Stoke City – Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Alexis, Elneny to Liven Things up on Another Tough

Trip to the Potteries?

Or do we keep them on the bench, just in case?

They say the football is better up there these days. We shall see.  Are we traveling to the home of ‘you’re just time-wasting with those broken bones’ or has the Britannia really become the Nou Camp of the Midlands?  If this is the Nou Britannia, maybe the closed corners will keep the wind down…


In truth, manager Mark Hughes should be proud of the way his team have recovered after a woeful start to this campaign.  This is not the same Stoke outfit we beat 2-nil back in September when they were in the relegation zone.  Since that time only Arsenal and Leicester City have accumulated more points.  Home wins vs both Manchester Clubs and Chelsea find the Potters sitting 7th place and plenty confident.

Arsenal were in a difficult moment ourselves going into the reverse fixture.  Gooners were irate that we had elected to avoid the overpriced transfer market at the close of the summer window while news of longer term injuries to the likes of Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky were beginning to leak out.  As such, we have to be grateful that Hughes was only just getting his new look group going.  It was the first match of the new season where we appeared dominant even if we were also wasteful.  On 30 minutes a sliding tackle by Francis Coquelin led to 50 yard pass from Mesut Ozil which hit Theo Walcott in stride.  He beat the keeper to stake us to a lead which we defended well until Olivier Giroud doubled the advantage late on.

Stoke will want to forget that one and remember, instead, this fixture from last season, the first half in particular.  In those 45 minutes they scored three goals, overwhelming our very young and makeshift back four which featured Hector Bellerin and Callum Chambers alongside Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs.  Damien Martinez was between the posts that day.  We almost came back in the 2nd half but ended up a goal short.

It wasn’t our first struggle at the Britannia.  Video footage of some of the traveling support on a train platform abusing Manager Arsene Wenger and giving some interesting advice to very late substitute Joel Campbell may be the most lasting images of that defeat.  We also have the Aaron Ramsey injury way back in 2010, the only match we’ve actually won at the Britannia since Stoke rejoined the top division.  Neither set of images bear a 2nd look, in my opinion.

So, into the cauldron we go.  Will Stoke actually try to play football against us or will they revert to their uglier side?

Hughes actually has some thinking to do on this front as he’ll be missing Xerdan Shaqiri, Stoke’s record signing and most creative force.  No, the former Bayern Munich and Internazionale man is not off representing the Lollipop Guild.  Instead, he is some days short after a hamstring injury suffered against Liverpool ten days ago.  Geoff Cameron, the big American wingback who suffered a similar injury, however, might be available.

In attack Hughes still has choices.  Does he go with technical continental types like Marko Arnautovich, Bojan Krkic, Ibrahim Affellay and Jose Luis Mato Sanmartin (known by most as “Joselu”) or hardworking British stalwarts such as Jon Walters, Charlie Adam, Glenn Whelan or Peter Crouch?  Maybe a mix?  At the back, it will be more traditional.  Jack Butland, the young English goalkeeper plays behind a back four likely to include Glen Johnson, Erik Pieters, Phillip Wolfscheid and the guy who at least shed a few tears when he destroyed Aaron Ramsey’s leg: Ryan Shawcross.

Ramsey got past that brutal double leg break and actually got one of the 2nd half goals in last season’s trip. He’ll again be a pivotal figure after a goal and an assist Wednesday at Liverpool, though many Gooners would prefer he focus on his defensive duties as much as his scoring.  You’ll know when he’s on the ball as the Stoke faithful still boo him lustily for having the gall to put his leg where Shawcross might shatter it.

The bigger question is who will work with Rambo at the rear of our midfield.

Veteran Mathieu Flamini could get the call but so too could Captain Mikel Arteta or brand new signing Mohamed Elneny.  It would be some introduction to English football to start a match at the Britannia but his teammates have already expressed admiration for the Egyptian after just a few training sessions.

Front man Olivier Giroud has called Elneny a “complete player.”  The big man should know as surely Elneny must be charged with matching up with him in top of the box positions in training. It could be just such challenges at London Colney which sharpened Giroud for his turn and fire 2nd goal at Anfield which had pundits invoking the name of this website.   As gorgeous as that one was, Ollie will also be ruing the sitter he missed earlier.

