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Match Report: Arsenal 3 - 1 Stoke (from Stoke's perspective)

Monday 24th October 2011
There was much hope for me that Stoke will get something from this game against Arsenal due to the mid-week European games: Arsenal were weak in all departments but got a lucky win in Marseille while Stoke was very comfortably in their 3-0 win at home against Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

So the question for me was not if Arsenal could score again after just 29 seconds in the game like they did against Sunderland last weekend. Stoke before the game had conceded less than half as many goals than Arsenal this season so far. It was a question for me how both defences would deal today.

The commentators stated that both teams started with a 4-3-3 formation but with the players on the pitch it was more 4-4-2 on both sides. But with the first ten minutes played it was interesting to see that Rory Delap almost played the third Stoke forward in the left position Matthew Etherington normally owns himself.

The good thing I like about Jon Walters was to be seen in the 12th minute. Him and Stoke generally don't want to carry the ball into the goal – they don't do the Barcelona style if you like – and I don't like the Barcelona style. I like the Stoke style – because of that I like Stoke. Chances are there to take not to beauty them up. So it was Walters who got the ball at left-hand side and obviously it was long range he tries his luck nevertheless. It didn't work out this time and the whole game on but Walters just uses any opportunity when he spots one unlike Kenwyne Jones who came on later in the second half for Peter Crouch.

Jones had a great opportunity but let it slip when Glenn Whelan made a great little run through the centre, made an unwanted pass to Jones but he couldn't get a shot on target as he did one step too much. As I said: unlike Walters who sometimes makes one step too little.

But this was already in the second half. Still in the first half I wasn't very much impressed by Dean Whitehead. Perhaps someone can explain to me why he makes Tony Pulis' starting XI week in week out. With all his clumsy, mistimed or late challenges he should be booked in every game and in my eyes he gets away with it far too often. So it was in this game I've foreseen that Whitehead would collect another yellow at any point. Already after 25 minutes in the game the foul statistics counted 6-1 for Stoke and Whitehead did the most of them. After half an hour referee Lee Mason had seen enough and shown Whitehead what he had wished for. Surprisingly for me it was only his 3rd booking of the season but it wasn't his last one definitely.

Just before the booking there was the Arsenal lead.Wilson got Gervinho hard on the edge of offside but in the very moment when it counted Gervinho was onside, got the pass and scored easily one on one with Begovic. It's not always the best option to play the offside trap but when you do it you just need to do it properly.

But at this stage Arsenal looked likely to concede at least one goal just because Stoke was almost level at strength and creating chances. The Stoke opportunities mostly came from dead balls as you would expect but Arsenal these days aren't very short with the good old tackle anymore. So Stoke got their free kicks as well as Arsenal. Right, the call from Lee Mason in the 34th minute was a bit soft but the combination of Glenn Whelan, Ryan Shawcross, Jon Walters and Peter Crouch made the most of it, when Whelan took the free kick to Shawcross who headed the ball to Crouch in the box who headed to Walters who headed back to Crouch who finally headed the ball over the line. I think it was planned just this very way.

At the end of the first half we got only two minutes of stoppage time due to no serious fouls and a very fluid game from one goal to the other. More shots on goal came from Arsenal but no really clear one's. Both goalkeepers didn't have much to do.

The second half started a bit slow, hectically perhaps with some hurray fouls mostly by Stoke. Lee Mason today wasn't too keen to interrupt the game too much as there weren't really serious fouls but at times I thought another referee would have stopped the play.

Right on the edge of common sub-time (i.e. the 60th minute) Salif Diao was about to come on when Walters got a knock from his one team-mate Matthew Upson. Perhaps Tony Pulis wanted to change his mind in case Walters would have been seriously injured but that wasn't the case and Diao finally replaced Rory Delap who took two good throws today and had a promising first half an hour.

But the real change in the game took place when Van Persie came on for Arsenal. He came on for Chamakh in the 67th minute just to score Arsenal's second only six minutes later. Begovic in the end should have done better with the low strike right in his left corner but the ball shouldn't have found its way into the box in the first place. On both Arsenal goals Stoke's normally good defensive play let themselves down.

Right after Arsenal took the lead again Etherington and Crouch were replaced by Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones. Just on the pitch Jerome tried it the hard and aggressive way with Szczesny but the Arsenal goalkeeper could pick the loose ball before Jerome reached it at full stretch.

On the counter attack in the 82nd minute Van Persie found the net again with his second of the game and Arsenal's third. The Stoke defence wasn't spot on. At some days you are lucky and don't concede especially as it was with Arsenal in the first games of the season. But today three mistakes or some carelessness lead to three goals against Stoke. They had some minor chances later on with the Whelan / Jones combination described early in this article and then again with a Whelan strike, which went past the right goalpost.

But it stayed 3-1 to Arsenal. One goal too high for my own feelings. A draw would have been deserved after the first half but Van Persie today made the difference.
Seamus Kennan

Total articles: 4

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