Sunday 24 January 2010

Stoke bullying overcomes Arsenal second string

A few rather unexpected names are on the team sheet today. As expected Fabianski in goal and the back four of Coquelin-Sol-Silvestre-Traore, not a defense that will have ever played together before and that will be properly tested against a very physical Stoke assault. Eastmond is holding in midfield with Cesc and Denilson alongside him. Then a front three of Walcott-Vela-JET, I reckon Vela will be given the more central role but it may well be a more fluid system allowing the three to swap around a bit. Stoke line up with a robust 4-4-2 formation and the power of Fuller and Sidibe up top. A big test for Sol in his return, no doubt, but some real quality is on the bench if we need it in form of Rosicky, Ramsey, Arshavin and Eduardo.

Coquelin - Sol - Silvestre - Traore
Denilson - Cesc
Walcott - Vela - JET

Unfortunately the game did not start well, a long throw from Delap on the right wing saw a very pacey ball hurled in at a a low trajectory, Fuller nipped in and head it in at the near post, one nil to Stoke. Some people will blame Fabianski but it was a very tricky ball for him to attack given its height, it was more disappointing that none of our defenders managed to attack the ball or block Fuller's run.

There was little flow to the game early on, Stoke relying on some rather ugly direct football as usual. Sol made a few good interceptions, Eastmond was tidying things up nicely in front of the back four and winning a fair few aerial challenges. Our moves broke down too frequently from some rather loose touches and casual passes. Silvestre was lucky not to give away a penalty when Silvestre took his leg away in the box, we then broke excellently but it was wasted by a very poor final delivery from Walcott on the right, it was typical of much we had done over the half.

Typically the referee was letting far too much go. Cesc was chopped down at least three times well after he had moved the ball on, the ref played on, did nothing about the dangerous fouls and then never brought the play back for the fouls as no advantage had come. I simply cannot understand how a referee can allow players to slide in very late, get nothing of the ball and then escape without even a warning. As we grew into the game and our passing looked a tad crisper, another dangerous tackle was left unpunished by the referee Martin Atkinson. The rather uncultured Shawcross went in very late on Cesc with his studs dangerously raised, not much different in nature to the Gallas tackle in midweek which resulted in the hysterical media reaction. Atkinson's reaction? Not even a verbal warning for Shawcross, truly pathetic. The time being wasted by Delap taking thirty seconds before every throw in was also something the referee should have done more about.

We became more dominant as the half wore on, Stoke could not keep up their high pressing game and we were allowed a bit more time to knock the ball around. Just as the half had almost drawn to a close, a goal came when it did not appear that likely. A dubious free kick was given, although the arm was hanging away to the side of the body as it blocked Cesc's flick on, and Denilson took full advantage, it was cut back to him, his low right footed effort was heading low into the bottom corner, it was deflected but this didn't affect its direction much, into the bottom corner it went. A bit of pressure now built, a series of corners ensued in between another couple of late Stoke tackles from behind. Strangely only two minutes of injury time were played, even though Delap had wasted about five minutes all on his own. One one at half time it was, fair on the balance of the game but more sharpness was needed for the second half.

The aerial bombardment continued in the second half, it was certainly not an easy game for a goalkeeper to come in for, on the whole Fabianski dealt well with some very tricky situations. It was a pretty even contest, Atkinson continued to let some Stoke filth go unpunished, one thigh high lunge from Huth's studs on Vela somehow escaped a booking, numerous sliding tackles from behind continued to go unpunished. Cesc and Denilson were trying to get things going, a bit of joy came down the left, Vela and Traore gave us some pace and width which did cause some trouble at times. Walcott was having a stinker, ineffective, sloppy in possession and not probing the right channels. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had a pretty solid game, of note he helped out in a few tricky defensive situations to good effect. Little was created, the only goal threat a belting Cesc thirty yarder that forced a Sorensen tip over.

