Arsenal fans’ column: All Guns Blazing
Due to a family lunch arrangement, my viewing of this weekend’s game played out like that famous Likely Lads episode. For the few hours I was away, I had almost managed not to hear the score until I got home to watch it on tape.
As fate would have it, on my way back there were two supporters fresh from seeing the game literally at the bottom of my road. As I walked past, I heard one of them say that “it was a good day” and that was that.
Upon re-watching the game, however, it did seem the sort of match that, even if watched live, lacked the sting of recent contests.
A bit like Marseille in midweek, Stoke were fairly toothless in attack and we were efficient without being quite as attractive as we were against Sunderland.
What this game illustrated was how the absence of Theo Walcott affects Arsenal. He scored a fine goal last Wednesday, but has seemingly had a slow start to the season to the frustration of fantasy football players nationwide.
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Even if he can’t take his chances directly though, Walcott’s absence against Stoke highlighted how he stretches the game just by the mere potential of his runs.
Serge Gnabry is a fine talent and has plenty of pace himself, but his tendency to cut inside meant that everything became a bit congested and it was telling that all our goals came from set pieces rather than play in behind the opposition’s back line.
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Of course ultimately it was a professional job against an opposition we have little love for, and certainly a nice way to celebrate 100 years in Islington.
Much is often made by opposition fans of Arsenal’s historic jump across the river, but when you look at the number of clubs who were eager to up stakes for the Olympic Stadium, it is clear how lucky we are to have made north London a very personal and sizable home for our ambitions.
Like a century ago, it is an exciting time to be a Gunner again.
We’re seeing a team with a stronger core than any in the last few years and another stadium move has opened up a world of opportunities.
For reasons old and new, we now have the time, people, means and the place to push on, so let’s hope our current management can follow the lead of those who came before and bring it all back home.