Stoke’s disciplined approach stifles Arsenal as last season’s woes come to the fore once again
Be honest, who had their bet on two weeks for the ‘Wenger Out’ calls to re-commence?
After a far from convincing victory over Leicester City to start the Premier League season it all drastically came tumbling down in an all too familiar fashion as far as Arsenal supporters will be concerned, with Jese Rodriguez’s debut goal enough to bring the Gunners crashing down to earth.
It was a typical Stoke City performance, getting their noses in front courtesy of the rejuvenated midfielder Jese before shutting shop at the back and holding on for their dear lives until full-time.
However, it is the manner of defeat that will frustrate boss Arsene Wenger the most, with his side dominating for the final 40 minutes but simply failing to find a way past an impregnable defence.
Perhaps the most noteworthy statistic to surface from Saturday evening’s clash – other than the final score, obviously – was that Arsenal recorded a staggering 77.3% possession at the Bet365 Stadium, the highest figure that any of Wenger’s sides have managed since the 2003-04 campaign.
Once the hosts went in front they spent less than five minutes in the Arsenal half such was the visitors’ pressing in search for an equaliser, but despite peppering the Stoke goal with 18 shots on goal – and six on target – and having one narrowly ruled out for offside they couldn’t find the net.
It didn’t help that they met Jack Butland in inspired form, making six saves from six strong shots on target and keeping his side in it, but there’s no two-ways about it – Arsenal were extremely wasteful.
Stoke City hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Gunners in recent years, despite a resounding win last year, but the lack of fight and desire is a worry this early into the new campaign.
But that isn’t to take anything away from what was a fine rear-guard performance from the Potters, impressing with their attacking intent during the first-half before keeping things extremely tight as the match wore on, with Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma playing out of his skin and leading by example at the back.
With a crucial clash with Liverpool coming up on Sunday, Wenger will know that his side needs to regroup – and quick – or face falling even further behind the league leaders with just three matches played.
The potential return of Alexis Sanchez from injury could provide the huge boost that is needed for the trip to Anfield, but once again certain first-team players need to take a long hard look in the mirror.