That one was crossed in from Theo Walcott who also has become a much debated figure in the team.  Some wonder if Theo should be the main man up top or if he should be benched in favor of Alexis Sanchez who just might be finally recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered at the end of November.  Another player who could make way for Alexis is Joel Campbell.  That would seem harsh on the Costa Rican who has been such a huge factor in Arsenal not merely surviving–but actually thriving–during the injury crisis so many thought would see the team tumbling from the top of the league table.  In fact, we actually only hit the top spot after Alexis, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin went down.  Campbell’s contribution has been a key element but it’s been a real team effort and the squad has pulled together well.  As new bodies are brought in, integrating them into the broader effort–while still getting the needed results–will be the manager’s toughest task.

How does he proceed after the tough match at Anfield?  My hunch is that Wenger will go for an unchanged squad but perhaps be quicker to make changes depending on the scoreline.

Subs: Macey, Gabriel, Gibbs, Arteta, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis

The objective, I think, would be to control the game a bit more than we did at Anfield and, ideally, take the Stoke crowd out of the match in the early going. It seems a tall order to ask Elneny to be such a central figure in doing just that from the get-go, but maybe he’s shown enough in training to create the trust needed for such a high stakes debut. Having let the full points slip against Liverpool, taking them at Stoke would be a real boost for our title aspirations.

Alexis is a tricky one as well.  He didn’t look ready on opening day vs West Ham United but still made the bench and got thrown on when we went behind. Although he was ineffective in rescuing a result that day, he was able to start and contribute a week later at Crystal Palace. It’s very hard to say anything definitive about his true level of fitness.  He could be fully rested and ready to play the full 90 minutes or Wenger may just be playing mind games with Hughes, knowing how much he rates those former Barcelona players.

What do you think?  Go on, give us your ideas… And, of course, go on you Gunners!!!

by 17highburyterrace

61 thoughts on “Stoke City – Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Alexis, Elneny to Liven Things up on Another Tough

  • Note: njk84sg, inquiring about this Match Preview a couple of days ago was invited to write one of his own… And he did!! There was a little confusion with e-mails and timing and how to publish things, so here it is, as it also was towards the bottom of the previous post. On that post I had a few questions for JK, our Singapore Gooner (who I suspect might have been born in 1984)… I’ll leave those on the bottom of that post, but JK (what is the n for?…) you could choose to answer them in this one if you like. Thanks again for the contribution!

    Here’s the post:

    Stoke City vs Arsenal. Our second away game this week. Should we settle for a point or take all 3 points with me banking on Elneny starting his first 90 minutes in Arsenal colours?

    This game was historically not a game that Arsenal can boast or brag about, as we have not done very well against them. We have lost 1-0 and 3-2 against them away in 2014, and we have won against them back home in 2015, and not conceding any.

    Preferred starting lineup for the game tomorrow:
    Keeper: Cech
    Defence: Bellerin, Per, Koscielny, Monreal
    DM: Ramsey, Elneny
    MID: Campbell, Ozil, Alexis
    ST: Walcott

    An alternative lineup will be:
    Keeper: Cech
    Def: Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal
    DM: Ramsey, Arteta/Flamini
    MID: Theo, Ozil, Alexis
    ST: Giroud

    We are strong in 2015, and I hope that we can win against them with Elneny starting in place of Flamini, to plug the gaps in midfield.

    For a while, we have not done well against teams that attack from the start, forcing us to use the counter attacking style.
    However, we have seen stronger performances from the team and somehow they managed to win their games with a compact DM and defense.

    The midweek’s game was somehow shocking to an extent, as the DMs were missing, and apart from Arteta, who is always injured, and Le Coq, we do not have a person in the team that can back them up the same way.

    The answer to this question is Elneny.

    But how good is he in DM? Or is he better as a B2B player?

    Surely that answer leaves much to the imagination, but having seen how he plays, he is more of a tough tackler and one that deals very well with the space ahead of him.

    So, if Le Prof is reluctant to start him, I would rather start either Flams or Arteta.

    So, what are your thoughts?

