Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke City

Morning all,

Last Monday I commented on how Monday’s always seem brighter when the Gooners have had a win at the weekend, but three wins in the space of a week, climbing to the top of our Champions League group and now 7th in the Premier League has given me a real case of the Happy Mondays…

I foolishly suggested yesterday that we all knew what Arsene Wenger’s starting eleven would be. You would think that after fifteen years I would know better than to try and second guess the man.

The back four was as expected, Johan Djourou came in at right back whilst Mertz, Laurent Koscielny and Andy Santos all kept their places *Well obviously they did, the trio may be in fine form but it’s not like we’re blessed with defenders right now, not any who can stand up anyway. Aaron Ramsey came back into midfield in place of Thomas Rosicky to link up with Mickey Arteta and Alex Song while Theo Walcott kept his place on the right and Gervinho started on the left flank. The biggest surprise was the omission of Robin Van Persie. Wenger may have alluded to resting the front man during his pre match press conference on Friday but I’m assuming not many people took that seriously because it certainly wasn’t widely reported. So with Robin amongst the subs Marouane Chamakh was given his first league start of the season.

There were no defensive replacements on the bench (see above comment marked by *). We’ll assume that the boss considered he could sufficiently re-jig if required.

The two goals aside the first half didn’t provide much in the way of talking points, Stoke seemed fairly happy to dwell in their own area, sometimes sending Peter Crouch forward to test the miasma free air. I guess it’s the kind of thing they work on in their training cave.

The Arsenal saw plenty of the ball but until the 27th minute didn’t seem overly sure what to do with it. Our front line was incredibly static and devoid of inspiration particularly Walcott and Chamakh. I’m not suggesting neither man tried, in fact I thought the Moroccan worked quite hard but without him starting to put the ball in the back of the net or at least show some sort of creative spark he’ll continue to carry that monkey on his back and I’m pretty sure that it’s not at all easy to play football with a monkey perched on your shoulders. Perhaps had Jenkinson been playing he could have picked the forward out with his crossing? In fact down the right hand side we really could have done with either Jenkinson or Sagna, Djourou doesn’t have the pace nor the nous to bomb on in the way our regular right backs do and without a man running on in front of him Theo looked even more lost then has done of late.

Just before the half hour mark the Gunners jolted into life. An Arsenal move on the edge of the Stoke box broke down and the ball fell to Aaron Ramsey who played a lovely ball over the top of the Potters defence for Gervinho to take it down and slot past Begovic to make it one nil. The pass from Rambo was exquisite and the finish by Gervinho was equal to it.

It seemed that we might go on and apply some pressure on the visitors but just five minutes after the opener Stoke were back on level terms.

Referee Lee Mason, who was as consistently poor as he always is, decided that Laurent Koscielny had fouled Peter Crouch even though the defender had cleary out jumped the beanpole and won the header cleanly. Crouch pulls this trick so often that I can’t believe officials haven’t clocked on to it yet, any time anyone jumps above him he collapses to the ground and claims to have been fouled. From the resulting free kick the Gunners decided to parody recent defensive blunders and once the ball had pinged off of a few heads without ever being in danger of being cleared it dropped to Crouch who continued his good scoring record against us.

We should have had the chance to regain our lead from the penalty spot but as I said, Lee Mason was consistently inconsistent and whilst in his eyes a defender cleanly winning the ball is an illegal manoeuvre, flinging two arms around a players neck and hauling him to the ground within the penalty box is perfectly acceptable. That is just what happened when, I think it was Shawcross, performed the kind of tackle on Chamakh that would be deemed high and illegal in Rugby, not that Stoke are that kind of team or Shawcross is that type of player…

So the half came to an end and it all seemed a little flat about the place and when the second half kicked off we were initially treated to more of the same.

It took the initial introduction of Van Persie, on in place of Chamakh, to add some spark and bring us to life. The Dutchman instantly give the team and the crowd a lift, putting Pulis’s knuckle dragging giants under more pressure in the space of sixty seconds then Chamakh had done in sixty-six minutes, and once Arshavin replaced the ineffective Walcott five minutes later meaning a shift to the right for Gervinho, the Gunners really kicked into life and in the 73rd minute regained their lead.

