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Stoke 3 Arsenal 2: Pathetic First Half Display Cost Gunners Dearly

Martinez looks on in disbelief as his defence let him down yet again for the third goal

Stoke 3 (Crouch 1′, Bojan 35′, Walters 45′) – Arsenal 2 (Cazorla 67′ pen, Ramsey 70′)

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference (via Arsenal.com)

Three wins in a row. Three clean sheets on the bounce. Then ‘this’ happened. Typical Arsenal.

The day started really well as we watched Chelsea continue their unbeaten run against Newcastle. *psyche*. The only record that remains a source of sheer pride to Arsenal fans worldwide was taken so cruelly from the hands of Jose Mourinho and his hordes thanks to their newly found nemesis, Papiss Cisse. As expected, Arsenal fans laughed at the club as Twitter was buzzing with tweets from our faithful. Little did we know that our darling team was going to give us another shit-fest to witness.

Arsenal had fresh injury concerns to contend with as Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, two of our best defenders by a far mile this season, had fitness issues. This saw Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers play through the middle thereby handing another chance for young Hector Bellerin. Further up the pitch, Danny Welbeck was having a groin problem so Olivier Giroud spearheaded the attack. Following his great cameo performance against Southampton, better things were expected of the French forward. Little did we know that he was going to have one of those games that would make you want to tear some hair from your head.

From kickoff, yes, kickoff, Stoke launched an attack from the left hand side with Kieran Gibbs going to sleep and Mertesacker caught out of position. Somehow the cross managed to evade Chambers and Bellerin lost his footing. When the ball arrived at Peter Crouch’s feet, Emi Martinez had already committed himself and he laid his arse flat on the turf allowing the lanky forward to score one of the easiest tap ins of his career. 21 seconds gone, Arsenal were already one nil down. shii!

The Gunners did well to see if they could respond to the massive disappointment and they should have had an equalizer when Bellerin used his raw reserves of pace to get to a ball that was on the brink of going out of play and he managed to provide a cross that came straight to Giroud. It was the kind of cross you’d expect the big forward to kill off but he somehow managed to miss the target when it seemed easier to score. If the game was tied at 1-1, it would have changed the outcome of the contest but you know how cruel football is. You have to take you chances or you’d be punished.

Phil Beardsley was given a chance to let one rip from distance but Martinez failed to handle a shot that came straight at him. Luckily, he has his defenders to clear the ball to safety because had Crouch been the first person on the rebound, it would have been a very embarrassing moment for a keeper that had looked so assured in recent weeks. There were a few half chances for the Gunners with Santi Cazorla blasting another shot wide. I’d also learned from the game that Arsenal has played 110 corners and it has only yielded one goal, with 106 or so defended by the opposition at the near post. That’s just terrible.

Stoke upped the ante with Miram Diouf heading a ball that was saved by Martinez but the offside flag came to the goalie’s rescue. Stoke extended their lead when Gibbs and Mertesacker went to sleep again on the left hand side with a cross evading both of them and coming straight to Bojan Krkic’s feet. The young Spaniard placed the ball past Martinez with the goalie on the prowl. If you think conceding two goals to Stoke wasn’t bad enough, Arsenal shot themselves on the foot yet again at the stroke of halftime as another array of shitty defending saw Jonathan Walters blasting the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.

It’s also worth noting that Stoke smothered the Gunners anytime they had the ball and Alexis Sanchez was a player that was marked tightly. However, he created a moment of sheer individual brilliance when he took on the entire Stoke defense and even dribbled the goalie only for his effort to smash the post. Arsene Wenger put Giroud out of his misery by summoning Lukas Podolski but every Arsenal fan was utterly shocked when Bojan made mince meat of the defense before firing the ball in to make it four for Stoke but the ref ruled out the goal for offside.

From then onwards, it was all Arsenal. Wenger made a tactical switch by replacing Bellerin with Flamini and dropping Ramsey to the holding role with Welbeck coming in to support the attack thereby changing the entire dynamic of the team. It was Flamini that made a rear foray forward before he was clipped by some bloke in the box leaving the ref no choice but to award a penalty. Up stepped Cazorla, a player that had not scored in 27 Premier League games (since January) to sidefoot the ball past Asmir Begovic to make it 3-1. As expected the keeper acted by a cuntly cunt when he failed to release the ball. Three minutes later, Ramsey showed off his great technique to blast Sanchez’ corner into the net to make it 3-2. Two players that goals were hard to come by suddenly found their shooting boots to put Arsenal on the brink of an unlikely comeback.

