have some nervy moments but did well while defending the throws and set-pieces. I can only remember Szczesny flapping on one occasion when Huth headed over and one header from Shawcross that was deflected wide as Djourou was well positioned.

On the other end Walcott missed a good chance when Arshavin set him up.

The best part of the game came in the form of a masterclass by Arshavin and Nasri in the five minutes of injury time. Stoke barely touched the ball in that period as two highly skilled artists toyed with their opponents. If Arshavin had been alert to the possibility of scoring, deep in injury time, he’d have had a tap in from Nasri’s delightful chip across goal.

As expected this game was a tight one and decided by one goal. I was hoping to see all players come off with their limbs intact but that wish was not granted. Only time will tell how big an impact this injury will have on this season.

Individual Performances

Szczesny: Made an excellent save in the first half. Organized the defence well. A couple of punches didn’t have enough weight but they fell to his teammates. Flapped once but Huth missed the target. Overall a strong, confidence boosting display from the youngster that should prepare him for a much tougher away game.

Sagna: Did well at the back. Wisely, didn’t go forward that often in the second half. Might have done better in the attacking areas but that can be said for the whole team.

Squillaci: Good to see him get his first Premiership goal. Handled the physical challenges well enough. Carew won the balls in front of him but the Frenchman didn’t let him turn or get past him.

Djourou: Strong in the air. Good positioning and composure while defending set-pieces.

Clichy: Pretty much like Sagna. Was exposed a bit after Arshavin came on but did a good job of not giving Pennant any space.

The back five deserve a lot of credit for this result and their second half performance. I’d have preferred better attacking contribution from the full-backs and the central defenders when they got a lot of time on the ball in the first half.

Song: Was always available to challenge for the second ball. Worked really hard in defence. Went forward often enough but wasn’t able to create a spark.

Cesc: Was looking dangerous before he came off.

Nasri: Wasn’t as influential down the middle as he is on the wings. It could be due to unfamiliarity with the position and the fact that in the middle we need someone who moves the ball fast rather than a player who runs with the ball. He was quite a threat when he moved back to the right wing. Excellent in the final few minutes. Did well to remain composed despite suffering some bad tackles.

Wilshere: Started where he’d left off against Barcelona. But once Cesc was off the pitch Wilshere went into his shell a bit and played with caution. Did well on the ball and offered a body in the box and on the left wing.

The midfield should have done a lot more in the first half but it’s hard to criticize them when the spine of the team (Koscielny, Cesc, RvP) was missing. They must be commended for their defensive concentration and effort.

Walcott: Another player who looked very dangerous when Fabregas was on the pitch. After that the tempo of the game was slow and it allowed Stoke to close him down with numbers. Might have done better with the chance that Arshavin created. Really unlucky to suffer an injury when he should have won a dangerous free-kick.

Bendtner: He was excellent for most of the game and his physical presence made a big difference. Won the corner by outmuscling Huth, which is no mean feat. Showed good awareness and composure to pick up the assist. Also contributed to the defence on set-pieces.

Arshavin: I expected more inspiration from the Russian in the first half but overall he worked hard and made a difference. Really took charge of the situation at the end.

The front three were a little unbalanced after Arshavin came on. They also lacked understanding of each others’ movement. They’ll need to do a lot better in the upcoming games if Cesc and RvP are missing.

Subs: I’ve already covered Arshavin. Denilson was decent in keeping possession and stayed close to the defence. Chamakh was a strange one and didn’t get much time.

Wenger: I liked the way he stayed away from commenting on the ref at the end of the game. Even the players will have to realize that criticizing these ‘sold-out’ relics will only harm Arsenal’s chances even further. While Arshavin did fairly well, I’d have brought on Denilson or Rosicky for Cesc to maintain the balance of the team. I thought Arsene wanted his best players on the pitch but sometimes it doesn’t work. Since the manager is criticized for his selections when the result is not good he deserves credit when the game is won.