Gervinho made a bursting run into the Stoke box before pulling the ball back for Van Persie who continued his incredible scoring run squeezing the ball between Begovic and the near post. Nine minutes later the pair combined again, this time Gervinho collected from Arshavin, who just like the game against Sunderland was impressive coming from the bench, the Ivorian again stormed into the box and cut back for Van Persie to add to his ever-growing goal tally.

So amongst all the suggestions this morning of us now being a one man team, Van Persie will take all the plaudits and perhaps rightly so but that does seem a little unfair on Gervinho who undoubtedly had his best game since joining the club. A goal, two assists and a 100% pass completion rate backs that up.

I’m not suggesting we don’t need to see other players chipping in with a few more goals because we certainly do, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword with Van Persie. We’re now being lauded as a one man team, but if the skipper wasn’t in such a rich vein of form, 29 goals in his last 36 outings for the club, we would be drowning in the weight of newspaper columns telling us we need a prolific striker.

Hopefully Gervinho will be boosted after his performance and can now replicate that form week in week out. I would be interested to see him start on the right in place of Theo but the question becomes ‘Who plays on the left?‘ Despite his impressive cameo appearances in our last two league games Ashavin did nothing during his start in Marseille to suggest he would make the most of a regular starting birth.

It seems that Ju will get a chance to slip on his shooting boots against Bolton in the Carling Cup tomorrow night, we could do with him bagging a goal or two and pushing for more first team involvement. He certainly isn’t going to be overtaking RVP but we do need another striker finding the back of the onion bag when called upon.

Koscielny and Mertesacker were once again fantastic at the back, the boss really will have a big decision to make once Tommy Vermaelen returns. Aaron Ramsey impressed me again, the boy has such a fantastic work ethic and it was brilliant to hear his name ring out around the ground a few times yesterday.  Andy Santos continues to improve and whilst Djourou didn’t set the world alight at right back he certainly didn’t let himself or us down.

It’s all very positive at the moment, not perfect but positive. All any football team wants to do is win games and we’re doing that, as fans we can ask for little more. Of course we will ask for more, we’re never content, but let’s enjoy the positive progression of this side.

I’m taking no joy out of the United result because it came at the hands of City, had Fulham or Everton pitched up at Old Trafford and hammered Fergie’s side I would be in raptures but City… Merh! I’m also not fussed about the Chelsea result because I don’t like Warnock and I don’t like Barton. I’m glad Drogba will miss our game against the blues at the weekend but that’s about as much as I care and anyway our most important game is tomorrow night against the Trotters.

Our form, NLD aside, since the Blackburn defeat has been frankly magnificent and whatever the line up, whoever the oppositions and whatever the competition we need that to continue because it keeps spirits high and helps us improve.

I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a look towards that league cup match but for now let us bask in the warm glow of yet another victory and dream of those that are to come.

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

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The new fellas

So as one window closes another one opens, or so they say. Actually it might be doors not windows, but in this case it matters little because it is certainly the summer transfer window that has closed and will remain closed until the winter transfer window opens.

Windows don't open at the grove

Anyway it is neither windows nor doors I wish to talk about today. It’s dust, or rather the settling of it. Because now it has all settled down we can actually get back to the very simple matter of watching people kick a football and more importantly the people we’ll watch kick said football.

By now we all know enough about our early (in Arsenal time) acquisitions Jenkinson, Gervinho & AOC – we’ve even seen them play already. Oh yes, we signed Joel Campbell as well didn’t we, hmm. You know, I get more sceptical about the Costa Rican and the likelihood of him ever playing for the Arsenal with every passing day. But I don’t know why?

Anyway it is the five players who came in post OT that I want to look at a bit more, especially as we won’t be seeing much of them over the next week or so unless you’re willing to find a stream of their national sides games.

