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Stoke’s disciplined approach stifles Arsenal as last season’s woes come to the fore once again

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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.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Arsenal

Criticism of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson unfair? stats suggest he’s England’s best option

The midfielder came under scrutiny for his latest performance.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time header ensured England started the tournament with maximum points, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of points in Volograd.

A promising opening 20 minutes was encored by ponderous and slow football in the second half, after the team began looking seemingly affected by Tunisia’s equaliser.

The additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added impetus and purpose to the attack late on.

But prior to that, England struggled in pursuit of a second, and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson came under fire for what was deemed to be a lack of creativity.

Photo: Getty Images

Many fans were questioning the omission of Jack Wilshere from England duties, as Gareth Southgate opted for the Liverpool man as the regular in central midfield. But last season’s statistics show some maybe being preemptive in wanting to replace the 28-year-old this World Cup.

Squawka stats (below) show that the Liverpool man was superior to both Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere in all aspects of midfield play in the Premier League last term, suggesting he could very well be the right man to continue starting for the Three Lions.

The former Sunderland man bested his two counterparts for number of forward passes, average pass length, key passes, tackles won, aerial duels won and chances created (all per 90 minutes), which sheds some light on why he’s a regular in Southgate’s team.

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Fans criticise Jack Wilshere omission after Jordan Henderson’s ‘toothless’ England performance

Gareth Southgate’s bold decision is already being questioned.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time winner ensured England started the tournament with a victory, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of the points in Volgograd.

After a promising opening 20 minutes, England’s shortcomings in front of goal were punished as Tunisia were awarded a penalty – using VAR – and Ferjani Sassi equalised from the spot, heaping pressure on Gareth Southgate’s outfit to score a second.

But creativity was scarce from the Three Lions, in what was a stressful and frustrating half to watch for the nation.

Photo: Getty Images

And Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has come under fire for his performance in the heart of the midfield, with many believing that Arsenal‘s Jack Wilshere would have been more creative and imaginative in central midfield, if he wasn’t omitted from international duties this earlier this summer.

Henderson frequently opted for possession over creativity and was guilty of taking too many touches in the midfield yesterday, particularly in the second half and the speed of play was directly affected as a result.

Here’s the Twitter reaction:

By no means did the 28-year-old have an awful game, but his choice of pass was often safe and as a result England lacked impetus and drive in the second-half, until the additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added a spark in the final third.

Gareth Southgate will often opt for control in central midfield against tougher opposition – with Belgium on the horizon – but against the likes of Tunisia and Panama, the side can afford to take more risks and be more inventive, and the decision to leave Wilshere at home is already being questioned after just one game.

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Crystal Palace fans thrilled with reports of Jack Wilshere interest

Crystal Palace fans are keen on the reported deal.

Jamie Watts

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Crystal Palace are keen on landing long-serving Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, if the 26-year-old leaves the Emirates this summer, according to reports from Evening Standard.

A move to Selhurst Park would reunite Wilshere with Roy Hodgson, his former England manager and a coach, whose belief in the Gunner is undeniable.

Hodgson displayed his admiration for the midfielder, after taking him the 2016 Euros despite him barely playing all season and he believes he could add the perfect balance to the Eagles’ midfield alongside enforcer Luka Milivojevic.

Photo: Getty Images

Wilshere was left out of the England squad for the World Cup this summer due to his diminished role with Arsenal, and revealed his “disappointment” on the day through his official Twitter account.

It now appears he will prioritise making himself essential at both club and international level next season, and that is unlikely with Arsenal.

Having improved his fitness, which has widely been considered his primary weakness, making 38 appearances in all competitions last season, Wilshere could become a serious asset at Selhurst Park, and fans have taken to Twitter to discuss the reports.

Here’s the reaction:

Yohan Cabaye’s situation is currently unresolved at Selhurst Park, with reports suggesting that the 32-year-old could potentially move to Ligue 1 giants Marseille this summer, and the Frenchman would need replacing.

Having joined in 2015 for £10 million from French champions Paris Saint Germain, the veteran midfielder played a key role in the Eagles relegation survival, acting as the catalyst for control and mobility in the centre of the park.

Photo: Getty Images

And Wilshere would play a similar role. His agility and vision are reminiscent of Cabaye, but he has far more left in the tank.

It is safe to say the Englishman would be a real coup for Hodgson at Palace this summer and the fans agree its a deal the club should make happen.

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