  • Evening HT. A very clear summary and as ever it would be imprudent to bet against your predicted selection. Sanchez is the main question for me; if not fit he shouldn’t even be on the bench. If he is fit though, he will be pressing hard for a start. For me the obvious change would be with Walcott. Having Campbell and Sanchez on our flanks gives pace, assets, goals and a huge defensive work rate thrown in. Not to be sniffed at against the Orcs. I would bench Theo on that basis for this game.

    Starting Elneny against the Orcs would be a hell of a risk, or a huge vote of confidence, depending on how you look at it. I can’t really see it to be honest, and have treated the club mate feedback about his as well intentioned platitudes to settle in a new player. I would be delighted to be proved wrong however, and find we have a ready made DM who can improve the current team. It would be unfair if this was anyones expectation however. Assuming he is fit, the Orcs look like natural competition for the Flam; much though I rate Arteta, this is no game for him to make a first start.

    Somewhere in the last links there was mention of Rosicky. I didn’t think he was fit yet, though back in training. It may be more sentiment than pragmatic reason, but I would be thrilled to see him back on the pitch for us, more than just about anyone. Sadly I don’t expect there to be many more opportunities for us to enjoy this particular experience.

  • Thanks AB, We’ll have to see what the manager does…as always…

    In general, I think all the manager’s have had to look at the three matches this week as slightly more than OGAAT… While we struggled both early and late at Anfield, like AW said, the positives probably outweighed the negatives. I think the group–unchanged at the start–will get a chance to make things right in terms of the result. Attention to detail has been another talking point since that match and that could be the difference–as well as those couple of solid subs we might have on the bench…

    Hughes, on the other hand, might have just that little bit less need to gee up his boys for this one given their nice midweek win vs Norwich. Of course they’d love to continue their great record against the traditional top teams but maybe it’s not quite the desperate situation we faced on Boxing Day at really down and out Southampton, for example. Who do we fear worse, the wounded beast or the beast (in a bit of form) who aspires to beauty?

    It’s still a f**ked up place to have to go and try to play the footie but I think we can do it… Missing Shaqiri helps and if Cameron cannot play they will be a good deal less physically imposing…

  • Oops…Also meant to say that I think you’re spot on re: the older players… Who has clue #1 when it comes to Alexis’ hamstrings?…

  • 17ht,

    Good preview as always.

    The paragraph on Elneny is from the youtube vids, so though its not everything that we need to know about Elneny, somehow we can understand his playing style..

    Apparently i was talking about El Capitan’s troubles with his calf. With him back i am glad, but at the same way Stoke is a good passing team and we might risk the calf issues if Arteta decides to go in for a lunge or something.

    I will leave the reply on the midfield in a later bit.

    Now back to your own piece.

    Leaving the squad status quo is something that Le Prof will do, but to me, the broken midfield has to be fixed, by either Elneny or El Capitan.

    Flams seems to be overwhelmed by the pace that Fools plays, so, as Stoke is similar, we might see him rested.

    And although Alexis himself will be very eager to play the full 90, it depends on Le Prof on whether he wants it that way, or throw him in when we are in trouble.

    I wouldn’t risk starting him as hamstrings is a touch and go issue, so we need to be cautious.


  • I agree with your team selection 17highburyterrace, but according how the first half goes we may see an early introduction to Elneny in the second half. I honestly don’t feel Flamini’s leg will be able to play the entire game. Wenger will not take the risk and use Arteta. My opinion, Arteta is on a decline. I believe this is a must win game. That’s why Sanchez will be on the bench. In case we need that extra ammunition to get us across the finishing line. Good Luck Gooners.

  • HT,

    You always make them great.

    I will add that I do not expect Stoke to abandon their new style of play that has improved their performance and results, just because Arsenal is in town. I would wager that they can’t let go their new love. Could jolly well be their undoing today.

    There are two positions in your line up that I have a different view to.

    1) I believe that Flam will be rested after the mid week exertion. Who replaces him is difficult to guess. Arteta’s fitness and form remains a doubt. Chambers technical level and better aerial ability gives him a chance, more so as Stoke is not a high pressing team. Fielding Elneny remains a big temptation but expect old soldier Wenger to opt for his gradual introduction. Chambers to start.

