A better start than recent weeks
We didn’t concede an early goal. Yes, the opposition is not as strong as Chelsea or Manchester City but let’s not forget that West Ham also scored early against us. We can only take it a step at a time and against the team the fixture decides. We gained the upper control early on in the game and never let up.
Though, it wasn’t that hard
Because Tony Pulis had one plan the entire match and that was – not to concede. They set up with 10 men behind the ball. Even when they have possession, they weren’t pushing forward in numbers. High balls were directed to Peter Crouch but was well marshalled by the duo of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Crouch and Matthew Etherington were the only Stoke players with any intention of attacking and our numbers easily overcome that.
A defence which includes a new boy
Ignacio Monreal got his first start for the club and had a reasonable debut. Nothing to shout about and nothing to get super excited about. He didn’t exactly set the trail blazing with his first 90 minutes in English football. However, what he showed was that he is a player confident in his touch and control. An understanding of his position on the defensive side of things. He did venture forward but was more mindful in his first game. That in a clash of heads with Jon Walters, he is the only one who came out without shedding blood, is worth a mention on it’s own.
Arteta returns but even Wilshere was outshone by Diaby
Abou Diaby may have got a few passes wrong but defended well and kept the ball in tight spaces. We knew he had skills in him and he showed it last night when he wriggles away from 2 or 3 players marking him. That part of his game where he drives forward with pace and power is still missing but hopefully that will come with increased number of minutes on the pitch.
But Wilshere displayed another captain’s response
In the closing minutes of the game, Michael Owen took exception to Mikel Arteta’s challenge and punched our midfielder. Who else came to the rescue but Wilshere. His response was immediate and to see him going up against fellow Englishman in Owen warms the heart.
Giroud’s wasteful, Walcott’s improvisation
Olivier Giroud had a few chances but didn’t take them with great aplomb. That one header which he headed back into a crowded penalty box instead of straight towards goal was baffling. His movement remains good, as is his passing but his shielding and shooting has much work to do. Theo Walcott was pressed and harried by Andy Wilkinson the entire game. Kicked and elbowed, it was good to see that he responded by his performance and not by violence. Threatening on the right and mixed it up well between driving down the line and cutting inside.
Begovic denied us
The Bosnian kept on stopping shots after shots, producing another one of those keeper’s performance against us at the Grove. The one that denied Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the pick of the saves. It was another one of those days which one starts to wonder if we will ever get one.
But it did come, via a deflection
Lukas Podolski came on and scored from a free kick. It took a massive deflection and that was the only reason why Begovic didn’t manage to stop it from rolling into the net. I didn’t understand Stoke’s fury with the assistant referee for allowing that goal. It hit their own player and no Arsenal player within that section of the penalty box was in an offside position. We only scored one but with the lack of ambition that Stoke showed, one was enough.
A good day all around
When results of the other fixtures came through. Everton and Chelsea both dropped points which allowed us to eat into the gap between us. For once, we took advantage when other teams suffered. Now, if West Brom can do us a favour, with or without Odemwingie.