It was just a bad day at the office for Arsenal. With the defeat to Stoke, it leaves us with just 2 competitions left in which to break our 5 year trophyless drought. It was a double-edged sword for Wenger. Had he sent out a full strength side and lost, people would wondering whether it was worth sacrificing the league glory for the FA Cup. Had he sent out a full reserves side, people would also wonder whether they had let go of the one trophy which they could’ve won this season. In the end, the boss choose a mix side and still lost anyway.
The impact of the defeat lies in the 2 real first teamers that he put out today. Fabregas and Denilson played the entire game when Wenger would’ve preferred to be able to rest them in preparation for the upcoming slew of games, or at least saving them from the last 15-20 minutes of the tie. On the bright side, others got a well deserved rest. Arshavin and Eduardo both got on midway through the second half but otherwise should be fit and rested for the next game.
Right from the off, the omens were there to be seen. The first throw-in that Stoke got, they scored. Delap’s long throw went past a couple of Arsenal heads and dropped nicely for Ricardo Fuller to sneak in and plant it into the net. Eastmond lost his man and Fabianski was to rue letting the ball drop. To his credit, the latter realised this and from then on, went for every throw-ins or corners early. Arsenal drew level right before half time when Denilson’s shot deflected twice and rolled into the bottom corner of Stoke’s net. That and Fabregas’ dipping shot in the second half were the only threats that Arsenal had on Thomas Sorensen’s goal was indicative of the type of afternoon we had.
Stoke scored the second and third goal via counter attacks. Traore left in no man’s land as Denilson was left to chase down Sidibe but never got near to the Stoke forward. Fabregas himself would’ve been proud of the accuracy of Sidibe’s cross which perfectly found Fuller for his second of the day. Again, Traore’s defending was found to be wanting as he left Whitehead free at the back post to easily slot in Etherington’s cross from the left. On this basis, it was easy to see why Traore is behind Gibbs in the pecking order at left back.
Stoke had a strong penalty claim as Silvestre dived at the feet of Fuller and was lucky to escape unpunished. The commentator couldn’t stop harping about the piece of refereeing. We had 3 claims dismissed in the 2 Bolton ties and all things come full circle. Otherwise, Silvestre and Campbell had a rather solid day’s work. The Englishman had a good enough 2nd debut for Arsenal, though he was tiring late on in the game. With both of them at the back, Stoke just could not win any headers in or outside the Arsenal box. It was more worrying when Tuncay came on as his pace made both of them nervous. Safe to say, fingers crossed that Gallas and Vermaelen continues to stay fit for the rest of the season.
While it was not nice to have been on the losing side, you can’t argue that we deserve anything other than the defeat today. In a way, it’s a good kick up the backside that we need to spur on from here. If we were due a defeat, better let it be this one than any in the league or Champions League for that matter. Right, it’s over now, let’s put all our focus and attention on the league.
More on that later in the week. Thanks for reading.