Call me crazy, but more of the same, please

Stoke 0-0 Arsenal

If you’re a fan of the roaring, scoring Arsenal of old, this game would have been a let-down on paper. But Arsenal did themselves no disservices with a battling 0-0 draw against Stoke at the Brittania.

The early team news was Vito Mannone deputising for the injured Wojcech Szczesny who had a rib complaint. You can bet that there would be fears Stoke would have tried to exploit that (if the fans and media knew, surely Tony Pulis knew) and with Lukas Fabianski also crocked, the third-choice Italian stepped into the breach.

Within seven minutes he was already picking the ball out of the back of the net, but thankfully the linesman correctly called offside as Jonathan Walters gave the defence an early scare.

The match was an arm-wrestle from kick-off, and the commentators insisted on going on about the ‘contrast in styles’ between the two sides and how it was such a big test for a notoriously leaky Arsenal defence. Such as it was, the backline passed it with flying colours.

There was a genuine vibe of Arsenal refusing to buckle under any sort of physical intimidation from Stoke, so much so that the home team’s players were becoming visibly frustrated with how things had panned out. After a niggly first 20 minutes, Arsenal had gained control of the midfield and had found a neat passing rhythm.

With the defence proving very solid and the midfield trying its best to follow suit, it was left to the forward line to disappoint again as Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Gervinho failed to find any real rhythm.

Arteta

That’s not to say they didn’t create chances, but it was a very Alex Hleb affair as the forwards ignored chances to put their foot through the ball, constantly looking for one more pass towards the penalty spot.

The biggest chance came in the first half as Podolksi broke clear in the box, and with Wilkinson slipping up, he fired for goal, only for said defender to palm the ball away in a blatant handball. That’s not just a penalty, it’s a red card offence.

Nevertheless, the defender got away with it and only conceded one of the 11 corners Arsenal were to use up in the game. Arsenal had a second penalty shout in the first half when Gervinho broke to the byline before falling from a small tug from another thick-headed defender.

Now, I won’t bang on about how we were deprived of a penalty with the ‘foul’ on Gervinho. That pull wouldn’t bring most people down more than a stiff breeze could, but to hear the commentators go on about how there ‘wasn’t enough’ contact was pretty grating. How one measures what ‘enough’ is one question, but wait until Luis Suarez or Wayne Rooney goes down in the same instances (and get the penalty awarded to boot), and watch in awe as the same commentators justify it with the ‘rules is rules’ excuse.

Anyways, I suppose Arsenal should feel lucky in some ways as Kieran Gibbs had one hairy moment in the second stanza when Pennant got ahead of him and fell in the box, but thankfully no penalty was awarded.

Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey (booooooooo!) all came on later to spice things up, and with Stoke tiring a few more chances were carved out. But our failure to make anything really clear-cut proved our undoing as our strike force was blanked again.

Yet, two points from six, while disappointing, is far from a disaster at this point. We’re a single point behind United, two behind City, and while Chelsea have steamed ahead with three wins, I’ll reserve judgement about a team run with a manager I have huge doubts about. For extra fun, we’re a point ahead of Spurs.

Mannone: 6.5 Hardly troubled but did what was required when called upon. One hairy moment when under pressure from Walters, but held onto the high ball despite catching it in his midriff.
Jenkinson: 8 Stirling performance at right back. Looks like he’s starting to bulk up and was giving close to nothing away for most of the game. Strong tackle, and great recovery when beaten.
Mertesacker: 7 Put his body on the line and head where it needed to be throughout. Commands the backline in tandem with Vermaelen very well. Strong showing.
Vermaelen: 7.5 – Survived the arm wrestle with both Walters and Crouch throughout. Copped a terrible tackle but no damage done, it seems. Put 100% of the shift into defensive work, cutting out his rampages forward.
Gibbs: 7.5 Most responsible defensive shift I’ve seen from Gibbs, but had a few opportunities to get forward, too. Really don’t like his lobbed crosses and would prefer a bit more zip, but part of a solid defensive unit today.
Diaby: 6 A non-entity in midfield. Offered nothing in attack and lost his balance when he had a (difficult) opportunity to score. Defensively was fine and got back whenever needed.
Arteta: 6.5 Try as he might, couldn’t break down Stoke’s door. His awareness of Stoke’s threat came to the fore and when this team does find its form, Arteta will be at the centre of many counter-attacks. Took a stupid free-kick when it looked like Podolski had the best angle in the second half.
Cazorla: 8 Another great showing from the midfield’s new boy. Everything he does has a delightful subtlety to it and with more incisive strikers, would have had a few assists today.
Podolski: 6.5 – Should have had a goal when Wilkinson palmed his shot away in the box. Nothing else came off in the first half, but encouraging signs emerged when he started running at defenders.
Gervinho: 5 – A bad day at the office. Never really showed off his dribbling abilities and his passing was off as well. Subbed off for Walcott.
Giroud: 5.5 – His ability to hold up the ball is starting to emerge (after only two games, sheesh), but got the jitters when he had a sniff of goal. Needs to shoot when presented with the chance, but that could be said of most of the team.

SUBS: Walcott: 6 Created a little more than Gervinho did but pace never truly utilised coming off the bench. Created one or two overlaps.
Chamberlain: 6 – Busy down the left flank but didn’t have much of an impact.
Ramsey: 6 – Not much time to influence the game. Came on to the predicted chorus of boos, but nearly managed a spin-and-shoot goal near the death.

Hype Meter time, and everything remains as it was against Sunderland. Six points were predicted after two games, and we’ve drawn both. So 33% is a nice round, relegatable figure. Early days yet, so that number means about as much as the Hype Meter itself: absolute FA.