26 Responses to Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. shottagunna says:

    Denilson – Decent? Prior to Denilson coming on for Walcott we were ragged, frequently losing possession with hurried inaccurate misplaced passes. Once he came on the field with his metronome-like passing and re-positioning we began to regain dominance in keeping the ball. As someone who I rate for being analytic, I was expecting a more positive response especially since the anti-Denilson experts have had a field day all season belittling his contribution to this team. He may no longer be a starter, because Song is better suited for defensive mid-field duties in this very physical English PL, but Wenger has consistently bought Denilson on as a sub late in games when he wants to close out proceedings by starving our opponents of the ball with a heavy dose of Arsenal possession.

    • desigunner says:

      I appreciate the attempt to be positive about a player but I think you’re stretching it a bit with your emphasis on Denilson’s performance.

      In the time that Denilson was on the pitch these are the passing stats

      Denilson – 23,20,3
      Song – 25,24,1
      Nasri – 22,20,2
      Wilshere – 23,19,4

      Of the four passes Wilshere misplaced one was a corner and another was for the corner he won in injury time by bouncing the ball of the defender. Nasri misplaced two passes in that period – one was a failed one-two with Bendtner and the other was the late chip for Arshavin.

      With the introduction of Denilson the team got an extra tippy-tappy player and that helped in maintaining possession. That was also the reason I said bringing Arshavin on for Cesc was a mistake as it affected the balance.

      Denilson was decent and did his bit. But he didn’t do anything special or better than the others.

      • Arsenal4 says:

        Without trying to become anti Denilson brigade – decent is not good enough at the ambitious squad who want to win everything. Maintaining possession is OK, but need more than that from Deni – more attacking and better defending. His form has dip this season, he needs to take more chances to contribute more. Wilshere is a better defender for AM, Song is a better attacker for DM – that leaves Deni plain. He has the touch, but need take chances with creativity and improve his defensive, for a start – run don’t jog. Hope he’ll be better, we need him till the end of season.

    • peter parker says:

      Without sounding anti-Denilson, he was the main culprit as usual in conceding free kicks at the edge of the box right at the end when Whelan was going no where. Pennant hit the side netting. He has this habit of conceeding silly free kicks near our penatlty box for poor tackles. I thought a decent rating was being generous to him

      • Oceania says:

        Peter – in the stream I saw yesterday they showed a slow replay of the incident where Denilson supposedly fouled Pennant on the edge of the box at the end, Denilson did not even touch Pennant, in fact, Pennant expected Denilson to run through him but Denilson actually stopped at the ball. I think this was another one of Walton’s poor officiating decisions on display.

  2. amband says:

    weel done to them. Pity only one goal though. We need the goal re goal differences against the top four, especially man U a the moment

  3. WC says:

    Without Cesc and RVP we can’t seem to close out a game and with injuries piling up in a week it’s looking very edgy for the club. The Carling Cup is a very real possibility but the league, FA Cup and CL are looking rough if we don’t get back our starting squad.

    Despite everyone saying we have depth, the “B” team can’t seem to outright own a game. That’s 2 games we’ve underperformed in in less than a week if you ask me. We couldn’t beat a League 2 team and scraped through Stoke at home – not sure that’s quality depth.

    • desigunner says:

      Didn’t we just close out a game and a very tough one at that with the ref clearly against us!?

      If you still haven’t understood the quality of depth Arsenal have there isn’t much anyone can say.

      • WC says:

        How is a 1-0 where Stoke could have tied and we threw away many chances in the first half, closing out a game?

        If you said you were completely calm at 1-0 I’d call you a liar. There have been games where a team is 1-0 and you know they can hold that if they played for the next 5 hours. Then there’s games where you’re up 1-0 and feel the need for a 2-0 to be absolutely sure – this was one of those.

      • desigunner says:

        Can you remind me when has any other team closed out a game with such blatant refereeing bias going against them? And with four key players missing? If you want to discuss details don’t ignore the inconvenient ones.