    2) Almost without fail, whenever Wenger talks of late fitness test, the player in question starts. I expect Alexis to start ahead of Walcott. I don really fancy throwing Theo to Marko Arnautovic! 😀For the same reason I will put Giroud with those big men manning the Stoke defense.

    My expected line up;


    Subs; Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Arteta, Elneny, Ox, Walcott.

  • PE,

    We have to play like the opponent is Barca.
    So, no Chambers for me. He will get skewered against the rampaging mids.


  • JK,

    Stoke is not anywhere yet like Barca. The Stokelona tag is just to dramatize the huge change in their playing style. My argument is Flam, on the wrong side of 30, must be knackered after midwk exertion. Arteta’s form is doubtful to be a starter. Only options left are Chambers and Elneny. The big question is whether to throw El into the deep end and risk damaging his self confidence so early in the day. To me Chambers emerges, if you like, by default.

  • PE,

    Chambers last match gave me a near heart attack. His positioning is good, but running back to get defend against the player he is marking shows his weakness.


  • Jk,

    I agree that Chambers is not fast enough, but still faster than Arteta. So on the bases of speed he is ahead of Arteta.

    If am asked to select the team, I will chose Elneny, but I wonder if Wenger will atm.

  • Cheers 17ht for another fine preview.

    For me this the final game of the sequence started at Boxing Day and if we can win this one it would be a great statement to ourselves. Normally I don’t feel good about us going to the shithole with their repulsive Wenger haters but this team has balls and a title to win, and I feel we will do it this time. Let’s do it for Wenger, for Rambo, for Football. CoYG!s

  • 84, thanks for your short preview which focuses on playing Elneny or not. You are right to point out that the DM position is the one to focus on for the team selection, and PE has added some good thoughts as well. My brain says sixty minutes of Flamini, my heart says Arteta or Chambers to boss the Orcs and I am dreaming of Elneny making the Orcs walk like an Egyptian whilst we mummify them. CoYG!s

  • Great post 17, and the picture was superb…

    For me, tactics, formations and the like, will count for nothing if our team isn’t mentally prepared and that’s gotta be Wengers priority.
    It’s what’s between the ears of our players and how they’ll counter Stokes aggressive approach, because despite more emphasis on the technical side of the game, the beast remains what it was under Pulis…

    For that reason, I would start Elneny alongside Flamini and push Ramsey wide again.
    I’d keep Campbell in the side, as much for his physicality and leave Walcott on the bench. You cannot afford passengers at the Nou Mordor…

  • I hope our Plan B is still very much in our books. Last season we got only 8pts from our away matches against the top 9 teams (I.e. top half of the table). Man U and Man C got 14pts each, while Chls got 16pts.

    In 2013/14 our 7 pts was again the lowest amongst the top four teams with Chls at 12pts, Liv at 14pts and Man C at 15pts.

    We would have been challenging these past two seasons had our away results against the top halt of the table not been so poor comparatively. We still have a lot of the likely top 10 teams to play at away starting today with Stoke. Others are Man U, Spurs, W Ham, and Man C.

    The likely top 10 finishers that we have so far played are Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, and Liv, where we got only 4 pts out of a possible 12. This translates by ratio to 9pts only away to the top half of the table. By past stats that would mean the battle to be champions over again.

    For us to escape history repeating itself, imo, we have to apply this Plan B to our away games against the top half of the table, not just the top four teams only. Incidentally we are the best team away to the bottom half teams the past two seasons.

  • AB, I did somewhere that Rosicky has been pencilled in for an U21 game next Friday,
    I guess much in the same way that Arteta had a run out with the U21’s prior to his return to the senior squad…

  • Good morning fellas… Waking up a bit late this Sunday to see the frightening news… No Ozil, No Alexis… Time to get religion and start praying, I guess…

    Also, the debate about midfielders seems as though nobody got through to the manager. He goes with the Ox and Flamini while Chambers, Arteta and the new guy all take bench seats. Ramsey must be sliding forward into Ozil’s role…

    Stoke go with the same group which started and beat Norwich on Weds…

    Stoke: Butland, Pieters, Wollscheid, Shawcross, Johnson, Whelan, Affelay, Arnautovic, Bojan, Walters, Joselu

    Subs: Haugaard, Muniesa, Odemwingie, Adam, Diouf, Crouch, van Ginkel

    Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud

    Subs: Opsina, Chambers, Gabriel, Gibbs, Arteta, Elneny, Iwobi

  • We can only wonder….

