Sunday, 23 October 2011

Super sub Van Persie

Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City

Robin Van Persie came off the bench and scored two crucial goals to secure the three points for Arsenal. Although it was a strange decision by Arsene Wenger to leave his talisman on the sidelines, especially with a Carling Cup game against Bolton in mid-week in which Van Persie surely will not play, in the end it paid off.

Chamakh replaced Van Persie in the starting line up and proved just how reliant this team is on the Dutchman. Chamakh did not hold up and link the play and so did not offer anything to the team's attacking play. He seems to be severely lacking in confidence, highlighted by an extremely poor headed effort in the first half when he was completely unmarked. But then what are the alternatives? Ju Young Park is still yet to feature in the Premier League while the manager also seems reluctant to give Theo Walcott a chance up front. Although Walcott often struggles on the wing, and he did so again today, his phenomenal pace would terrify opposition defences, forcing them to play a deep defensive line and so creating space between the midfield and defence in which Van Persie could operate to devastating effect.

Today, with Chamakh up front, Arsenal's attack looked blunt, especially following Peter Crouch's equaliser. Arsenal went ahead on 27 minutes through a Gervinho strike, thanks to an excellent chipped pass by the impressive Aaron Ramsey and appeared to be in control as the defence coped admirably with Stoke's long throws and long balls. However one lapse in concentration would undo all their hard work. A great aerial challenge by Koscielny on Crouch was incorrectly penalised by the referee, Lee Mason, giving Stoke a free kick in a very dangerous position. Gervinho failed to pick up the run of Shawcross, who nodded the ball across the box, for Upson and Walters to set up a tap in for Peter Crouch. After half time, Arsenal had plenty of possession without ever really threatening, never getting in behind the Stoke defence or producing a killer pass. To the fans' frustration a succession of corners were simply wasted, as time and again they were easily cleared by the first man. 

The Gunners faithful cried out for the introduction of Van Persie as he warmed up on the touchline, and their prayers were answered in the 66th minute. Seven minutes later, Gervinho darted to the by-line and cut the ball back to Van Persie who prodded in at the near post to the relief of all those in red and white. In the 82nd minute the two combined similarly once again on the opposite flank to ensure Arsenal took home all three points and well deserved it was too. The Gunners could now relax and highlighted the vast chasm that exists between the abilities of both sides by spending the closing minutes of the game passing the ball between themselves to the delight of the home crowd and cries of "Ole".
Following a disastrous start to the season, Arsenal are now seventh in the league, only six points off Newcastle in fourth place. The performances are steadily improving too, with the defence in particular looking more and more assured, especially Koscielny whose partnership with Mertesacker is blossoming; Song was a tower of strength in the middle of the park, while Gervinho had his best game in an Arsenal shirt. Hopefully the team can take these positives into next weekend's game against Chelsea and achieve a good result. Onwards and upwards.

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