Stoke 0-0 Arsenal: An absence of goals (and trouser-filling)

With Vito Mannone in goal for only his eleventh start, Arsenal faced Stoke at the Britannia on Sunday and kept their second clean sheet of the season. At the same time Arsene Wenger’s new look strike force also failed to grab their first goal of the campaign.

Technically it was a poor game. Of Arsenal’s 17 attempts on goal only two managed to test the opposition goalkeeper. That just about summed the Gunners up.

Great defensive work from the backline (including Arteta) allowed clever and patient midfield play(mostly through the feet of Cazorla), only for things to break down time and time again once the final pass was required or the misfiring attackers skewed, shanked or Diabyed the ball wide of the goal.

Podolski should have been the first of Arsenal’s new boys to score. The German found himself free in the box from a Giroud pass only for his rifled volley to be blocked by the outstretched arm of the falling Stoke defender.

The most exciting efforts came from Olivier Giroud. The first, an athletic scissor kick that he didn’t connect with properly after some smart movement from a corner; the second, an audacious lob after picking up a through ball from Oxlade-Chamberlain near the flank. Spotting the Stoke ‘keeper marginally off of his line, the Frenchman went for a driven chip that hit the roof of the net with only minutes left in the game.

It was a surprising decision considering Ramsey was racing through unmarked from the midfield and one that seemed to anger Wenger on the sideline, but Giroud admitted after the game he didn’t see or hear his teammate.

Giroud was mooted as the key man today and although he didn’t break his duck his performance was encouraging. After some more training his disrupted pre-season will be far behind him.

Strong, determined and industrious, he fought for the entire game and held his own against one of the most physical teams in one of Europe’s most physical leagues.

The chances mostly fell Arsenal’s way but the drastic lack of accuracy in the shooting proved costly in the end. The most pleasing thing is that as the new attackers begin to gel these creases should iron themselves out for the frontline in time.

Even more pleasing was the defensive work. The boys at the back looked really strong against a team who usually bully and wind Arsenal up into losing their shape and game plan. On Sunday Arsenal gave them nothing but a weak penalty shout and didn’t bow to any of their roughhousing even after Vermaelen was almost broken in half from a late tackle.

All in all, not exactly breathtaking stuff but coming after a season where the squad shipped 50 goals and fans filled their trousers every time the opposition entered Arsenal’s half, I’ll take this new look resilience (as long as the frontline put in some overtime on the shooting range).

Expect new things from this team; when was the last time an Arsenal player even attempted a scissor kick or a chip from near the half way line?



  1. I missed this game, good to get a review Mark.

    I thought Giroud’s effort late on was terrific. Sure, he didn’t see Ramsey but man was that close to going in. Just imagine if he’d popped that in and finished off the one against Sunderland.

    Eden who?

  2. Gervinho has to contribute more to this team. Granted he is not a goal scorer , but he has to be an impact player. He has to be attacking the full backs and create pressure on the opposing defense.
    I would suggest Wenger starts him on the bench for now and bring on for 30 minutes.
    He might not be happy as result and might to leave in January , then sell him! Even md table teams in the EPL will not tolerate a forward who is a poor finisher and only shows great desire on the pitch once every 2 or 3 games .
    We do not have RVP or Cesc to rescue us.
    I am not worried about GIroud, he is a good player. Our midfield players need to score a few that will alleviate the pressure on the strikers , they will relax and finish their chances .

  3. @ Gunfest — I totally agree. Gervinho must contribute more. The departures and his season of experience means he really needs to step up his game. It might be unfair to put the pressure on him but it would be a great advantage for this team.

  4. What a total debarkle!!!!

    Walcott’s advisers reopened discussions with Arsenal last Friday and a final five-year offer worth around £75,000 a week was duly put to the winger.

    However, it is understood Walcott’s representatives informed the club over the weekend that they would be rejecting that proposal.

    So that’s another fine mess Mr Wenger has got us into. Arguably our 3 best players last season will be gone in a matter of weeks. What a cock-up! What a disappointment! We’re the laughing stock.

    So this is the thing, thanks for all the great business Mr Wenger but if we are still bottom half by Christmas, what will happen?!?!?

  5. What new look resilience? Our defence hasn’t been tested yet, period. Let’s see what happens in 3 out of our 4 next games against pool, citeh and the mincers before we start singing the defences praises. We might be in the relegation zone come 30 September unless we can quickly remember how to find the net. As soon as Mike Arteta gets his annual long-term injury it will be the soft underbelly exposed again.

  6. I think that it’s a fairly good start to the season with all of the new players coming in and a few important ones going in the other direction. I just hope the team will be able to pick up some goals in the process. And I believe that they will, just a matter of when. The front is definitely trying hard. Santi has been such a delight to watch.

  7. Nice sum up. It was good not to be chewing the nails from a defensive perspective. For a game that one goal was going to nick it we did look nice and solid but as Uncle Bulgaria said we have bigger tests to come over the next few weeks. Starting with Swanseapool on Sunday. At least we’ll get a glimpse of Sahin at long last! Gervinho back to the bench methinks. Just a question of who comes in.

  8. Food for thought –

    Nigel Reo Coker (28), Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Papa Boupa Diop, Justin Hoyte are all free agents this summer.

    If we don’t go for M’Vila or Biglia and want a good defensive midfielder, I think Coker would be a good buy.

    We’re having problems up front, which will take time to settle, but we could go for Owen/Heskey to add some numbers, specially considering we’ve already sold Vela and Van Persie and are looking to sell Chamakh, Bendtner, maybe Arshavin and Walcott too – which leaves us with only the new boys up front – Giroud and Podolski. Gervinho could play there too.