The kidnappers have made me hold this shirt

The first to arrive in the wake of the United defeat was Park Chu Young. Or you can call him Chu Young Park or Young Park Chu although he wants us to call him Ju Young Park…

It was actually the eve of Old Trafford that we first started to hear rumblings that we had pinched the Korean literally from under the noses of Lille. JYP had undergone part of his medical with the French Champions ahead of a proposed move with relegated Monaco and was thought to be in a hotel room watching the French version of ‘One man and his dog‘ (Although he assumed it was some kind of interactive dinner menu)

They call him 'Le Cat' in France

Dressed head to toe in black Gilles Grimandi crept into the Korean strikers room and knocked him out with chloroform before tying him up and bundling him into the back of an old Citroen Normale – It was completely needless because Arsene Wenger had only asked Giles to give Park a lift to the airport. Apparently officials from Lille actually did give chase in an attempt to stop the Korean talking to us.

As I previously said I really don’t know much about Ju aside from the fact he is Ji Sung Park’s cousin and he is due to return to his homeland in two years to undertake national service – frankly I can’t possibly base a profile of the man around those two facts. Can I? No..

Well the only other info I have on him is that he is the current captain of the South Korean national side and he has pledged full alligance to the Gunners cause and he was a snip at just £3m.

While he may not be regarded as a prolific scorer of goals he is certainly regard as a player with a footballing brain (which is very different to a ‘footballers brain’ such as those retained inside the heads of Paul Merson, Chris Waddle & Ryan Shawcross). At six foot he’ll add some much needed height to the side but must be wary of heading the ball in case he damages his IQ of 150.

He’ll be contending with Marouane Chamakh for the role of RVP understudy number 1 (if you can call it a competition right now?. I could probably get a game ahead of the Moroccan) now that Nicklas Bendtner has moved to Sunderland on a seasons loan – supposedly the Danes dream move… Of course it is Nik.

Along with Ryo, JYP will certainly help to bring in the cash from the far east but that is not Wenger the economists sole reason for signing either.

Better than Juan?

The next to join the ranks was Brazilian left back Andre Clarindo dos Santos (I’m assuming he’ll just have ‘Santos’ on his shirt?)

Again I know little about him (Am I even qualified to do this?) but what I do know is the amount of experience he brings to the side. After starting his career with Brazilian side Figueirense in 2004 he moved to Corinthians in 2008, either side of loans at Flamengo & Atletico Mineiro, before moving to Fenerbache in 2009.

Whilst at Fenerbache Santos competed with perhaps the worlds most famous left back, Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos. In fact Santos managed to make the left back berth his own and Carlos moved back to Brazil & Santos’ former side Corinthians.

It was during his time with the Turkish side that Santos made the breakthrough into the Brazilian national side. And had mixed fortunes under former boss Dunga. After making in roads and appearing in the Confederations Cup, the pre-curser to the World Cup, in 2009 he was left out of the side that competed in South Africa for the title of world champions a year later.

Since Dunga was replaced by Mano Memezes, after the sides disappointing showing on the biggest stage of them all, Santos has worked his way back into international favour and to date has 17 international caps.

There is no doubting that the left back position was in desperate need of strengthening. You’ll know I wasn’t too disappointed to see Clichy leave us but I was also unsure of Kieran Gibbs ability to make the role his own. It’s no slight on the young Englishman’s footballing ability, it’s just a sad fact that we’ve not seen enough of it due to his persistent injury problems.

With only the now departed Armand Traore as back up, along with the none too popular option of shifting Tommy V across to LB, it was one of the areas of our side most in need of reinforcing. That the club have gone out and signed an experienced Brazilian international to follow in the steps of Sylvinho and Juan (remember Juan?) is impressive indeed and allays some real fears.

Ze German

The third man in was German international giant Per Mertesacker.

All summer long we’ve been linked with Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Chris Samba & Scott Dann and at one point or more we we’re supposedly only hours away from signing one or more of them. In truth we had bids rejected for Jagielka and Cahill but I’m not sure how much of a real interest we had in the other two, who will now link up at Blackburn.

Mertesacker has been linked with us on and off for a few years now and I must admit I thought it was one of those lazy stories that journos used to fill column inches. I think that the fact the six foot six centre back has won 75 international caps for Germany tells you pretty much all you need to know about him. To achieve that in just six years is no mean feet and certainly confirms that we do not have another Seb Squillaci on our hands as some have strangely suggested.