Just when things were looking good for the Gunners as they pinned Stoke to the edge of the wall, Chambers decided to show off his naivety and inexperience by getting himself sent off for grabbing a player. That act took the winds off the sails to the team and from there on I knew that the game was as good as over. It’s moments like this, you take stock and wonder why a 19-year-old would be playing consistently for a team like Arsenal. Don’t get me wrong, Chambers has been great since he joined but times without number, his inexperience has gotten the better of him on many occasions.

In the end it was not to be as the Gunners dropped points yet again to a team that they should have beaten on paper. Yes, the Britannia is a hard place to come and play football but Stoke had lost in that stadium to Leicester, Burnley and Aston Villa. Those that watched the game can also attest to the fact that their goals came from lapses in concentration from the Arsenal rearguard, it’s not like they tore the defense apart with some ‘great football’.

This is a great concern for me and everyone connected with the club. These lads never seem to learn anything as they continue to make the same mistakes on a consistent basis. It’s rather unfortunate to see things pan out this way but we have to move forward and hope for the best.

It’s Galatasaray up next. I hope we don’t cock up in Turkey.

Sayonara

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Stoke Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

In the Premier League, there are some grounds that you looking forward to playing and there are others you just dread due to your horrible record there. Arsenal against Stoke at the Britannia falls into the latter category. Despite the fact that Stoke is one of the most average teams you’d ever see, their record against the big sides in the league (especially at home) is commendable. Last season, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all suffered stinging defeats in Stoke-on-Trent and the Potters have lost just one game in their last eight meetings (W1 D3 L4) against Arsenal at the Britannia.

However, Stoke’s record at home this season has been quite shabby. Losses to Burnley, Leicester and Aston Villa coupled with poor results elsewhere has seen Mark Hughes’ side languishing in 13th place and defeat to Arsenal today as well as better results from teams under team could see the outfit drop further down the table. The Gunners on the other hand, are picking up some form and with favorable results in their last three games as well as three clean sheets on the bounce, it has been a breath of fresh air. However, the lads have to remember that there’s no room for complacency.

Last season, the game was settled when Laurent Koscielny committed a blatant handball in the box, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Jon Walters stepped up and sent Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way to hand the home team all three points. Szczesny won’t be between the sticks today due to his rib injury and with David Ospina still out injured, the young Argentine goalie, Emiliano Viviano Martinez would be given another chance to strut his stuff in Arsenal’s goal. Injuries have paved the way for the young man to get an extended run out and it’s a chance that he has grabbed with both arms. Yes, there were doubts when he came into the pitch but his performances have proved that he’s an able deputy. He recently revealed that he had set his heart elsewhere in his search for first team football but he has taken a U-turn and he wants to challenge for a place in the club.

Injuries continue to ravage the Gunners with Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles tendon still under scrutiny. Mesut Ozil is still out of contention (knee), Theo Walcott’s groin is still strained and Serge Gnabry (match fitness) is still a couple of weeks away from first team football. There will be fitness tests for Danny Welbeck and Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) but there’s hope at the end of the tunnel for Mathieu Debuchy that is expected to return to first team football action this month.

Stoke have their own injury worries as well with Ireland (illness – fitness test), Walters (knee – fitness test), Sidwell (knee), Whelan (calf), Moses (thigh), Teixiera (ankle), Huth (calf), Odemwingie (knee). I’d expect the same team that started against Southampton to play today.

In the defense, there aren’t much options but the major concern would be the fitness of Nacho Monreal, Arsenal’s unsung hero in recent weeks. With Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Calum Chambers all set to start, the Gunners would be threadbare in defense and would have only Hector Bellerin to summon in the wake of any unforeseen incident to the center backs. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini had his best game in eons and I hope this won’t change Wenger’s mind in purchasing a new DM (that’s if the decision hasn’t been made already). He was very efficient with the ball and he made good interceptions. Aaron Ramsey is currently the weak link and he hasn’t top gear yet. I expect Santi Cazorla to play as the playmaker. On the back of his lovely performance against Southampton, you’d expect Olivier Giroud to start with Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez flanking him. This essentially means that the Ox might be benched.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 3 Stoke 1: Lessons Learned from the Gunners’ Victory

Ramsey is one of the most in-form players in Europe at the moment

The world’s most exciting league had its fair share of twists and turns as Gameweek 5 began with Liverpool knocked off the summit of the table following a surprising home loss to Southampton. If you thought that an away victory for So’ton against Liverpool was astonishing, I’m certain that I saw a rainbow outside my house in Lagos, Nigeria as John Mikel Obi, yes, the goal-shy John Mikel Obi, scored his first league goal for Chelsea since the days King Arthur ruled Camelot.

