Arsenal fans can expect another long season
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Lots of questions after defeat at Stoke
Only for Arsenal fans would a stunning, season-opening comeback victory against Leicester City start a period of navel gazing.
It’s par for the course. After all, who on earth can call themselves a true Gooner without being able to reel off a plethora of ‘issues’ both on and of the pitch.
This time there appeared to be valid concerns. Forget the attack for now, they say. It’s the defence.
Three at the back with the wing back bolt-ons didn’t look very convincing at all. Mind you, when was the last time the defence ever looked ‘convincing’?
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Anything thrown into the Arsenal box seems to freeze the defenders into pillars of stone, while Arsene Wenger glares from the bench like an accountant who has failed in a tax rebate appeal.
There are mitigating circumstances to a point – a distinct lack of pucker central defenders due to injuries being the obvious one.
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It was to be hoped that this would be ironed out when the Gunners rolled up in the Land of the Giants - known to the locals as ‘Stoke.’
The first half was quite entertaining with Arsenal becoming the dominant team as the game wore on.
An early chance by Jese Rodriguez was saved by Petr Cech in a panic-stricken five minutes or so for the Gunners midfield which seemed to scatter like deer being approached by a hunting pack of tigers.
The ‘flight’ displayed by the midfield then spread to the defence that still looks vulnerable to the swift counter.
There was little inclination to be strong and determined enough to make a crucial tackle. Nobody is durable enough to take charge of matters.
Where is our Tony Adams? The Arsenal defence is timid, and no matter how good your attack is, it is defence that wins titles. Ask George Graham.
That classic Stoke City move of silky-skilled quality – the long throw – made a comeback on the half hour and yet again demonstrated the visitors’ defensive shortcomings when Ryan Shawcross was allowed to rise unchallenged to win the header but thankfully place it wide.
Arsenal were then caught on the hop when their defence, backing off the wave of Stoke attackers and inviting them forward, allowed a through ball to reach Jese who confidently threaded the ball past Cech.
I have news for those who just thought the problems were just defensive. You’re wrong.
In a second half of constant Arsenal pressure, I counted 15 of their attacks that were overplayed in front of the Stoke goal – always that one extra impossible three yard pass too many. Why the need to walk it in?
The sobering thought is, for all their shortcomings, Stoke didn’t mess about when their chance came, and they won the game. They get the points.
Arsenal have no defensive organisation, weak defenders, no midfield spine and a wasteful attack.
Possession of 77 per cent wins absolutely nothing. Mesut Ozil’s slumping shoulders are another issue that needs addressing.
Expect another long season.