As we’ve mentioned he is tall, real proper actual tall and that is something we’ve missed from our back line for a fair while now. His height doesn’t make him just a defensive version of Stoke super striker Peter Crouch, and by that I mean he isn’t just a lanky gawlper, he’s strong and won’t be bullied by Ork like centre forwards. His positional play is as efficient as his heritage suggests and he isn’t a slouch on the ball either.

£8m is a snip when you look at the £15m & £17m Everton and Bolton wanted for Jagielka and Cahill. Imagine if either of them had 75 England caps, fees of £40m upwards would be floated about which is utter madness.

My biggest concern with Mertesacker comes with the Koscielny – Vermaelen partnership in mind. Now I can’t see Ze German wanting to sit on the bench in all but FA & Carling Cup games but at the same time I’m slightly reticent to see the Kozzer & Tommy task force broken up when it is starting to show promise. That said, it was an experienced CB we wanted and it’s an experienced CB we’ve got so I guess this was always going to become an issue but it is most certainly a good issue as opposed to one of those bad ones. We all hate those don’t we?

The next in was maybe the biggest surprise of the five, even when you consider that a hell of a lot of us had never heard of JYP.

Yossi

Yossi Benayoun has joined on a season long loan from Chelsea, and for the most part I think it’s a decent move. We knew we were light in midfield especially from a creative standpoint and the Israeli certainly reduces that weakness.

As captain of his national side it is yet another leader on the pitch and the fact he has played in England for six years means he doesn’t need any time to adjust to the pace of our game. His time here after moving from Racing Santander has been quietly impressive but without really moving any mountains. But it isn’t often that a bad player slips through the Ajax academy and Yossi is certainly not that.

He’ll add that creative guile we’ve seemingly been missing so far this season and while others may differ I kind of want to describe him as a mix between Samir Nasri & Tommy Rosicky. I expect him to create more goals than he scores but he certainly has the ability to get the ball in the onion bag which is a massive bonus.

One for the ladies

If he had been our only midfield signing, then, without doing the man a disservice, I think we may have been disappointed somewhat but he wasn’t because he came in just a short while before the club announced the signing of Spanish genius Mikel Arteta.

Maybe the little midfielder can’t be described as a ‘wow’ signing but it was most certainly the one that got us Gooners most excited on Wednesday.

For as long as Cesc was linked with a move back to Barca Arteta was linked with filling his compatriots boots (So that is forever) but this summer his name appeared to have been omitted from the list of so-called pretenders to the throne until the last few days of the transfer window.

Reports suggest that we first went in on Tuesday with a bid of £4m which was quickly rebuffed by Everton but the Mersey men must have made it known that they were prepared to do a deal because we went back in the following day with an improved bid of £10m. There was a point during the malaise that it all seemed to have died a death and it created a distinct air of disappointment. It was the player himself who pushed for the move to happen and if reports are to be believed he has taken a cut in wages in order to make the move, which speaks volumes of his desire.

Like Benayoun Arteta already knows this league inside out and can make an instant impact in our side alongside Jack Wilshere. There is no doubt that he could slip into the Cesc role with ease but it remains to be seen if we’ll line up like that this season. I would imagine that he’ll take over corner and free kick duty from RVP which will be a relief, mainly because we may now score from set pieces a little more regularly.

He has everything needed to be a hit at the Arsenal as long as he doesn’t suffer any long term injuries. At 29 this is his last chance to have a crack at top level football (sorry Everton) and with that in mind you can understand why he pushed for the move after six years service with the toffees. Oh and of course he brings Mrs Arteta with him…

HELLO!

So in all the fantastic five are just that in my view. They give our squad everything it’s been crying out for and I think they all have a winning mentality and the desire to achieve as much as possible in the game. I am very much looking forward to seeing each and every one of them in the red and white this season. If only the curssed internationals weren’t delaying that.

If you like numbers and you believe they may either back up or destroy everything I have written above then take a look at these stats on all our new signings on the official Arsenal website.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

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