In a game that marked Arsene Wengers 500th match in charge, I feel its important to mention that of those 500 games under Wenger,we have lost only 80. Thats an incredible percentage for a manager that seems to come under constant criticism, even from some sections of his own supporters…
Anyway, back to the game..
Stoke had the all the ‘kryptonite’ attributes. A tough, tall, physical side that would offer strong resistance to a lightweight side and an attack that hadn’t scored a goal in their last two league games. Every man and London’s dog had been focusing on the reasons that embarrassing defeats to Sunderland, Chelsea and to a lesser extent Citeh in the Micky Mouse cup, had been down to the fact our players were picked from the cast of the wizard of Oz. This game was important, it was massive, not only did we need to get our momentum back but also to eradicate the vertically challenged demons that had no doubt been haunting Wenger..
Preparation was not ideal..Three domestic defeats on the trot, an injury list longer than Peter Crouch, outspoken Russians, and a pre-match injury to Eduardo which left Wenger with hardly any options to an attack that was already depleted and couldnt buy a goal with Theo Walcott’s wage…
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it forced Wenger to move the outspoken but sometimes brilliant Russian into the centre of a three-man attack..and he didn’t disappoint..
Stokes back four compared to our front three can only be described as somewhat of a David V Goliath type of contest with Arshavin proving to be our slingshot…Proving that with the right attitude and right movement you dont have to be 7 foot and a tab end to win a football match..
We started off in typical Arsenal fashion. Lots of fancy passing played at a quick tempo that was constantly testing the defence, and they were holding firm. The deadlock was almost broken when Cesc sent in a defence splitting pass to Arshavin only for him to mis-control the ball and allow Sorensen, who is second only to Petr Cech in the list of clean sheets, to dive at his feet and clear the ball. Not long after we thought the goal had finally come. Some super trickery and tomfoolery from Arshavin lead him to be tripped in the box..Cesc stepped up to take the penalty but Sorensen saved magnificently standing on the 6 yard line. It was proving to be one of those days and the look on Wenger’s face as he sat on in the dugout sipping his water was a look of a man who thought ‘here we go again’..
Its games like these when you need someone to step up to the plate and produce a moment of magic to change the game. Enter the Russian. After some good link up play with the brilliant Cesc, Arshavin found himself in the box with defenders trying to knock him over and the ball stuck under his feet. He showed his class, holding off a defender twice his size and hitting the ball with no back lift into the only place he could beat Sorensen. An outstanding goal and the pressure was off. His 7th of the season and he was showing us all why hes regarded as one of the worlds best talents…
The chances kept coming and Cesc could count himself unlucky, finding Sorensen in good form and Stokes new sweeper Eboue clearing Cesc’s shot off the line….
The second half was no different…wave after wave of Arsenal attack, spearheaded by a Spanish-Russian alliance..shot after shot was hitting the bar, the post, the defenders and the impressive Sorensen, but nerves were eased when Ramsey-a replacement for the crocked, hard-working Eboue – played a one two with AA and with a bit of luck found himself in on goal..The finish was sublime. The young Welshman said after the game it was luck but i think he’s being too modest..He meant that finish, you dont strike a ball like that if your relying solely on luck.. Pure class..
With the game won we could relax..Good performace that deserved more goals but after recent results i’d have taken a 1-0 with an own goal as the clincher….
Almunia..6..Kept a clean sheet but that was down to the fact Stoke couldnt get passed our defenders. Came for Delap’s first rocket launched throw in and flapped, dropped the ball and ended up on the floor in a heap. After that he left everything for his defenders to deal with and they didn’t let him down.
Sagna..7..It amazes me how he always plays better when Eboue plays in front of him. Alot like playing Song and Denilson together acts as one midfielder, the same applies when Sagna and Eboue play together – they act as one right back. Either way its two men doing one mans job and it takes a player out of the attack. That being said I thought he had a comfortable game. Some good tackles and some good forward runs but he still needs to work on his final ball and try and get some consistency to his game when Eboue doesn’t play with him..
Gallas..8.5..Awesome. Won every header and made himself hard to beat on the ground. This mans pivotal to our chances of silverware. Lets hope the injury doesn’t rule him out of the Liverpool game.
Vermaelen..8.. Complemented Gallas perfectly. Again winning every header and was strong in the tackle. A good solid defensive performance.
Traore..7.5..The lad didn’t put a foot wrong. Linked up well down the left wing and kept it tight at the back. Threw in a couple of dangerous crosses for good measure and his speed made him a handful.
Denilson..6.5..Quiet game from the Statman.Which isn’t a bad thing I suppose. Not as influential as Song and doesn’t contribute as much to the attack as Song but he’ll do for back up. Especially for teams like Stoke.
Cesc..9..Outstanding performance. Unlucky with the penalty and unlucky not to score, especially when Eboue forgot what team he was playing for. Outshone Denilson in the defensive role, closing Stokes players down and making some good tackles and his through balls were tearing Stoke to bits. A complete midfield performance from our captain fantastic..
Nasri..7.5..Not fully back to his best yet but linked up well with AK47 and Cesc..Theres alot more to come from this lad..Lets hope we don’t have to wait too long.
Eboue..6.5.. A+ for effort. Lacks technical ability and sometimes looks like a Coca Cola league player, but he gives his all and when he cuts out the cheating and the silly tricks he tries so often,he doesn’t do too bad..Alot like Denilson in the fact we have better players,much better players.. but he’ll do for teams like Kettering Town and Stoke..Probably would have got a 7 if he lasted the full 90..
Rosicky..5.5..I really don’t know what to say. Kept trying to force the pass but his ball retention has gone to pot. Gave the ball away too many times..Wasn’t dissapointed to see him replaced at half time.
Arshavin..9..My joint man of the match. Loves being the centre of attention on and off the pitch..His movement and leadership shone through and i thought he lead the line perfectly..An absolutely destructive performance from an absolute destructive player..I think he gets lost sometimes stuck out on the left, but when he plays through the middle and links up with a player like Cesc its hard to stop him.. Need more performances like this from him if we want to be serious challengers..He can talk all he wants as long as he gives the fans that type of performance week after week..I found it hilarious when Denilson was lining up a shot from 30 yards and Arshavin took the ball off his toe and went running at the defence..Denilson’s body language was priceless-but what would you rather prefer? A Denilson attack or an Arshavin attack? Thats what I want from our best players, that “you do your job and let me do mine” attitude is what wins you games…
Vela..6.5..good movement from the Mexican once again.. Offered more to the attack than what Rosicky did.
Ramsey..7..great goal..direct and clinical and secured the points
Silvestre..not on long enough..
All in all, I think it was a good performance..We dominated the game, not just for periods but for the whole game and we were unlucky not to score more. A clean sheet, 3 points and back to winning ways after a difficult fortnight. Wenger’s decision to stick to his guns in the mickey mouse cup proved fully justified as we sacrificed a cup only considered serious by Spurs in order to secure three points in the league…
8 points behind Chelsea and 6 behind the Manc’s with a game in hand isnt bad reading,especially for a team with more flaws than a solar powered torch…
Bring on the Dippers..