Stoke 3 Arsenal 2: Three talking points as Gunners disappoint
Three talking points as the Potter shock Arsene Wenger's side
Defensive issues for Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has been forced to deal with an injury crisis in defence all season. Young Spaniard Hector Bellerin was drafted in at the expense of Nacho Monreal, who was out with an ankle injury. Laurent Koscielny needed a break after two consecutive games following his return from injury, so Calum Chambers played alongside Per Mertesacker. As a result, the Gunners were all over the place defensively. For the opening goal, Chambers didn’t react quickly enough and completely missed his header, while behind him was the even more inexperienced Bellerin. It was a comical bit of defending and saw the Potters take the lead after just 19 seconds. Things continued to follow a similar pattern as more uncertainty allowed Bojan Krkic to grab the second – again from close range. But it wasn’t just the back four that contributed to this calamitous performance. The third goal saw Peter Crouch tower above four players to knock the ball down. None of them particularly challenged, or even tried to impede him. There is some positive news for Arsenal as Mathieu Debuchy is edging towards full fitness, and Koscielny is likely to start the next game. Wenger will need them if Arsenal hope to compete in the Champions League next season.
Mental fragility – its back again!
Just when it appeared that Wenger was getting things back on track again, an early Crouch goal set the Potter’s on their way to a victory. After the Borussia Dortmund game which Arsenal won 2-0, it seemed as though they were building up a head of steam. Before the game against the Potters, the Gunners had won their previous two in the league 1-0 against West Brom and Southampton. The fans were starting to believe again. The Baggies were barely able to threaten as Arsenal controlled the game throughout. Against the Saints it was a slightly different performance, they never stopped fighting and were rewarded with a late goal courtesy of Alexis Sanchez. Compare that to the game today, Arsenal lacked ideas, were all over the place at the back, and completely lost their composure and forced situations rather than letting them happen naturally. It reeked of desperation rather than a well thought out plan. It was a damaging defeat for Arsenal and they will need to show a lot more when they face Newcastle next weekend.
Good end to a bad week for the Potters
A lot of credit has to go to Mark Hughes, not just for the game plan, but also for getting his players motivated after being denied a last-minute equaliser against Manchester United. The strategy was excellent from Hughes and was evident within the first minute of the game. Crouch was brought in and the idea was to hit as many long balls to him as possible. It was obvious, but it was effective. Once Crouch had won the ball, the wingers or full-backs were brought into the game and put in numerous crosses which the Arsenal defenders just could not deal with. However, the Potters also showed that they didn’t just rely on long balls. In Bojan they had a wonderfully gifted player that drifted in between the lines. Mathieu Flamini wasn’t sure whether to go tight, or to drop off him but the Spaniards awareness of space and close control meant that Flamini often could not get close to him. Hughes could not ask any more of his players after three successive defeats. They were committed, full of passion and more importantly were ruthless in front of goal.