    OK, now this one must be on the telly for everybody, right?…

    (Another) big opportunity for the Ox…

  • Anybody around? I’m assuming we don’t need any play by play today… First 12 minutes and it all looks fairly random…as if either team might get on a long ball which happened to be moving in the correct direction.

    Neither team able to string together more than a pass or two…

  • Halftime… Anybody?…

    My take is that our football isn’t as good w/o Ozil… Best chance was Campbell putting Ollie in forcing the strong save…

  • Sorry Seventtenho, when watching on TV I cannot blog as well.

    We are doing ok, I reckon. Not great but ok. Flamini doing well in front of back four. Rest of. Id field and attack need to link up better

  • No one, huh…

    2nd half starts with Ox doing well to win a corner and Butland again making a fine save from Giroud, this time with an open header…

  • Oh hey, there is someone… Hi TA…

    Agreed that Flams has done well… In fact he just made another nice tackle… Now he’s called for a foul…

    Looks like Giroud could use a call at some point in this match;;;

    Theo too, maybe…

  • Stole the IPad for a few minutes. Critical patch now. Need to see more from the likes of Theo, Ox and Rambo. Time to stand up and be counted.

  • First sub… Mame Diouf in for Bojan… More high balls should be expected…

    Cech is keeping them out…That time after a bad giveaway from Kos..

    And grabs the corner too….

  • Wow…awfully harsh on Theo there, TA… I thought he came as close as anybody…

  • I don’t see anybody playing well…beyond Cech…

    Seems to me only a big Stoke error could net us more than the single point…

  • Goalkeepers were both good… I guess we could give a shout to Giroud for testing Butland twice…

    My view is that Theo did nicely defending and he tried to find some teammates for 1-2s… True, they didn’t come off but at least he kept at it… The quantity of loose touches from our midfield two–the Ox and Ramsey–sucked away my enthusiasm, but at least they kept trying and nobody hung their heads… Flamini, in fact, though lacking mobility and staying further back, looked like the guy with all the skill…

    It helped none of these (so called) technique players that the ref allowed a lot of physical play. Stoke, I have to say, are less cynical under Hughes so we gave as good as we got, I thought…

    Just my view, of course… but w/o the quality of Ozil, Alexis and Santi a point at Stoke should be seen as a very good result.

  • Everybody has their favorites and types of players they like but I think there’s a tendency to judge players differently under those biases… For example, I love Campbell’s obvious effort and he’s showing a really good eye for a well weighted through pass… Still, late on, when he had the 1 v 1 and had to get the ball onto his left foot for the high and wide shot that was the very best he could do. Does that deserve plaudits or do we wish we had forwards who could do more?… I opt for the latter, but again that’s just me…

    Good solid effort from the boys but (for me) just not enough quality to feel like we deserved full points…

  • Campbell played well again. Best non defender on the pitch, which doesnt mean he didn’t defend well. You obviously did not see that, and just focus on the one half chance.

  • Theo on the other hand was never in the game, totally outside the Arsenal bubble and a one trick pony for best part of ninety minutes. But I guess we all see different things.

  • Who played well was our entire defence, which does not mean they were faultless. Monreal was near to perfect again, at least from a defensive play point of view. BFG and Koz fought like lions and Cech, including some luck on the rebound saved us. A very good point and one more than our main competitor Citeh.

  • No, I thought Campbell played well, but I also think people tend to judge him more easily… Iwobi looked good for a young guy in his cameo too… If that was all we saw from Alexis, for example, we’d be disappointed…

    It sounds like maybe I should run away here before you’re convinced I know nothing about football…

    An alternative is to do as you say and hope we get our bigger guns healthy quickly and move on from this one.

