As the final whistle went yesterday, with Arsenal securing a point at The Britannia, it was hard for me to properly assess how I felt about the result. On the face of it it was a hard-fought point. It was more than City got against the Orcs and sees us go back to the top of the league. Albeit on goal difference. But I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed that we had failed to score. Or that we hadn’t taken advantage of a City slip up in midweek to pull further clear of them.
Before this set of games I’d hoped that we could pick up seven points and lay down a marker. We’ve picked up two so far and with Chelski’s record against us, even though we’re at home, victory will be difficult to come by. They will be massively up for it.
Like Stoke were yesterday. The atmosphere was hostile, the Wenger masks were out and the pantomime rolled on, which I have no problem with. Perhaps the scumbags who sung about Ramsey will read the papers today and realise that they are the dregs of humanity this morning, but those people probably can’t read anyway, so let’s not hold our breath that there is remorse in Staffordshire this morning.
I also don’t know whether to be concerned that we failed to be too creative against Stoke without Özil, or be satisfied that we ground out a point without some pretty key players, given our injuries. We’re in a good vein of form and yesterday we travelled away from home to a difficult ground and picked up a point without our first choice deep-lying midfielders, our playmaker and our ‘wildcard’ wide forward. Perhaps the absence of Özil was a step too far for the team? After all, when he plays he is the one from which most of our football flows. He drops deep to pick up the ball and build attacks, he appears in tight spaces on either flank in the final third, he sees passes and executes them like nobody else does in this league. So to me it definitely felt like we missed his presence.
The Ox was deployed in that role with support from Ramsey, but whilst he had a decent game and forced a couple of smart saves from Butland, it didn’t quite feel like it worked for me. I still th no he’s suffering from a crisis of confidence and I think it’s showing in his play. Equally I thought Ramsey wasn’t quite at his best. There were a few loose balls from both of those players yesterday and the result was a disjointed game of football from an Arsenal perspective.
I think everyone can now see the problem we have with Flamini and Ramsey now. There are acres between the two of them at times and when Stoke broke on the counter, sometimes Flamini had no idea whether to stick or twist when it came to closing down the ball. Boy oh boy how I wish Coquelin had some sort of miracle recovery and could be back next weekend.
The positives were Cech, Campbell and Bellerin. The latter provided plenty of options on the flank and was constantly overlapping Campbell, who was also a bright spark, receiving and releasing the ball without too many troubles and having a decent attempt at goal in the second half. He also – as we have now come to expect – did his defensive work well, which is more than you can say for Theo on the other flank. Walcott looked pretty peeved when his number came up for a substitution, but I’ve no idea why, because he offered little throughout the game. Whether that was because Stoke’s shape was disciplined, or he didn’t have the pinpoint accuracy of Mesut to find his runs I don’t know, I just know that he did little throughout the game and it shows just how absent he can be at times. With Alexis due to return this week, you have to wonder how Walcott is getting back in to this side, because he’s certainly not replacing Giroud any time soon. Giroud who had spent the entire game being nudged and budged by Shawcross, who never let him out of his sight, yet still managed to force a couple of really good saves from Butland.
As a fan the game was intriguing to watch, but had I been a neutral I’d probably have found it a chore, something you can kind of guess when the two ‘keepers are the best players on the pitch. Cech was great again yesterday and the double save from Joselu and Bojan was something that I’m pretty sure we haven’t had a ‘keeper able to get to those since…well…ever during my time watching Arsenal (back to when we had Lukic for the first time). He’s a fantastic presence in the team and we can only be thankful that he’s our number one – or 33 – so we come away with a point and form still in tact.
We have to win next Sunday though. We simply HAVE to win.