The Arsenal managed to obtain victory against Stoke City to keep them within touching distance of fourth place. Although on paper a home victory seemed the most likely outcome Stoke turned up at the emirates with a game plan to frustrate the Gunners and hopefully nick a draw.
We had new signing Nacho Monreal in the starting line up as Arsene gave him an instant initiation to the Arsenal team. He did alright on his debut and certainly played his part in contributing to the victory. With Gibbs likely to be out for longer than the first estimated three weeks and Andre Santos losing the faith of the fans and it seems the manager, it was encouraging that Monreal slotted in so seamlessly.
His performance wasn’t flawless as it was quite clear he should avoid use of his right foot and also late in the game a couple lapses in concentration crept into his game. Nothing bad enough to ring alarm bells; it is evident from one appearance alone his acquisition is one that does add quality and strengthen the squad.
Back to the game and from the off we played on the front foot for the majority of the game, Stoke were happy to contain the pressure as we spent the game camped in their half with the lion’s share of possession. It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed a home game where the team camped in their half against us inviting pressure; maybe it was to counter the threat of Theo Walcott’s pace as his strength is running off the shoulder of the last defender.
We were rarely threatened in defence and it was important that we stayed focused and avoided a goal against the run of play. As the game wore on it was looking like Stoke may have pulled it off but our German number 9 had different plans. With the clock running down we were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box after Theo Walcott was brought down by Wilkinson. Lukasz Podolski took on the free kick taking responsibility and found the back of the net via a deflection off a Stoke player. Absolutely nothing wrong with the goal although the referee’s assistant took it upon himself to find fault with it. After discussion with the referee and some heated opinions voiced from players of both sides the referee ruled the goal would stand. Absolute common sense and I would be interested to know what exactly the referee’s assistant’s reasoning was.
With the goal we craved finally scored; Stoke actually ventured from their goal line to try to sneak an equalizer. They ended the game with three strikers up front but it wasn’t enough as we held on and secured the three points. There is still clearly some bad blood between the two sides and tensions certainly weren’t helped by a crude tackle from Ryan Shawcross that left Laurent Koscielny writhing in pain. Even Michael Owen got involved as he planted a sly punch at Mikel Arteta which wasn’t seen by the referee. The good thing is we didn’t sink to their level and in the end let the football do all the talking.
It was extremely encouraging that we came away with a clean sheet, the silly goals have been slipping by in recent games and it was nice we managed a shut out. It was also nice that we didn’t have to go one nil down to respond to anything, although 0-0 at half time wasn’t great it’s a lot better than being a goal down.
Thomas Vermaelen was missing through injury but it’s not to say he has been the cause of the recent soft goals conceded. The blame can be attributed across the back four and each player would have to hold their hand up for some of the goals we let in. The thing is once everyone is focused then goals like that don’t get conceded. 100% concentration is needed for the duration of the match and the defence needs to play for each other as much as themselves.
Next up is an away trip to Sunderland; that will not be an easy game despite their position in the table. We will need to put in another focused, disciplined performance much like yesterday and with the luxury of a full squad to choose from a win is a must to continue the chase for fourth place.
Enjoy your day people.
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