A triple substitution came with twenty minutes to play, Walcott, Coquelin and JET were replaced by Arshavin, Ramsey and Eduardo. Coquelin had done well after a nervy first twenty minutes, especially given he was playing out of position. It looked worrying when Silvestre was hacked late (what a surprise) by Delap and went down holding his knee, luckily he recovered quickly. Vela was almost played in, just denied by a well times Higginbotham sliding tackle. Against the run of play Stoke went ahead again, the defensively dodgy Denilson was left on his heels by Sidibe, his excellent cross found Fuller's head which did the rest, to be fair this was a very well worked goal. A deflected Cesc free kick flashed wide, Ramsey's left footed drive blazed well over. Then Stoke scored again, Eastmond was wrestled over with some shirt tugging, Etherington broke and crossed expertly for the marginally offside Whitehead to slot home. Then a what would have been a fourth was disallowed for a clear Tuncay handball. Another cynical Stoke lunge from behind saw another dangerous freekick given, Cesc's effort hit the wall. Three one and the game was over, no FA Cup glory for at least another year.

Almunia, Eboue, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Gibbs, Song, Nasri, Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin, RVP, Bendtner, Eduardo- these are the 16 players who did not start this game for various reasons, it shows that this Arsenal side was well below a second string eleven. Overall it was a very even game, the real difference was the fact that we lacked a proper striker to lead the line and that Stoke showed more quality than us in the final third. The referee Marin Atkinson's incompetent leniency made the game much easier for Stoke, they were allowed to tackle from behind all day without even one yellow card being shown, the fact that Shawcross' stamp down Cesc's calf escaped even a verbal warning symptomatic of the way in which Atkinson's incompetence allowed thuggery to prosper. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas worked hard but it was a big ask for him to lead the line, if we had had a recognised striker the outcome could have been very different.
Fair play to Stoke, you can't blame them for playing the dire negative over-physical football that they do, they are a small club and would be killed if they tried to play pretty stuff against us. I can't say I like the way they play but it is effective, especially when catalysed by lenient refereeing that allows their largely illegal pressing game to work. Stoke committed 20 fouls (that Atkinson spotted) to our 8, some of which were rather cynical and/or nasty, they got not one booking. Our squad has not been quite strong enough to maintain the challenge on this front, with the Villa game coming up on Wednesday Arsene obviously didn't want to gamble with the fitness of a few key players, some of whom are fatigued and others only just back from injury. Stoke away is a tough game, most of the youngsters gave a good account of themselves, Eastmond in particular, Sol had a pretty solid afternoon given his recent lack of competitive action. On the negative Theo Walcott had another afternoon to forget, he would do well to take a long hard look at himself rather than being so aggressive towards the officials at times, the manager's patience with Theo should not be infinite. Our eggs appear to be amassing in one basket, whether resting so many key men today was the right decision remains to be seen.


The Law said...

Fair play to Stoke, they played their game and we had no answer for it. A shame it had to end this way as some of the lads did well in my opinion.

Sol had a solid game back, his aerial prowess was well in evidence.

Anonymous said...

Fair assessment of the match. In my opinion: Fabianski, Traore (who is OK going forward), Silvestre and Carlos Vela are not good enough to play for the Arsenal. Our back five were a shambles, with only Sol taking any credit from the match.


Anonymous said...

Sol and Silvestre should never play again together in an arsenal shirt, they maximize each others waknesses. But wenger is really at fault for this loss.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Chelsea will have the FA cup put into their arms !! shame because I thought there was a great opportunity opening up for us to win something ! Punching above our weight in the Prem so can't be too greedy I guess. Sol looked good for his first outing I thought, the 1st half in particular.

Anonymous said...

I expected AW to throw this game, and when I saw the teamsheet I knew we wouldn’t win.

So I will not waste my time discussing individual player mistakes or a lack of ability.

I understand why Wenger threw the game, but what bothers me is that AW should know better than anyone that we are a confidence team.

Unbeaten since December, top of the league for the first time since August and a tough run of games coming up.

Tricky trip to Stoke, who, in fairness, do not offer anything than a long throw and some brusing challenges.

Rest a few players – sure… but to chop the team up so much that you are handing 1st starts of the season to 3-4 players, playing 2 or 4 others that are either back from injury or haven’t played for at least a month and then sticking our most important player into the mix so he can get sythed down and risk picking up an injury is madness.

Utter utter madness and I blame AW wholeheartedly for the manner of the defeat.

40 million pounds in the bank, and unable to build a squad capable of challenging on 3 fronts?


BUT – and it’s a huge but, If we now go on to win the league or ECL then, AW made the right decision.

