Stoke parked the bus but Lucas found a way through the Pod-holes.
In a way it was nice to see a team park the bus against us again, as it allowed our team to control the game and find its shape and rhythm. On the other hand, the lack of space combined with the disciplined defending of Stoke showed up our lack of guile and penetration on too many occasions yesterday. We know that Theo works best on the wing when he can combine his speed and good first touch with being played into space, and Ox is not that much different; although he is better able to take on a defender from a standing still position.
Yesterday’s game screamed out for Gervinho. As said many times before, he is the only player who is comfortable with attacking a congested flank and get himself into the box with the ball. This is such an important commodity to have when teams park the bus against us, and I felt we missed him yesterday.
It took an ugly goal – a deflected free-kick by Podolski – to find a way through the parked layer of busses yesterday, but who cares. It was exactly what we deserved and the happiness on the Pod’s face, combined with the joyous, collective team celebration – good to see Nacho joining in straightaway – told us all what it meant to the players.
Nacho impressive debut.
Nacho did fantastically well! He was still a Malaga player less than 48 hours before the kick-off, and yet Nacho was able to boss his area and contribute to our attack as if he never played for another club than Arsenal. First impressions are very good: he is fast, hard as nails if needed, reads the game well, good crosser of the ball, and has both stamina and desire to keep supporting our attack. Highbury Harmony aka The Gooner already told us what a good player Arsenal had bought and yesterday’s performance showed indeed a lot of promise.
The Ox’s horns still need strengthening, and the whole team lacked composure up-front.
Alex was played on the left wing against Stoke, and I thought he did ok. The Ox missed two very good chances of which Podolski would probably have converted at least one. This is where he really needs to start improving now: converting chances/ scoring goals.
When a team parks the bus, it is important to take your early chances, and Arsenal had a spell of just a couple of minutes in which they had three decent opportunities: Ox missed; Giroud inexplicably headed towards his fellow players in the box, whilst there was a decent gap on the keeper’s left side to head towards, and Koz headed a decent chance straight at Begovic.
It is fair to say that as team Arsenal were not clinical enough and on another day we could have ended up with just the one point. However, after having scored a great number of goals in the last dozen games, this is not an area we should worry about much at the moment.
Diaby and Arteta properly protect our defence, but they should also have supported Jack and Giroud more in the middle of our attack.
It was good to see Arteta back in the deeper DM role, which he combined well with Diaby. Defensively our midfield did a great job, as they never allowed Stoke out of their trenches even when they wanted to. However, with our flanks being restricted by Stoke during large parts of the game – despite Wilshere’s constant endeavours to find a way through – I would have liked to see Diaby or Arteta to move more into the area in front of Stoke’s ‘D’. Especially Diaby has the qualities to hold onto the ball there and play other team mates in, or penetrate the Stoke bus himself and have a shot at goal.
We were surprisingly physical and ‘together’, and the quality on the bench made the difference today.
I really liked the way we handled Stoke today from a physical point of view. Our approach was perhaps epitomised by Arteta’s fair but hard tackle on Owen late on in the game. It was the sort of tackle we have had to endure many times in our encounters with the Orcs in recent years. It was good to see Arsenal handle the physical side really well, as it looked our players had mentally prepared themselves for a tough battle, and yet not a single yellow card was collected by the team.
But ultimately, it was the quality on our bench which made the difference. The combined arrival of Podolski and Cazorla brought new impetus and thrust, which meant we did not relent our attacking efforts and kept trying to find a hole through the parked bus. Eventually our efforts paid off, and with Chelsea losing and Everton drawing unexpectedly at home against Aston Villa, this hard fought win really helped our push for a top three/four finish. Well done to the boys.
Written by: Total Arsenal.