Sunday began with a lunchtime fixture between Arsenal and Stoke City and lot was spoken in regard to the Gooners’ profound hatred for the lead Orc, Ryan Shawcross, after he halted Aaron Rasmey’s fledgling career, albeit temporarily, with a horrific tackle but the Welsh Dragon had put the past behind him and focused on the game ahead.

Despite the fact that he was in a very rich vein of goalscoring form, Arsenal fans were hoping that he was going to score against a dreadful side like Stoke, although they aren’t that dreadful under Mark Hughes, as he has transformed them from a Rugby outfit to a rather decent footballing side.

At the end of 90 minutes, Arsenal earned an all-important victory that propelled them to the top of the Premier League, and this has given the fans a renewed sense of optimism as this might just be the year *coughs*

Without any further ado, here are some lessons I’ve learned from the Gunners victory over Stoke.

Mesut Ozil – He Assists When He Wants

https://twitter.com/goonerdaily/status/378895576450211840

Despite the fact that he signed just 22 days ago, it still seems like a fantasy.

Mesut Ozil, Europe’s most potent creative force in the last five seasons, is actually a Gunner, and he has picked up where he left off as it took him just 11 minutes of Premier League football to create his first assist in Arsenal colors. When the Gunners traveled to the French riviera to take on Marseille, Ozil executed a neat back heeled pass to Kieran Gibbs and if the fullback had converted that chance, it would have been assist #2 for m-OZIL-la Firefox.

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In his home debut, Ozil was a class act yet again as he supplied all three assists for his teammates. The first was a delightful free kick that was parried by Asmir Begovic into Ramsey’s path and the Welsh Dragon wasted no time in picking his spot and slotting it past the goalie. The second assist was a neatly executed corner kick that was nodded by the Big Friendly Giant, Per Mertesacker. Ozil’s final assist on the day was an inch-perfect cross that was converted courtesy of a dipping header from Bacary Sagna.

As expected, Arsene Wenger was effusive in his praise for his German perpetual assist-creating machine of the first kind, 

“When you look at Ozil’s numbers, the assists are not a coincidence, it’s just the reality of his game. I believe that once he is completely integrated we’ll see even more of him but he has shown today that he is a great player.”

In rather simpler terms, Mesut Ozil assists when he wants.

The Ramsey Inferno Keeps Burning

I really think that we need some ice around the Emirates, because the Gunners’ Welsh Dragon, Aaron Ramsey, is scorching hot. After just eight appearances, Ramsey is leading the Gunners’ goalscoring charts with seven goals to his name, which is his best goalscoring return in a top flight season.

News Photo: Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal celebrates scoring a goal…

Arshavin-esque celebration (via Getty Images)

The fascinating thing about Ramsey’s goalscoring form is how simple he has kept his football, eradicating his previous over-elaborate style of play and now his every move is now carefully thought out, which shows maturity way beyond his years. Amazingly, Ramsey has also shown a predatory instinct in the box as well as the edge of the area and his composure has allowed him to convert his chances with clinical accuracy.

With Mikel Arteta on his way to full fitness, Mathieu Flamini will be to be sacrificed because Ramsey is on supernova at the moment and we can only hope that his amazing form continues.

Arsenal – a Threat from Set Pieces?

At some point in my life as a thoroughbred Arsenal fan, I loathed and dreaded games against Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side because their Route-One style of play, coupled with the massive beasts of players in their disposal, was more than a match for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side that was all peaches and cream. Anytime that Bolton side had a set piece, the Gunners were always sweating in their pants as the chances of conceding a goal was very high.

As the years went by, Arsenal focused so much on creating goals from open play but offered little or no threat from set pieces due to the surprisingly limited amount of natural free kick takers as well as defenders that hardly threatened from attacking corners. Stoke City on the other hand, are a team renowned for the prowess in dead ball situation and they applied it to devastating effect in the league.

Yesterday, Arsenal beat Stoke in their own game (not Rugby though), as Arsene Wenger’s side scored all three goals from dead balls courtesy of some excellent delivery from Mesut Ozil. Last season, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta tried their luck from dead balls in the course of the campaign, but more times than normal, their attempts were wasteful.

In Ozil, the Gunners have a player that is blessed with a cultured left foot blessed by the gods of Mount Olympus themselves, and the more Ozil will get on the end of those set pieces, the better for everyone in the team. An assist can only be worthwhile if the pass is converted into a goal so due credit must also go to Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna for picking their spots in Begovic’s goal.