However, through his lack of willingness to spend resulting in the shambles of a team we put out today, AW has only served to back himself into an even tighter corner – failure to win either the league or ECL and he has no choice but to move on at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

The biggest disappointment for me was the continued decline of Traore. No one ever claimed Denilson has pace -- that's why he plays where he does. It was not a matter of being caught out on a counter; the play started in midfield.

The substitutions were supposed to strengthen the squad and go for a win, but the opposite seemed to occur -- Ramsey looked weak, though, so I think the midfield got weaker, leading to vulnerability at the back and not enough to get forward and stay there.

Anonymous said...


1979gooner said...

Think you're being a tad harsh.

I agree Silvestre is not up to the mark, but he was not that awful today, I do agree that he is not good enough to play for the Arsenal.

Traore is our third choice left back and he's as good as you get for a third choice left back. He is poor positionally, where on earth was he for the second Stoke goal?

Fabianski doesn't convince me, but he did ok today, that kind of game is not easy for any keeper.

Vela has so much ability, he really frustrates me because he doesn't maximise it. However he had a reasonable game for me today, especially given that he had no orthodox striker to play off.

Walcott is a big worry for me, he was awful today and has turned in these kind of feeble performance far too frequently for someone who is meant to be such a talent. He just doesn't seem to read the game, he runs around aimlessly and doesn't take up the right positions.

Overall it is frustrating to lose in such a manner, but it really was not as bad as some will suggest. The secon Stoke goal killed us, before that and after the three subs we looked the side most likely to win it, that second goal came at such a bad time.

We have been very unlucky with injuries in combination with the ACN, this led to us playing a kid out of position at right back and our third choice left back again. Maybe one of Gallas and Vermaelen should have played with Sol, it was a very tough game to go into with such a virginal defensive line up.

1979gooner said...


I agree some blame must go to Arsene for not investing in strengthening the squad a bit more so as to be able to challenge on three fronts.

Silvestre has not been good enough as a third choice centre back and our lack of defensive cover in the midfield is there for all to see, thank God Eastmond has come in and done well to save some blushes.

With RVP out for the season, we do need another striker to challenge on all fronts. Two strikers ain't enough.

Anonymous said...

We lost and no Arsenal supporter wants a loss. But before we tend to get carried with the blame game (the most stupid antic around) we have to say well played to Stoke. we never got any protection from the ref but the lads equipped themselves well and were in the game on the front foot deep into the 2nd 1/2.

We lost when Wenger brought on 3 of our more experienced players, however, Traore's weak positional play was eventually found out and then the danger was always that they would score on the breakaway.

The fact that he played Fabregas for the entire match shows Wenger's commitmment. We are down to bare bones in the squad but only a few defensive mistakes by a new backline let us down.

we managed at times to impress our football on the game which is a good sign.

Coqulein & Eastmond have received valuable experience. Sol is back and looked good but short of a yard of pace.

If we were to lose any game out of our next 5, I'd have taken this one.

The FA Cup is important but we know where the manager's priorites lie.

He will need to bring howm one of them though to appease the fans. We are in with a big shout!

Come on Arsenal!

1979gooner said...

latest anonymous,

well said,

the thing that concerns me is that with just two orthodox strikers, eddy and nikky b, we look very light up front when challenging on several fronts in league and cup,

there wasn't much in it today, i really think if we'd have had an orthodox striker of quality leading the line then we could well have edged it,

with two games/week for a lot of the rest of the season while we stay in the CL, and RVP out for the duration, I really think we need one more orthodox striker for the squad

Anonymous said...

That was a disappointing display, Walcott, Traore, Denilson and Fabianski all very poor, if fact apart from Cesc, and Campbell, I can't think of any performances. I really concerned about Theo, he's just not working out, and Denilson is not good enough to play DM.

Anonymous said...

I agree re the strikers-thank God we have B52 coming back. We looked lighweight upfront, not for the 1st time this season.

However, I think in Jay Emanuel Thomas we have uneartehd one for the very near future. He knows he can play at this level and was never overawed.

Amerigooner said...