  4. Canadiangunner says:

    Game was shown here on Setanta with a 2 hour delay.
    Great start but with the Cesc injury our tempo changed dramatically. Szczesny fantastic save fired us up, then Stoke came out for the 2nd half with their “instructions”.
    Some great passing attempts that just missed or the scoreline would have reflected quality. Wilshere had a good game, Nasri had a very quiet period but came into his own in the 2nd half in particular after replacing Theo on the right and both centre halfs were excellent.
    With RVP back on Sunday B52 will go back on the right and AA on the left as we need Nasri back in the Cesc role if he can’t make the game.

    • desigunner says:

      Hope RvP is back. He will be needed till the end of the season.

    • Oceania says:

      I don’t know about Nasri playing in the Cesc role, I think we lose his much needed creative prowess when he is on one of the wings as oppose to his visionary skills in the pulling the strings from the center of the pitch. I really want to see Diaby step-up and take hold of the reins like he does for the French national team. Let Nasri play up-front on the right but fall back in the middle to help-out.

  5. Irish Desi Gooner says:

    @armband

    Wow dude, not being satisfied with a win and now complaining that just a 1 goal win? Jesus, what a typical gooner fan. Just kidding? Good win tonight. Really hope Theo and cesc will be ok. 2 weeks before barca game so let’s hope for the best.

    Keep up the excellent work desi.

  6. Ajinkya says:

    The officiating is really rotten here. And did anyone see stoke vs manu? There were no challenges at all.
    Hope no one is seriously injured. When it is stoke, you know from prior experience that it is going to be a frustrating game whether you won or not. Very sad it is, they are going to come once more.

  7. Phv says:

    We should put Fabregas on the bench in the final and play him in the final 30 min if things are not going well. He has to lift the trophy.Theo will hopefully be back for the games in April and May.
    Desi, aren’t you worried that we have no cutting edge without cesc and rvp ? We barely created a chance for 75 min. The same thing happened against the likes of Leeds,Huddersfield,Ipswich and Leyton. Where is the tempo? Where is the energy? Where is the desire and creativity ? Hopefully Diaby and Ramsey will bring that.

  8. zong says:

    Statistically this was supposed to be a good ref for Arsenal. You wouldn’t have known that just watching the second half like I did, for the Stoke tackles that went unpunished, especially the blatant, totally out of order barge by Carew on Djourou and the Delap lunge on Sagna. Once again they got away with murder and we were lucky to come away relatively unscathed. The readiness, heck, eagerness with which he awarded freekicks for the slightest contact on a Stoke player was mind boggling. This goes beyond incompetence or coincidence imo.

  9. Arsenal says:

    Fellow Arsenal negative commentators without clear sight of things.

    The bias referee decisions to tackles can easily gain us 8 points or more (and I’m not plucking the figure from thin air)…..Man U and Stoke team always get favors and it can always alter a game in a moment. I was proud that the learn to maintain a 1 nil score line with laterally 13 vs 11 and you slant the team for not doing better.

    Hey limbs and health involved and it was only EPL that allows so many “RED CARD” decisions to go unpunished.

  10. Arsenal4 says:

    First of all, a very welcome good 3 points.

    The goods – defensively we are very sound and composed. All the back 4 & Szczesny were excellent and mostly nullified the aerial attack in which is a problem in the past. I hope people now back away from Squilacci and put perspective that he’s a decent 4th choice defender. I am now more and more confident with Szczesny. You said in the previous article that this could be his acid test – well he passed with excellent mark.

    The bad – once Fabregas off I almost can’t remember any shot on target, penetration from the middle park and the play was so slow. Nasri as good as he is – is not a playmaker unfortunately. I’ve seen this a few times already when he took Fab role – i think it didn’t work. He better off up in the pitch and create havoc from there with his dribbling and speed. I think recalling Ramsey will be terrific as Fab understudy – Wilshere and Ramsey are the closest we got to Fab.
    Denilson – Decent, but nothing more than that, which is a problem for a team like Arsenal. He’s more like an outlet to pass the ball but once got it no threat or what so ever – well, he can pass forward or run abit with it to make a room. All he did is pass backward or side ward. Not that it’s bad – but not good enough. Defensively, he’s not that great as well – so I am struggling with his form and he might lose his spot next year even as a bench player.