The 0-0 draw, despite the frustration, showcased a number of things I’m really starting to like about this side. We’ve shed all our most-talented players over the past two seasons, but also shed their flakiness. As a result, we have a team that’s lost its killer instinct in front of goal, but is trying to make up for that with fight. It’s something the fans can get behind while we try to sort our heads out in the forwards’ department.

As an example, Giroud had another flat day today, but you could see instances late on where he was galloping around and chasing lost causes, including beating the Stoke right-back to the ball and heading it on into space for him to chase. It bobbled out for a goal kick.

But when you’re out of form and being played as a regular first choice, these are the things that will need to be done.

I’m hoping the midfielders are practising their long shots on the training field as was evident in our preseason friendlies. They’re really going to have to step up to the plate while Podolski and Giroud settle. Cazorla looks to be leading the charge on that front, and I’m hoping Gervinho visits a psychologist soon to get over his butterflies when it comes to having a pop.

That’s all from me. Share your thoughts on the game and our two points on the table in the comments.

Until next time, tally ho.

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13 thoughts on “Call me crazy, but more of the same, please

  1. Michael says:

    good assessment however I would say Giroud played as well as Podolski, making space too, sometimes his work off the ball is as important as his hold up play. Thought he deserved a score as high as Podolski and certainly not one less than Diaby!

  2. davi says:

    Arteta was brilliant yesterday. Just as last week against Sunderland, he was the main reason we controlled the play because he protected the defence extremely well and didn’t give the ball away cheaply. Your rating seems to assume he was playing as an attacking midfielder, when he really wasn’t, and I don’t think he has since he moved to Arsenal. He;s been a masterful signing by Wenger.
    Overall, a brilliant defensive performance (best I’ve seen against a Stoke-like side for many years) which is promising, but just need to find a bit more cohesion up front. Improved crossing, particulalry from the fullbacks, and decision-making (I’m thinking mainly of Gervinho) will get us going.

    • Jammathon says:

      I had no problem at all with Arteta’s defensive control of the match. It just came at a cost of dictating play on the other side of the pitch.

  3. Top Gooner says:

    I say promote Tomas Eisfeld to the first team and drop Ramsey.

  4. Danny says:

    Any Arsenal fun that thinks he’s a true Arsenal needs to stop booing their own players especially when they are young players that have had the misfortune of having their leg broken in a horrendous tackle that to be quite honest the player that committed the tackle should have had a ban of 5years or so for good measure. Ramsey was an excellent midfielder before all this happened, he’s trying extremely hard to get over this, I can tell by the look on his face when something he has planned goes wrong for him. You Arsenal fans should get behind these young players and help them with their development, get of his back the guy is young and human. In my eyes he needs to go on loan for a season to a strong club like Stoke, they’ve got huge players there some over 2m tall. Having these big lads around him will help him, they’ll have his back and he can feed off their fearlessness and start thinking more like them. Ramseys got skill believe me, what the kid needs is some confidence and to be more ruthless, and he’s not going to develop these mental skills with the kind of fans that boo him anytime he messes up. Not saying stoke play good football but what I am saying is they seem fearless, they remind me of what the army must be like, all lads got each others backs, they all stick together through bad and good. I’ve been an arsenal fan for over 30 years and have seen and experienced alot as a fan I will never change my club. I believe in loyalty so please be loyal to our great club and it’s players. We are the ARSENAL..for life!!

    • Jammathon says:

      I think you’re referring to the (booooo!) before his name in the blog, there. That was referencing the Stoke fans, nothing more. I’m a big fan of Ramsey. Though by the look of your quite excellent spiel, you seem to be the biggest. Thanks for reading.

  5. weedonald says:

    A rather pessimistic review based on premature criticism of the attack and midfield…after only 2 very tough games! Lets give it time and see how AFC pull it together before predicting disaster?

    • Jammathon says:

      “Yet, two points from six, while disappointing, is far from a disaster at this point.”

      • weedonald says:

        If they tie every game until May then despite that being an unbeaten streak, it would also be a disaster imho but your hyperbole is too premature and critical….we need to appreciate the very positive approach the team has and the strengthening of the defense that has clearly occurred, despite the loss of Song. I assure you that Podolski will start finding the net,as will Giroud. I am more concerned with Gervinho and Walcott finding their targets….but once they all start to gel, it will be like our name signifies….a real collection of big guns and lots of ammunition!

      • Jammathon says:

        weedonald

        Have you even read the article? We’re pretty much singing off the same hymn sheet yet you seem to think we’re at loggerheads. The defence looks great, the midfield is close to clicking. The forwards just need to figure themselves out and we’ll be away. As for Theo, he looks a goner if reports are to be believed.

      • weedonald says:

        I always carefully read any blog before commenting Jammathon and agree with you that we are on the same page….but I have the feeling that you are less than optimistic about our chances to achieve what you state needs doing….if I am in error then all is well….there are far too many negative AAA and anti-Wenger blogs out there for my taste. I do not consider your blog to be in the same league as those whiny moaners.

      • Jammathon says:

        Not anti-Wenger by a long shot. He’s a personal hero of mine. Having said that, I’m aware of his flaws and don’t leave him blameless for the trophyless run – though I’m not nearly as hung up about it as a lot of other people are. To summarise, I can see this team doing great things once it figures out the chemistry of the new signings. The only question left is how long that will take. That length of time could also go some way to determining what we get out of this season.

      • weedonald says:

        I never intimated that you are anti-Wenger and agree that only time will tell whether AFC achieve what they have the potential to do however there are so many factors working against us, such as officiating incompetence and occasional bias,the big money clubs, Usmanov and Dein, the British media, some of our own former players, and some of our current ones it seems!!!

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