I'm not upset at all we were knocked out, I have to say. The worst outcome would have been a 1-1 draw. We went for it, gave up a (well worked) goal for Stoke's second, fair play to them, at least there was a definitive outcome and we don't have to face the nightmare of a replay. Let's be honest, the FA Cup is a far distant third priority for us. The CL and PL are the competitions we care about (and don't give me this Sky-driven nonsense about "silverware, any silverware"). I actually might have even preferred a WEAKER line up today -- I wish Cesc didn't have to play today, they were kicking the shite out of him out there. Anyway, people like JET, Coquelin, Traore, and even Sol got some valuable playing time, but now we can focus on the competitions that matter.

Anonymous said...

I've been fed up ever since Viera left...Arsenal are too tight to pay good players decent wages but rather sell them to cash in on them, hoping the youth would come through. It's a gamble that isn't working and hasn't been for long while. The new crop are gaining experience but don't have the gut's and determination to go the extra that's needed to be a winner. To buy world class is too expensive for Arsenal so why did we let all our world class players go so quickly?.... well we all know the answer to We are being caught with our trousers down...Wenger won't buy in January he has too much faith in Bentner, Denilson, Almunia. So called 1st team players who I don't think are good enough to claim their positions. He needs to buy experienced premiership players, players that can take a kick and play on, players that are not light-weight and get knocked off the ball so easily. A player like fuller in our team would make a big difference than midgets we have up front. We are too predictable and need to knick some players from Bolton, Wigan or Stoke who can't be bundled of the ball and know how to play ugly to give the young players a chance to develop their physical strength. If we win the Premiership it'll be a miracle with players we've got. Wenger is obsessed with his experiment and has thrown away cup finals and semi-finals to give these players experience. They have the experience but still lack the strength. We have been here before top of the table and thrown it away this stage of the season when it matters. All the fans know we don't have players good enough who are in the team, we need the right balance of skill, height, strength, and speed. All the Stoke players like Chelsea and most of the premiership players are 6ft plus so the are not vulnerable from the aerial threat. We need to address the obvious and have the right personnel in the team if we are going to be great like the team of the invincibles. If Wenger thinks Bentner's going to solve our problem up front then we have got big disappointment ahead.

Arse&Nose said...

the ref was weak, he let everything go. There were a few assaults on our players today but I doubt Sky will be replaying the assaults for 48 hours.

o2ba said...

lets stop with this bullying bollocks, we chose to play lightweight kids, another woefull exit from the fa cup, 4500 fans supported the gooners brillianly today, and arsene slaps them in the face,
bit like last season losing to utd without a fight with 9000 gooners, disgracefull,
we pay too much to support arsenal home and away, average home ticket is £55 and we cant produce a side to challenge on 3 fronts
the club and wenger are taking the piss out off there fans

Anonymous said...

you're right o2ba...The clubs taking the piss...they're tying to win competitions on the cheap and are getting found out the nearer we get. We are getting dumped out of the League and F.A cups in earlier rounds. Most teams are taking these competitions seriously, even Fergie does. If it was Arsenal playing Man city in the Carling cup Semi-final Wenger would play 2nd string in both legs

1979gooner said...

I think you've got to see thing from Arsene's point of view as well.

I take your point and I agree that we probably need a little bit more depth in the squad.

Arsene has not been lucky though, losing both NB and RVP for long periods has really had a big impact.

When Song and Eboue are back from ACN, NB back from injury, then add Nasri and Diaby on, then you will see a much much stronger second string available.

A lot of the problems have been outside of Arsene's control.

The things that he should have remedied by now are:

1. The lack of a high quality third choice centre back

2. The lack of defensive midfielders other than Song

3. We need a third striker with RVP out for the season.

It's tough for Arsene, he obviously priorotises the league well ahead of the FA Cup, it's a gamble, but then it would have been a gamble to play a full strength side at Stoke today, we may well still have come away empty handed.

libero said...

5 long years without a trophy and you boys allow yourselves to get bullied out of the FA Cup away at Stoke?? Absolutely hilarious. Carling Cup I could just about understand, but the FA Cup - a competition everyone else except Wenger wants to win - I find utterly bemusing. At Chelsea we look over and laugh - we'll be off to Wembley while you boys are sitting at home drinking your tea and looking back on a season in which you finish with nothing - again...

Anonymous said...

Gutless and out muscled yet again.

Rhinogooner said...

Then again, getting to Wembley by going through teams like Preston and Cardiff is not very arduous now is it Libero, old chap?

1979gooner said...

I'd rather be sipping my own piss watching emmerdale than be a Chelsea fan, each to their own.