A draw at the Britannia is a good result
Stoke away has become infamous for being an incredibly tough and unwelcoming place to go. Winless in our last 6 visits there, I doubt any Arsenal fan was looking forward to this fixture.
There was cause for optimism this season however, as Mark Hughes attempts to transform Stoke from a long-ball, physical team to a more attractive attacking side. Unfortunately, due a combination of injuries and Hughes’ pragmatism, Stoke played this game like they always have – lots of crosses, long balls and physical football. Perhaps some endurance training is needed for a Potters team who seem to play the same way against Arsenal every time.
It was encouraging to see that we were able to stand up to the challenge, and unlike previous years, my heart was not in my mouth every time they won a corner. Both teams had chances to win the game, so a draw was a fair result.
Petr Cech could be the reason we win the league
Last summer when John Terry was asked about Petr Cech, he suggested that he was worth at least 12 points to whichever team he joined. I think it is fair to suggest that he has already contributed to more wins and points than that – and we are only half way through the season.
His command of the area, calm demeanor and excellent ball distribution create a platform for us to build on. The back four look more confident and assured, and I no longer assume we are going to concede from a set-piece every single time.
It is often hard to say what would have happened in a hypothetical scenario, but I am pretty confident that we would be walking away with zero points from this game had Ospina been in goal.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is very unlucky
Mesut Ozil’s injury forced Wenger to play the Ox in the middle rather than on the wing, a position where many suggest he should be played. He did relatively well under the circumstances, despite not really contributing much in an attacking sense.
He hit a sweet curling effort that was saved by the excellent Jack Butland, and it summed up his season so far. He seems to always be just an inch away from glory – hitting the bar, over hitting a pass or slightly mis-controlling the ball in the final third. Unfortunately, this is how modern football is these days – it is all about the fine margins.
A goal would help him get over the mental hurdle that seems to be holding him back, and I hope it happens soon because with other players coming back from injury, he may find first team starts hard to come by.
Theo Walcott is no longer an option on the wing
Theo Walcott’s form since coming back from injury has been patchy at best. When he scores goals, like he did against the Manchester clubs, it looks like he has the attributes to be a world class player. He is very quick, makes decent decisions and his shooting has improved significantly.
Unfortunately, all too often he puts in performances like he did against Stoke – barely in the game, not contributing much in either attack or defense. When he was substituted for an unproven teenager, it sent a pretty strong message that the manager is challenging Walcott to step up his game.
When Alexis comes back, I think Theo should be played through the middle or not at all. He does not pull his weight on the wing, and is simply not effective there anymore. When everyone is fit, I would much rather see Welbeck in the side than Theo if things continue the way they are now.
Where is Ramsey most effective?
During the game against Liverpool, Ramsey was often found bombing up the pitch and abandoning some of his more defensive responsibilities in the process. One such run produced a goal to level the score when we needed momentum.
I wonder though, had we been more solid in midfield and Ramsey stuck to his duties, if we would have found ourselves so exposed in the first place. Liverpool often ran right through our midfield, since Ramsey simply was not there to offer Flamini help.
I feel that in this game, he was told to be more disciplined in his positioning, which in turn reduced his effectiveness. There were no adventurous runs into the box – and therefore less chances for the Welshman to make a contribution in the final third.
I know that injuries are forcing Wenger’s hand, and had we had fewer players out, Ramsey would have been played elsewhere. I believe his most effective position is playing behind the striker. Unfortunately it is occupied by our record signing and arguably the best midfielder in the league.
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