    The big positive is that we kept the clean sheet and everybody kept at it for the full 90, IMO…

  • I felt that Campbell was fully in the game and did great things with the ball, including the one quality ball of the game that Ozil would approve of. Iwobi did OK for his age but yes we would have expected more from Alexis… And that’s why I am unhappy with Theo, not because he does not try, but he lacks so many football skills that he just does not have an impact on the game unless he gets launched into space on the field.

  • Right now it feels like momentum has swung hard to man city and even Totts. But that’s how swings are, they can come right back in the opposite direction. .
    Maybe returning stars will give us a physiological boost that we need after this week.

  • A decent point from a tough game, where we were missing key players. Other results have been moderately kind to us and we need to start picking up a few more points soon. The fixture list brings together clusters of tough games, which can make it seem that our form has dropped. I’m not sure that is the case. Today felt like a pretty professional showing. The chavs will be tough too, with or without our currently injured players. A fresh Ozil would be a great lift for us though if Wenger’s summary of his injury is what he claims.

    City and spuds both looking good. I think city will still have their dodgy spells, and the spuds should tire at the back end of the season. Whether we can be consistent from here, and avoid further serious injury problems, is really hard to call; but we should take encouragement from today on this.

  • TA,

    I guess this time i have to side with 17ht..

    Campbell played well and helped in the defense.

    However, we do not have a bright spark, and i was waiting eagerly for Elneny to make his debut.. somehow Le Prof wanted to shield him from the tough tacklers.

    Our midfield passing was way off, and the Potters are all over us for most of the game.

    We were lucky to have a fantastic keeper and the defense was solid, with Flams staying deep. Maybe he was given the Ferguson treatment post midweek, well you never know.

    Rambo was his usual self, and the Ox too. Totally disappointed with all those misplaced passes.

    We have lots of chances to make it 2-0, but we just couldn’t take it.

    In the end, it was a 50-50 game and a point is better than none.


  • When you consider, that Olivier Giroud spent the entire 90(94) minutes being held, pushed, pulled, shoved, obstructed, smacked in the face and generally fouled at every opportunity, mainly by Ryan ‘stone age’ Shawcross, I thought that Ollie had a bloody good game…

    Mathieu Flamini had an impressive game, and never stopped working, harrying & tackling, all that and so soon after another Herculean effort at Liverpool..

    He make lack polish, but he’s given everything in our last two games…

    Question; how is it, that Peters of Stoke got away with 8 or 9 fouls, half of them worth a caution?

  • Question 2,
    What are the odds on Arsenal going the rest of the EPL season and not being awarded a penalty?

  • Hello, people! 🙂

    I for one think that a point at The Orc Pit is not a bad result. It’s one more than what City and United have collected combined. 🙂 I still regret for those two stupidly spilled points at Anfield though but then again, City have to visit Anfield as well.

    When it comes to our boys today, I think that they did well given the circumstances. We were without Coquelin (by far the best defensive midfielder), Santi (the one for ball transition), Mesut (the one to create chances) and Alexis (the one to score when nobody else dare to look at goal). Four important players, not to mention Rosicky, Welbeck and Wilshere who would have replace some of the aforementioned key players.

    We did have our best defensive line-up though. I think Čech was brilliant as usual. Bellerin didn’t have the best touch all day long but did his defending and was an attacking asset nobody knew how to use. Koscielny did make a few poor passes and it seems a regular thing that Čech has to deal with shots that go between Kos’ legs. Per’s skills are made for the games like this one. Nacho… What is there to say about our best defender this season?

    When we go higher up the pitch, we have to remove rose-tinted glasses. Flamini was too slow again. There was a moment when he looked like a cartoon character in a slow-motion. He missed an easy interception and our defence had to deal with a dangerous attack. Rambo made a vital clearance off the line. It was a special game for him and idiots on the stands deserve to be despised for another round of cretinous chants. For me, our central midfield must not consist either Flamini or Arteta. In Coquelin’s absence, I’d rather go with Chambers, Elneny or, hell, Gabriel.

    Walcott… I’m totally with TA at this one. Iwobi has shown more basic technical skills during his cameo (first touch, to start with) than Theo had shown before that. When Theo doesn’t have an Özil, a Santi or, whisper it, a Fabregas, he becomes a rather useless. I give him a credit for improved defending though but he screwed up against Liverpool and was close to open a dangerous counter-attack against Stoke as well when he lost the ball in a dangerous area.