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There are a lot of lessons that have been learned from Arsenal’s victory against Stoke. Feel free to share yours with your comments.

Sayonara.

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Post-Stoke Ramblings and More on Monreal

Couldn’t have wished for a stiffer test than Stoke

When the odds were firmly stacked against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they shocked the football world by ousting the tournament favorites, Ivory Coast. Emmanuel Emenike sent in an unstoppable piledriver to but his team ahead but Chieck Tiote equalized early in the second half for the Ivorians.

When Ivory Coast thought that they were going to run away with the contest, Sunday said MBA!!!

It was truly another great weekend of Premier League action as various teams strutted their stuffs yet again in England’s elite competition.

Manchester United edged closer to their 20th Premier League crown through Wayne Rooney’s individual brilliance against Fulham. While everyone continues to annoyingly sing van Persie’s tunes, Shrek has been phenomenal for them as well.

In the blue half of Manchester, Roberto Mancini’s petro-goons didn’t do enough to put pressure on the league leaders as they dropped points at home to Anfield. Steven Gerrard’s belter was a goal worthy of winning any contest but Pepe Reina’s stupidity was on show as Kun Aguero did really well to score from a somewhat impossible angle.

The battle for the other Champions League positions intensified as Chelsea’s malaise continued with a loss to the Francophone Newcastle, Everton were lucky to share the spoils with Aston Villa and Tottenham’s Chimpanzee was the difference between a point and three.

After week 25, it’s “as you were” in the top as Arsenal remain in sixth place after the well-deserved 1-0 victory over Stoke. The victory helped Arsene Wenger’s men to close the gap on the teams above them and as we all know, the Gunners are running out of games so they have to make everyone count.

Unlike in recent times, the defending was better and Arsenal’s first clean sheet in six Premier League games was highly welcome. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were relatively untroubled by an isolated Peter Crouch but the team defended some scary throw-ins from Shotton.

While Arsenal’s defense flourished, the attack was on song and it’s fair to say that the 1-0 scoreline was flattering to Stoke. Asmir Begovic turned on the style to make some top drawer saves but none can be compared to his spectacular save from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first timed effort after receiving an inch-perfect pass from Jack Wilshere.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud threatened the Stoke back line as well, and it was heartwarming to see Walcott giving Andy Wilkinson a torrid time. It took a Wilkinson tackle on Walcott to create the goalscoring opportunity on the edge of the area and Lukas Podolski took the chance clinically, taking his tally for the season to one dozen.

The return of Mikel Arteta was timely, and he worked his arse off in midfield alongside Wilshere and Abou Diaby. For the first time in a long while, Arsenal excelled on the pitch without Santi Cazorla’s magic but when the going got tough, Wenger summoned his midfield conjurer and he almost had a hand in what would have been the match clincher if his shot was a few inches lower.

There was a player that was cheered every time he got the ball unlike Ryan Shawcross that was rightly booed when he was close to the ball as well. This player inherited the jersey vacated by Alex Song and after having just one training session with his new club, he was sent straight into battle against Stoke City.

In his role as at the left back position, Nacho Monreal put up a great outing in his baptism of fire against Stoke. I really enjoyed that moment when he clashed heads with Jon Walters and it was the Stoke forward that came second best, causing the Stoke physios to wrap his big head with a bandage.

Monreal was very disciplined in his debut with the Gunners and he balanced his attacking and defensive play superbly. While doing a relatively efficient job at the back, he showed off his attacking prowess when he connected well with Wilshere before swinging in a cross towards Giroud’s path but the Stoke rearguard did their bit to quell the attack.

After the game, Arsene Wenger was pleased with his new recruit’s performance (via Sky Sports),

“Nacho Monreal had a good start for a player who just arrived yesterday and is in the team.

“He did not have time to think about it, but he got stronger and stronger during the game.

“There is no better culture shock than Stoke when you come from Spain! They had a very physical game and I think he dealt well with it.”

Wenger also stated that his team has improved in their physicality and he gave his reasons why he signed Monreal. The boss openly stated that Gibbs untimely injury forced his hand and he signed a player that he believed would be able to integrate easily into Arsenal’s style of play.

Monreal on the other hand, has stated that Arsenal’s style of play is beneficial to him (via Arsenal.com) and he intends to take some inspiration from his compatriot and former Malaga teammate, Santi Cazorla, that has been an instant hit since his arrival to the Emirates.