    But I’d really like us to play with some proper wingers – the kinds of players that actually go past people in the middle – Ronaldo, Nani etc

  9. @davem – I don’t know if Walcott being sold is such a problem. He hasn’t learnt how to run past opponents without blind pace. He’s got no trickery, no intelligence in 1-v-1’s. Just pace. And it’s time we got a real winger or two.

    We should have held on to Miyaichi. The guy is pure quality with both feet. Wonder if we can call him back from loan.

    Also, Downing is finding it tough to get games up front for Liverpool. He’s a proper winger. If I was the manager, I’d probably play a left footed attacking player on the right wing for us. Cutting in etc.

    Also, the Swansea players are pretty darn good – Nathan Dyer has more quality, trickery and ability to go past players, plus give good passes, compared to Walcott. Although I’m not sure Swansea will sell so late in the window, when it looks like Sinclair is also on his way out.

    Jesus Navas has been mentioned too. Good player !

  10. @tytee , I agree with agree with on Walcott. Yes our forwards need real wingers who will put pressure and the opposing defense. Ox is very good but still young and learning . I like your suggestion of Jesus Navas .
    Why Wenger did not tell Fergie “if you want RVP send us Berbatov” , he is better than Chamakh and his technical ability would have been perfect for us.

  11. Swindon town put 4 by Stoke last night at the Brittania.
    Walcotts looking for obscene wages but who can blame him for looking for 40/50 grand more than Squillachi, Chamakh, Bendtner and Diaby…question is how they are on 50 per week in the first place, ludicrous considering we cudnt give Song a payrise yet these guys who havnt merited any wage in my opinion are on drastically inflated wages, which also now makes it almost impossible to get rid of these guys as a result and they can now sit on their arses costing us a fortune and they leave for free at their contract end.
    Dembele is rumoured to be off to Spurs for 15m…if we allow this to happen without contest I will be very disspointed..the guy is the most versatile player in the league..he can sit and hold, he can play behind two front men, he can play upfront and score…hes a more rounded version and better player than Song and is only beginning to realise his potential….would be brilliant for us…..but maybe we’ll just have to be patient with this new signing Wenger was talking bout..whats his name???…oh yeah Diaby

  12. I just hope if Walcott stays, he’s played in his proper position which is striker, up front.

    And personally I don’t like this formation we’re playing with. This season with a more defensive focus, our fullbacks aren’t bombing forward. Which should suggest that we should be looking at a 4 4 2 with real wingers, and not central midfielders or strikers playing out wide.

    This is why we are so one-dimensional in attack. Everything happens through the center and we’re predictable and teams can just sit back and park the bus. We need to be more unpredictable. We need to stretch the game. And that happens when you play with real wingers.

    Also, we take too much time dilly dallying the ball sideways and that lets the opposition settle into position to defend. We have this irritating habit of trying to get into the opposition’s third and then try to find the perfect through ball and perfect goal. This is the most frustrating thing about us at the moment. It drives me completely mental. What the Invincibles used to do was nothing similar to this silly sideways passing ‘possession’ football. It’s extremely boring and hugely frustrating. They used to pick the through balls in the middle third of the pitch and have the final attacker/midfielder run into space and create a 1v1, and score. That was easier than having to deal with 10 men behind the ball.

    We’re acting childish if we blame teams for parking the bus. We know better. We should be more intelligent in the way we play. Not expect other teams to let us play our game !

    We need to use long balls where necessary. The Invincibles were deadly and they used to play every kind of pass. Reyes passing it long to Henry and that famous two-touch left foot volley into the Chelsea net past Cech who was at his peak at the time, is one of the great examples. There are numerous others.

  13. I personally feel it has been a fairly good start to the season, granted a goal in the home match against Sunderland would have been nice but slowly slowly has they say …. The biggest plus point for me is Stevie Bould’s defence, Mertseacker looks a different player, and at one point when they all worked in unison and caught Walters offside, it was reminiscent of the George Graham era. Two clean-sheets for me is better than two 2-2 any day, goals will come, but it is always more difficult to keep them out.

    I still strongly believe that we need to look at changing the formation from time to time, especially when we are pressing and looking for the win. We have the players to cope with moving to 4-4-2 especially if Walcott stays (I am not that bothered either way) but this would allow Giroud and Podolski or Walcott and move two of the midfield players out wider, I also think in Santos we could have a great left sided midfield player who could work well with Gibbs.

    I also feel it is time for us to cut Mr Ramsey loose, I do feel sorry for him re the injury which has obviously tapered his progression and the fact that Lord Wenger stored so much faith in him last season, when he clearly was not good enough. I believe he will still cut it at a side like Villa or WBA but not for a top 4 or 5 side.
    We also must add a player or two over the next few days. I would possibly try and off load a few in swap deals, Arshavin to Fulham with Dempsey in return possibly? And I would also like to see Yohan Cabaye come in. I am worried about Diaby, he did not play badly against Stoke but well within himself as if he was worried about picking an injury … We should also be a little worried about the fitness of Rosicky, Wilshire and Arteta who has been prone to injury over the years with Everton to breaking down.

    One off the wall idea …. Michael Owen on a pay as you play basis, if nothing else he can score goals and leave him on the bench for the last 20 minutes perfect option to move to the 4-4-2 I suggested earlier?

    And lastly in regards to Arteta, what a wonderful player …. So important to us and for me the first name down on the team sheet.

  14. SORRY Dear Wenger thinks otherwise. Diaby is Song’s replacement. Mbia has been taken,Lloristaken by our arche rivals,Dembele gone too under Wengers watchful eye.

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