    Ox… I don’t know what to say. Mesut’s boots are too big to be filled but I can’t help myself thinking Ox had looked more like a top player four years ago than he does now. Wenger’s plans with him in a central role would make sense only if he intends to play him as a false nine but he would have to improve his off-the-ball movement, passing…and actually score goals.

    Campbell – as TA said, Mesut would have approved his pass for Giroud. As always, he was fighting for the shirt like every player should. Now, I do have a doubt about his ability to play 90 minutes in the rhythm he enforces on himself. He usually looks spent after 65th-70th minute.

    Giroud – fought with Shawcross but couldn’t dominate in the air as he usually does. He should have scored when Campbell released him but credits for Butland for making two brilliant saves of his shots.

    And, now – Chavs.

  • Admir,

    I applaud your comments summarized by me as below;
    1) a pt at Stoke ok,
    2) 4 of the MDers we fielded are 2nd,3rd or 4th string. E.g. for #10 we have Ozil, Jack, Tomas and as 4th string the Ox, so our team did great,
    3) Nacho …. our season’s best defender,
    4) Chambers, Elneny, or hell Gabriel ahead of Arteta and Flam as DM,
    5) Theo totally useless without a creator,
    6) and the big one, save Ox’s career by converting him to a striker (if only he will learn off the ball runs),
    7) Campbell should learn how to track back more efficiently. Racing at top speed after a man who is 15 meters ahead of him is a very inefficient use of valuable energy, and that’s why he can’t last 90 mins,
    8) Giroud, great, but could do with being a wee bit more clinical.

  • Allezkev and Aadmir,

    The referee were giving us a hard time, and I feel for the ref too, those times that he correctly gave us fouls he got booed by the crowd so much that he went against us.

    Moving Campbell central helped spark the attack, but i feel that we are slow and sometimes out of position. Ollie done well, and was being fouled left right and centre. So many penalty calls but none given 😦

    Theo works well with someone like Ozil. Without Ozil the team just does not have the extra horsepower to bash through the rugby team.

    And we might have a couple of penalties won until the end of the season. This season the ref is just anti-Arsenal.


  • Guys,

    Something worth laughing about..
    The head Orc was saying that they did not revert to the Rugby Team they were, when responding to Le Prof’s suggestion that they reverted to their Rugby game and long throws.

    The question I had in mind when I read that:
    Dear Head Orc,
    1. How many fouls did you make?
    2. Did I see more long balls than those on the ground?

    I tried to find the stats man but somehow there was none.


  • Thanks HT for the excellent preview once again and the ongoing coverage.

    Stoke are a very good team, with quality individuals too, both able to mix it up and play good passing football. They have an end product with both styles of play. This was a tough match to get three points in and we needed our players playing near their best or to receive a little bit of luck or to produce something special.

    I didn’t get the chance to watch the game but have just watched the highlights. Of course the highlights don’t give a full picture but here are my key impressions from the key moments:

    1. Cech and our defence were excellent as Stoke tested us well throughout.
    2. We did not keep possession well enough especially in our own half where I saw a lack of central midfielders making themselves available for an onward pass out of defence and Walcott on one occasion trying a risky pass that led to a very dangerous cross which could have led to a goal. This was more concerning particularly given the chance we had to review what went wrong at Liverpool. Although only so much can be done to mitigate our loss of key players for this task – including the influential Ozil – whose effect rubs off on the whole team.
    3. We created chances of our own and with a bit more luck could have nicked this one.
    4. Walcott had a 5/10 performance. He was ok but can be much better. He is a central player at heart who can go out to the wings he doesn’t look good starting from the wing. Giroud was the best option here as there was no Ozil to spot his runs and without Alexis and with Iwobi still learning Walcott was the best option for the wing. The Ox could have gone there but we have a lack of central midfielders and I feel although better with the ball at his feet he wouldn’t have offered much more defensively or with passing accuracy.

