After a 3 game winning streak against Borussia Dortmund, West Brom and Southampton, it seemed that Arsenal had finally turned the corner. The defensive lapses and naivety had seemingly gone and there was a new found confidence in the squad. Arsenal also had Olivier Giroud back from injury, and he could help Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez at the attacking end of the pitch. Mathieu Flamini has slowly improved his defensive game, playing a more mature role and Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all finding form at last.
But poor performances from Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers yesterday threw away all our good work over the last couple of weeks.
You know what you’re going to get when you visit Stoke City. The sad thing was they don’t play long balls as much as they used to under Tony Pulis and under Mark Hughes they play more on the ground. They will still use their height advantage at times but it wasn’t as intense as it was in the good old days. Yet we still gifted them a ridiculous 3 goal lead which was hugely preventable.
For the first goal, it wasn’t even a long, looping ball which usually causes us problems, it was a simple cross from the right hand side which Calum Chambers horribly misjudged and this causes chaos in the box. The ball bounced into the path Peter Crouch who had a simply tap in from 4 yards. It was noticeable that on the initial cross there was no leader ship from Mertesacker, and he was nowhere near the danger or ball. Where the hell was he?
For the second goal, Per Mertesacker who was our captain was once again nowhere to be seen. Another cross found Bojan who slotted in from 7 yards and had no Arsenal player within 5 yards of him. A simple goal which only Arsenal could concede. How one of Stoke’s main strikers wasn’t picked up so far into the penalty area is beyond ridiculous. While in past games you could blame the team or even the manager for our defeats, the defensive lapses from Chambers and Mertesacker cost us dearly here.
We went 3-0 down after Walters rifled in from 2 yards out after Arsenal failed to deal with a Stoke corner. Per Mertesacker opted to inexplicably leave the ball he could have won while Calum Chambers was nowhere.
So we went into the half time break 3-0 down, conceding some of the most ridiculous goals you’ll ever want to see. Mertesacker and Chambers were being given the run around by someone who is more suited to Basketball and a Barcelona reject.
Whatever Arsene Wenger said at half time seemed to work as Arsenal amazingly found themselves only 3-2 down with a good 25 minutes remaining after Santi Cazorla converted a penalty won by Mathieu Flamini and after Aaron Ramsey scored a rasping volley from a corner.
But then Calum Chambers once again hit the self-destruct button. Arsenal are threadbare at the back after injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny, so getting sent off is idiotic. Added to that, we were well in the game and looked like getting at least a draw but once Chambers got stupidly sent off any chance of a comeback was well and truly over.
A valiant effort by Arsenal which was thrown away by extremely poor performances by two Arsenal players. This is an Arsenal defeat you cannot pin on Arsene Wenger.