7th in the table, 2 points behind Liverpool, on the way up the table. Nice. Before I start my match report of our game, I’d like to just confirm that we have won six of our last seven games. For any Man United fans reading this blog, then just to re-iterate, that we have 1-6 of our last seven games…. I couldn’t resist that joke!
Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke
With games coming thick and fast, Arsene decided to rest Robin Van Persie for the game, Maroune Chamakh replacing him in the starting line up. Gervinho took Arshavin’s place and Ramsey taking Rosicky’s place. With Jenkinson & Sagna out injured, Johan Djourou took control of right back, for an eleven that looked like this:
Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos
Song – Arteta
Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho
With a bench of Fabianski, Frimpong, Rosicky, Benayoun, Arshavin, Park, Van Persie.
The game was an interesting one – the two teams had an obvious dislike for each other – managers, players and fans – and it was always going to be a feisty affair. Stoke came to defend and “nick a point”, and for most of the game, they stayed deep and kept their shape. Ramsey, Arteta and Song played most of their game in the opposition half and it was of those probing patient games. Our goal came when the excellent Gervinho darted in the middle of the Stoke defence and Ramsey lofted a ball over into his path. The Ivorian finished well with his left foot and put us 1-0 up. Despite their defensive stance, Stoke were always dangerous – and especially with set pieces and especially through the annoying tall Peter Crouch – and it was he who eventually equalised after a bit of pinballs in our area…
1-1, 25 minutes to go – queue man of the moment, Robin Van Persie. Substitute appearance replacing the very much not in form Maroune Chamakh, and before we knew it, we were 3-1 up – massive credit goes to Gervinho for his work rate and his runs around the box. First, he popped up on the right and edged past the Stoke defender to square into Van Persie whose back post to near post run was superb, and the Dutch International scored from short range. A sense of relief around the stadium and shortly afterwards, Gervinho popped up on the left, Arshavin (as a sub for the shockingly bad Walcott), slipped the ball into his bath – and the Ivorian squared for Van Persie again and then it was 3-1 to the Arsenal…
Arsene summed up the performance and summarised it quite well.
We had a solid team performance where you could see that the team improves defensively, especially against a team that is challenging like Stoke. We looked much more solid defensively and we had a good start to the game until they equalised. Then I felt we became a bit nervous and we needed half time to calm down and then come back. The second half basically was all us, especially after the first 15 minutes, and then the problem was to score goals. Van Persie can do that better than many people and he did it when he came on. Overall it was a good, spirited performance and the crowd feels that this team wants to do well because they stood behind the team again and that is very positive. They feel that the team is ready to put effort in. Of course Robin with the two goals deserves a massive credit but I feel Gervinho as well had a very lively game, a very influential game.
There is a feeling of over-reliance on Van Persie, but when you have a striker who scores and scores and scores, you’ll tend to play him as much as possible. I’m sure he’ll be rested for tomorrow’s game, and I’m sure we’ll see a mix of Chamakh, Park and Oxlade around the striking berths… Two other players who were immense were Alex Song and Gervinho, both were very on top of their game.
Alex Song was captain for the day, and he looked very much energised by the role. The defensive midfielder commented on his captaincy and said:
I am very proud. If somebody had said to me six or seven years ago that I would be captain for Arsenal I would never believe them. But today I am very happy because I can show to the boss that I am one of the leaders in the team – we have many players who can do the job. We conceded stupid goals at the start of the season but now we are stronger at the back. That is why we need to improve every week. We saw today that a free-kick [cost us] and that was basic defending. It is very good for us to be stronger and try to defend together. That is what we did in the second half and we took our opportunities. It will come in time.
6 wins out of the last 7… we move quickly to tomorrows game against Bolton and then the big one against Chelsea on Sunday…
Let the games role on…