Monreal’s experience will come in handy in the coming weeks and Arsenal will hope that their new left back would get better and better with each passing game. This also means that it’s the end of the line for Andre Santos, that will probably be on the move in the summer.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 1 Stoke 0: Football Prevails Over Rugby

What a relief!!!

What’s not to hate about Stoke City?

The fact that they are football’s rugby outfit? Their baseball bat wielding gaffer? Ryan Shawcross? You name it…

Despite the fact that Tottenham dropped points yet again to Norwich, Everton’s win against West Brom in midweek reshaped the destiny of teams vying for that coveted fourth place finish and every game has more or less become a six-pointer for Arsenal.

With another inspiring performance in midweek that failed to reap dividends, Arsene Wenger made five changes to the squad that shared the spoils with Liverpool. Newbie, Nacho Monreal was handed his Arsenal debut in Andre Santos’ stead, Laurent Koscielny replaced the injured Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta replaced Aaron Ramsey in midfield and there were spaces for Abou Diaby and the Ox as they replaced Santi Cazorla and Podolski.

The Ox was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Stoke back line and he drew first blood with a tame effort that went wide. Arteta carved open the Stoke rearguard with an inch-perfect pass to Theo Walcott but the Englishman’s cutback evaded his teammates in the box.

Arsenal’s wing play continued to flourish and another chance came from the right when Bacary Sagna flicked the ball to Diaby whose control was perfect as you would expect from the lanky technician but his cross to Olivier Giroud didn’t reach its intended target, as some pressure from Robert Huth made Giroud nod the ball wide.

Walcott used his pace to devastating effect against Andy Wilkinson but his cross was very poor to say the least. Jack Wilshere swung in the resulting corner and an unmarked Ox fired the ball straight at Asmir Begovic making a great chance to go begging. Arsenal continued to threaten Stoke with more cross and the Emirates crowd was shocked to see Giroud look for a teammate in the six-yard box when he should have headed his effort at goal.

Right at the death, Wilshere showed off his trickery to find the Ox with a pin-point pass and the winger wasted no time in latching his effort to the top corner but Begovic was on hand to make another superb save.

Begovic had a stormer in goal

At the stroke of halftime, Monreal clashed heads with Jon Walters, which caused the Stoke forward to get wrapped up as he was second best in the challenge.

Arsenal began the second half with more urgency and new boy, Nacho Monreal, showcased his attacking prowess when he executed a neat one-two with Wilshere but his cross was blocked with Giroud lurking.

Wenger brought in reinforcements in the forms of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski for Diaby and the vibrant Ox.

Sagna committed a needless foul on the right hand side and I feared for the worst when those goons from the Stoke rearguard came into Arsenal’s box but the Gunners defended the set piece well and launched a counter attack through Santi Cazorla. Glenn Whelan took one for his team by impeding the Spanish maestro.

Cazorla’s influence in the game continued to grow and he located Giroud with a perfectly timed cross but the Frenchman’s dipping header just glanced wide.

After huffing and puffing for the best part of 78 minutes, Arsenal got a break when Walcott was fouled on the edge of the area and after some discussions between the dead ball specialists, Podolski got the nod to take the free kick. The Emirates held its breath at the sound of Chris Foy’s whistle but went into raptures when Podolski’s effort deflected off Whelan to beat the red-hot Begovic in goal.

While the Gunners celebrated their well-deserved breakthrough, a moment of controversy arrived when the linesman, who was probably high on free-to-air weed decided to raise his flag for what he felt was an offside by Olivier Giroud. The livid Arsenal players surrounded the official and Chris Foy had a decision to make.

To the relief of Arsene Wenger, the players and Arsenal fans worldwide, Foy made the right decision and awarded the goal much to the delight of the home crowd at the Emirates.

Podolski almost turned from hero to villain when he uncharacteristically gave possession away but Cazorla did very well to intercept the ball and waltz into the 18-yard box before blasting his shot over the bar.

Wenger wasted some minutes by bringing on Ramsey for Walcott and the final whistle was like music to the ears of every Arsenal fan as the victory over Stoke propelled the Gunners into fourth place following Everton’s enthralling 3-3 draw with Aston Villa. To make things even sweeter, Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko inspired 3-2 over Chelsea has put the Gunners just two points behind their London rivals.

A win for Tottenham will drop the Gunners to fifth place though.

Arsene Wenger lauded his team’s belief and confidence in his post-match interview (via Arsenal.com) and he also shared his thoughts about his new signing and that Ryan Shawcross tackle on Koscielny.

All in all, it was a very good performance for the Gunners and it’s okay to say that once again, football prevailed over rugby.

Sayonara.

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