    Overall this was a very good point, We had great team spirit and were resilient even when we lost the ball in dangerous moments. We could have nicked it even though we are missing key ball playing personnel. We are coming out of this difficult run of games at the top of the league which will be confirmed if we can beat Chelsea next. Lets hope the momentum is swinging our way with returning players and the arrival of Elneny AND I can’t wait for Alexis to return, even more than last week!! We are missing those special moments he gives. 🙂

  • Happy Monday… For me it’s at least a holiday, but with my schedule is that a good thing or a bad one?… 😀

    I guess there’s to be no match report this time around even if my little back and forth with TA over the Walcott sub seemed like a perfect lead-in… After all, weren’t you gonna write one about the player in question last week, before the match?… It’s also quite possible that I’m confused… Likewise, I shirked my own “duties,” by not doing any sort of in match commentary, let alone a new post with a “Live Blog” heading… My thought is that if the match is on everybody’s telly, you don’t need my (attempts at) narrative description…

    Anyhow some clarity (for me, at least) would be helpful.

    So, I’ll assume something is coming about Theo and his (disappointing…) performance and I’ll (mostly) keep my powder dry for that one. I apologize for overreacting to the in-match commentary (which seems a tendency of mine)…That said, I still have a couple of things to say…

    Mr. Walcott seems to have talked to the press about the team belief and the Cech effect in the dressing room, which seems a positive, rather than sulking about being the first guy subbed. I agree about his lack of basic footballing (i.e. possession/ball retention) skills but I disagree about having him on the pitch being as good as being a man down. With his pace it’s always about quick and higher risk plays to get into scoring positions–much tougher when he’s supposed to be on the flank, not in the CF position. While we’re excited about Campbell’s near assist with the well weighted ball for Ollie, Theo should maybe have also gotten one, i.e., an assist (at least in the fantasy leagues…) by winning us a penalty when he was pulled back and then stepped upon. Sure, the initial foul was outside the box but the 2nd one was in it…

    Neither was given, of course, and Stoke (and the ref) are patting themselves on the back for “not a single booking.” I’m now watching you, Craig Pawson (yesterday’s ref)… It might have seemed a wise move calling all those fouls on offensive players (notably Giroud…) and a smart way of staying out of the spotlight in front of (perhaps…) the most evil supporters in all of sports, but it also made things extremely difficult for the actual football. If shoves in MF go unpunished let’s do more shoving?…

    Maybe that’s why Flamini looked our most comfortable midfielder yesterday. Ox proved he can take some manhandling and still stay on the ball even if the simpler bits still seem (very) tough for him. Beyond the dead balls and not minding the chants, Ramsey didn’t appear worth the 50 or 60 million Barca are gonna pay for him… Campbell probably embraced the challenge best of all and played the pass of the match. All that hold up work as the #9 with Los Ticos (Costa Rica) has toughened him up … Again, however, I’d spare a thought for Theo who (like Campbell) isn’t built for that sort of business but still (to my eye) tracked back and did his part defending. The potential to finish shots (remember the goal vs City…) even if it didn’t happen yesterday still can freeze defenders, I think…

    Just some Monday morning quarterbacking (as we say over here) but maybe silence (or other forms of moving on) is superior…

  • Oops, Sorry there, FMJ…

    Question, would in-match commentary have been of service to you?… It’s very hard (for me) to tell if it’s worth trying to do it?…

    Yeah, with no Alexis and no Ozil (not to mention no Coqzorla)… it is a good point… City (2 home matches) took 4 of 6, Totts (2 home matches) took 3 of 6, LC (two away matches…) did the best but still only took 4 of 6 (dropping points at Villa). Pool took only 1 of 6 and even ManU (who beat them as we should have…) only took 4 of 6 after that other 3-3 draw in midweek vs Toonies…

    Unfortunately, Stoke away, when they give us a weak ref, is a very tough match. Add in players missing and/or saved for the Chavs home match and it gets even tougher… Gotta win that one now and get our 2nd half going, I think…

    5/10 on Theo might be harsh, but only if other (MFs and forwards) got more than 6s, I think, as explained above…

  • fine comments overnight – a joy to read.

    New Post New Post 🙂

    17HT – had to do this quick as mega busy at the moment. If you have a moment, please could you check for spelling mistakes?


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