Stoke vs Arsenal: Match Notes
With the exception of the North London Derby, it’s difficult to say there’s a more heated atmosphere than when Arsenal visit the Britannia. The combination of grunts and assorted noises sometimes seem to get the better of our players but you feel that today the squad dealt with it fairly well. The team’s new additions all brought something to the game with physicality, vision and some very threatening runs.
They played well both as individuals and as a team. Though, everyone still seems to be taking some time to gel together. With a shortened preseason and players coming back from their holidays late, it’s understandable. In the end, a draw is better than a loss. It’s only early in the season and after two games we’re looking in a lot better shape than we did the same time last season.
Even though the game ended with no goals to celebrate, there were a few points of note:
- Arsenal have always been slow starters, taking a while to get into an attacking stride. Stoke tried their best to exploit that with some early pressing and even managed to get the ball in the back of the net. You expected them to tire, drop back and look to counter. That’s exactly what happened once Arsenal got into the match. There were moments where our center backs ventured forward and Stoke were able to capitalize on that space. It’s something that we adjusted well to. Vermaelen and Mertesacker rarely went forward after that initial scare with the offside goal. It’s early goals that were our undoing last season. This time around the defence solidity (ruled off goal aside) made sure we weren’t chasing the game. A clean sheet is always something to be happy about.
- There were a few individual performances of note. Giroud and Diaby showed an often missed bit of physicality; even players who you didn’t expect to, showed a lot of desire to keep the ball by getting stuck in wherever possible. It shows how deceivingly physical this team actually is when needed and it would be nice to see a little more of that during the rest of the season.
- Contrary to popular opinion, I feel Diaby did fairly well. Apart from the aforementioned physicality, he was always in the right areas of the pitch. Often, Gervinho would drift inside leaving an inexperienced Carl Jenkinson with no support. Diaby dropped out onto the wing to give the youngster some help. Similarly, he also provided Arteta with an outlet when he was being aggressively closed down by Stoke’s midfield. Despite the one big chance he couldn’t get under control, he had a decent game.
- Giroud’s inclusion up top meant Arsenal had a commanding center forward for the first time against Stoke. At the start of the match we were hoping that this meant that we would be able to play a more direct game when Stoke inevitably threw everyone behind the ball. The Frenchman did have his moments in heading the ball down for the players behind him. He also did well in imposing himself against the likes of Shawcross but he’s shown himself to be a player who needs the service to succeed. Despite peoples’ “surprise”, Podolski has always been the kind of player that runs at defenders and creates his own chances from the wing. Gervinho is very similar, with the added bonus of severe indecision. Giroud seemed to find a lot more space and time on the ball once the two proper wingers were brought on late in the game. We need to be playing at least one player that crosses because even though we created a fair few chances with the wing pair today, the addition of someone who can feed in Giroud would just add that little extra and maybe bring the goals in.