Arsenal’s record at the lair of Stoke City heads further down the wrong path, as the Potters clinched a 1-0 victory over the North Londoners on Saturday.
An ice-cold finish from debutant Jese Rodriguez saw Stoke through the final whistle victorious, triggering the familiar groans and complaints from the Arsenal faithful. However, the Gunners might argue that certain referee decisions cost them 3 points.
Here are the major talking points from the game:
5. The defensive malfunction on the flanks for Arsenal
Before the kick-off, everyone expected Arsenal to line up with Oxlade-Chamberlain at left-wing-back and Hector Bellerin at his usual side in the role of right-wing-back, and that’s exactly how the lineups were announced as.
However, at the kick-off whistle, Chamberlain and Bellerin were seen to have swapped positions, and remained in those positions throughout the match. Though the Ox had a good spell on the right flank, Bellerin struggled to bring out the best in him.
On the other hand, an out-of-position Monreal looked shaky alongside Mustafi, who suffered a poor outing.
Both wing-backs occasionally did get into the final third, but none of their attempts were fruitful, as Stoke defenders shut down every possible outcome of a goal. Moreover, after the switch to a back-four, even such attempts stopped.
4. Lacazette fails to play at his best with Welbeck behind him
There’s no doubt about Alexandre Lacazette’s quality as a goalscorer, however, with Welbeck behind him, the lack of creativity and vision disrupted the Frenchman’s game.
Being a natural centre-forward, Welbeck fails to show selflessness in front of the goal, as he chose to shoot over passing to his teammate on a couple of occasions. Furthermore, he does not play at his best as an attacking-midfielder, and constantly looked lost throughout his time on the pitch.
On the other hand, though Lacazette missed creative flair, he almost managed to get the Londoners back into the game by a beautiful shot past the keeper and into the net. However, he was adjudged offside, and the goal was consequently ruled out, leaving the Gooners furious, as replays showed otherwise.
3. Arsenal squad affected by Alexis Sanchez’s absence
Arsenal had plenty of the ball in and around the Stoke box, however, having over 77% possession and 18 shots on goal proved to be pointless in the end, as Butland, at the top of his game, blocked out any attempts with potential.
Alexis Sanchez is usually the man to look to during such situations. However, his absence affected Arsene Wenger’s men heavily, as they lacked creativity. Though Mesut Ozil should also be offering that, his poor performance left his side with very little possibilities.
On the other hand, Sanchez’s contract rebellion has led the board and the fans further into frustration, leading fans to speculate his absence in the previous matches as signs of his departure. The winger is yet to sign an extension, with less than 12 months left on his current contract.
The Chilean is out with abdominal issues, and is widely expected to be back for next week’s fixture against Liverpool at Anfield.
2. Resilient display from the Potters
Mark Hughes’ men showed immense work rate at the Bet365 Stadium, as they guarded the goal in front of Jack Butland.
The Potters displayed a great amount of defensive resolve, as they managed to shut down almost every long ball that went over to their side. Apart from that, Kurt Zouma also proved his worth, showing stability and strength at crucial moments. Though it became apparent that Mame Diouf is suited to a wing-back role, Zouma and Shawcross covered most holes left in the Stoke defence.
Meanwhile, they also showed how threatening they can be on the break, as Arsenal constantly failed to keep up with the pace of Rodriguez, who was feeding the attack. Though Xherdan Shaqiri’s injury was unlucky, Hughes’ side did not let it affect them and stayed firm, and it wasn’t long before their efforts paid off, as a debut goal from Jese saw them snatch a victory.
1. Were Arsenal robbed of a better result?
Wenger and Arsenal fans were quick to address some of the decisions made by Andre Marriner, as they felt robbed of a draw or a possible win.
Towards the climax of the match, a pass from Olivier Giroud led to a shot from Lacazette which easily found the top-right corner of the net. But, the goal was immediately ruled out by the linesman for offside. However, replays of the goal revealed Lacazette was seemingly on-side, which wasn’t ignored by the Arsenal boss.
“It was a goal. 100%. It wasn’t offside at all, not even his foot. It was a detail that didn’t go our way,” said the French manager.
Furthermore, a challenge on Bellerin and an apparent handball by Zouma were quickly followed by penalty shouts from the Arsenal players, but Marriner waved off the appeals and let the play go on.
Despite these calls from the officials, the performances of the Stoke players cannot be ignored. Arsenal put up an average display against a side which had resolved to defend their home ground. Right decisions or not, the match ended in the well-deserved favour of the hosts.
Arsenal face Liverpool away next weekend, and the Gunners’ fans would surely be thankful for the return of Sanchez. Arsene will be looking to strengthen his defence against a Liverpool side that has grown exponentially in terms of attacking prowess.
Written by Ashish Sreejith
Have had two addictions in life- playing football and watching football. Usually described as introverted but not when it comes to speaking and writing about the beautiful game of football.