|Stoke City Gremlins lined up against Arsenal FC|
Kick the shit out of them.
Never, ever miss the leg if you miss the ball during a tackle.
Now go get them!
They are a simple minded bunch so the instructions have to be concise and easy to understand -like the instructions for handling Gremlins. I've never seen Tony Pulis on the side lines with a pen and paper, taking notes during a game. Nor have I seen a Stoke substitute being briefed before he comes on by pointing at a piece of paper and issuing instructions on what tactics they will be implementing when they get on. At that point it's really simple, "GO, KILL AND COME BACK!"
It's amazing to see a football team get on a football pitch without any intention of attempting to play football, isn't it? Really, Stoke looked more dangerous when we were in possession because that increased the chances of someone's leg getting broken from a bad tackle.
There's a sense of trepidation that comes with this fixture now. When it's over and we have no serious injuries, we say a prayer and move on to the next one. If we weren't so worried about the fact that we've gone two games into the season without scoring a goal, we'd be on our knees thanking God that Stoke is out of the way for now and we got away without an injury.
One thing was different this time though; we refused to be strong-armed. We refused to be harried. We matched brute force with a show of strength. We did not give them the satisfaction of whining to the referee each time a weed whacking tackle was made. Except for the one that nearly cut Cazorla in two, I'll say the boys did a good job of skipping away from the bad tackles aimed at them.
We've now played two games this season and the "goals for", "goals against" and "goal difference" columns on the table are still reading "0". Two games without conceding a goal doesn't mean our defensive frailties have disappeared overnight especially considering that we have not played any opponents yet that have been willing to come out and run at us with the intention of trying to win the game. But I'm sure glad to see clean sheets so far when I remember how much we leaked goals last season.
It was scary to see Mannone line out but he didn't cause much concern since Stoke didn't come with the intention of scoring on the day.
The back line has seemed more self assured and you really can't fault them for positioning. Yeah, I know it's the Steve Bould influence. One thing worries me though, this is not our first choice back line. what happens when the first choice right back, Sagna and center back, Koscielney regain fitness? We'll change the winning (sorry, scratch that) drawing combination? Most likely, yes. Will we still have the same defensive solidity that we've displayed so far?
Our present defensive solidity can be chalked down to a lack of willingness for offensive forays by our defenders. Mert knows he lacks pace and doesn't venture so far forward that he has to chase down an attacking opponent that's caught him out on the break. Vermaleen may have been asked to curb those attacking displays that got a few goals last season but also left the back open enough to concede a few. Or maybe he's sensibly realised his current partner in the central defense is too slow to cover him if he ventures too far forward (he has to think now since he's the captain).
Jenkinson is improving game after game but he's young and inexperienced and it will take him a while to work out that balance between defending and helping out offensively that makes Sagna one of the best right wing backs in the game. Gibbs in the left wing back position isn't much different. A little bit more experienced than Jenkinson but he's not brought anything to the party offensively so far.
In the middle of the park, Arteta anchored the midfield effectively, providing the link up between defense and attack. He showed a lot more defensive discipline than we are used to seeing in the defensive midfield role but of course this meant he could not offer what we know he can going forward. I'll like to see Cazorla and Arteta playing in a more advanced role with a defensive minded midfielder (preferably Wilshere) behind them. They are creative enough to unlock most defenses playing up front together. That defensive midfield role is the one bit of business I'll like to see us do by transfer deadline on Friday.
Diaby didn't have an extraordinary game but he showed those flashes of brilliance that we all know he has. I think he needs a few consecutive games under his belt and of course needs to avoid injuries. His physical presence alone will always be an asset against burly teams like Stoke.
Our problems yesterday were mostly in the final third. Gervinho, who has always seemed more dangerous playing from the left side of attack was drafted to the right side to accommodate Giroud and he failed to make the impact that we saw him make against Sunderland last week. He failed to get behind the Stoke defenders even once and lacked the composure to make any of his long range efforts count. Theo Walcott replaced him in the second half and I hate to say it but he played like a man who has not sorted out his contract situation -noncommittally. Ship that boy out or make him sign his contract, AW. I personally will recommend the former. He's never going to be Robert Pires.
Podolski and Giroud can not be faulted for effort but unfortunately it's looking like they will take some time to bed in. Giroud has been criticized in certain quarters for an audacious attempt he made late on to beat the keeper from a distance when he could have played Ramsey in. It was his striker's instinct -completely selfish. It was cheeky but it was well worth a try. It's something we're going to be needing to get past this dry spell and I'm sincerely hoping that AW does not attempt to beat that out of him.
Cazorla was the brightest star from yesterday's game as he worked hard to create chances from the middle of the park for the front men and took on a number of attempts on goal himself. I fear on the basis of the last two games that we are shifting slowly towards an over-dependence on him for creativity in the midfield which could lead to a burn-out sooner than later.
Two games into the season without a goal might be worrisome but not enough to be alarming I reckon. The problem is that I don't see where the goals are going to come from as it stands. The three new additions to the team have changed the balance of the team considerably and as expected, blending everyone together to extrasensory perception levels is a long way away. I had hoped that the worst that can happen as the team blends together is a return to the old days of "one nil to the Arsenal" but that isn't happening.
Where will the goals come from?
Lets have your thoughts below in the comments section.
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