    Lastly – we might have jinxed it – by saying ‘hope everyone intact after the game’ – i hope we don;t count the lose of Fab & Theo in the future.

    Next – just a small matter in Wembley to take care, hope RVP & Cesc can make it!

  11. Metalhead says:

    My blood is boiling. The refereeing was horrendous!!!

    I think Peter Walton needs to retire. The clown was biased like no tomorrow. Everything seemed alright until that yellow card for one of thugs close to half time. Tony Pulis started jumping around as if he had Piles and a piece of flesh was going to pop out of his arse (he didn’t bother jumping around when Delap made that “studs up” lunge) . After that incident, the Peter Walton started showing his true colors. Not only did I find it hard to believe how the Stoke players kept getting away with fouls but also why Arsenal players were penalized for fair challenges. You’re right I was convinced Walton would give Stoke a penalty when Shawcross brought Sagna down in the penalty box. Such was the bias!!!!!
    That piece of shit, Walton nearly cost Arsenal 3 points!!

    I squarely blame the FA for this. The referees continue getting more and more incompetent and the FA does absolutely nothing about it!!!!

    Finally great display by Arsenal in the last few minutes. A phase where we have lost many games due to sheer panic. They kept the ball brilliantly. Also, I feel Samir Nasri plays best when he is on the right wing. As soon as Denilson came on and Nasri moved to the right and there was a marked improvement in his game.

    • Metalhead says:

      By the way poor Squillaci had a very good game after all the abuses he’s been getting. I somehow feel Djourou has a huge part to play in it. He seems to pacify people around him with his sheer presence!!!

  12. Tim says:

    Injuries are a concern, obviously. But there were lots of positives here too. In years gone by, we would have panicked or pushed too hard for the second goal, and then conceded. Instead we closed out the game with relatively few alarms. Djourou and Squillaci negated Carew’s aerial threat, and we did what needed to be done without responding to the provocation of some heavy tackles (ahem, Diaby). Obviously, I wish we’d played better and hammered Stoke, but three points is three points – and at this stage of the season that’s the important thing.

    Incidentally, does anyone else think that Cesc’s niggling hamstring may make us more willing to sell him in the summer? Recurring problems rarely get better – just look at Michael Owen – and although I don’t want him to go, if Barcelona offer a big enough sum for him it might be enough to tempt us to sell and use the money to build the new Invincibles, just as Wenger did when he sold Anelka. It’s just a thought.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/02/24/squillaci-seals-arsenal-win-but-at-what-cost/

    • Clarence says:

      okie.. i have to say, selling Fab is not a option as he is the Captain and without him, our performance tend to be 1-2 notch lower.

      But, for the sake of discussion, it is still too early to sell him, even if huge amount has been offered. Whilshere still need another 1-2 more season before he can really dominate the midfield, while ramsey has not really proven himself yet. We still need Fab to cover this “gap” of 1-2 season. Only we have a Fully capable replacement for him, then we consider the option of selling him..

    • Greencard USA says:

      How fickle and low do you think fans should be? We expect players to give their all; put their life and limbs on the line for club and fans. Then, as a consequence we show no shame in considering getting rid of players! Sorry this is not acceptable. Supporting Arsenal to thick and thin also means support for its players.

  13. Ajinkya says:

    Considering injuries, it is now time for Rosicky to step up. He has been scoring goals, and like Arshavin he also seems to have got his rhythm back. It has been too long that I have seen the best of our Mozart. Come on!

  14. […] Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis Peter Walton tried his best. He did get manage to get the scalp of Walcott, who was stretchered off with what appeared […] […]

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