Monday, 9 May 2011

Stoke 3-1 Arsenal: Chalkboards

For the 3rd time in four visits to Stoke since 2008, Arsenal have ended up on the losing side and yet again after going behind to an early set piece goal. Here are a few interesting chalkboards courtesy of the Guardian.


Stoke were quicker to the second ball throughout, recovering possession with 27 of their 38 clearances (71%). The home team were constantly able to break out of danger zones, and consequently Arsenal were unable to exert extended pressure on Stoke's backline.

Arsenal on the other hand only managed 10 successful clearances out of 26 (38%). This proved costly when Walters scored Stoke's 3rd to kill the game off, pouncing on a poor clearance from Djourou before any Arsenal defender could react.


Stoke's interception chalkboard sums up their defensive strategy well. They were quick to get men back behind the ball (Arsenal's tempo also played a part), defending their 18 yard line well and looking to block Arsenal's passing lanes through the middle. Overall they made 20 interceptions to Arsenal's 12. Only 1 of them was in Arsenal's half, though it proved vital - Pennant latched onto Ramsey's lazy backpass and exploited the space in between the lines to fire in Stoke's second.

Stoke's passing

As with most opposition sides, Stoke targetted Arsenal's left flank, which was even weaker than usual due to Clichy's absence. Kieran Gibbs had an average game, and for Stoke's 3rd goal he failed to deal with a diagonal ball out wide, allowing Stoke to build an attack down that side and score.

See 0:45 in the following video: (credit to Arsenalist)

                      stok2131h68 by arsenalist

Laurent Koscielny

In general Koscielny has been a very good performer this season, forming a good understanding with Djourou and doing an excellent job in closing down opposition attackers early.

When playing a high line his value cannot be questioned, but when forced to defend inside his own 18 yard box he has displayed a certain level of vulnerability. His natural game is to win the ball early, getting tight and  nicking the ball away with an out-stretched leg, but inside the box this approach is something of a liability. Therefore, when defending deep he has at times been reckless, trying to win the ball at all costs and leaving gaps/conceding several penalties in the process. At other times he's been unsure of himself, wary of conceding fouls but not understanding some of the positional requirements of defending deep/soaking up opposition pressure.

This flaw to his game was evident again during Stoke's 3rd goal (skip to 0:50 in the above video), where he chased the ball out of the box and in the process ended up leaving a gap for Walters to exploit a couple of seconds later (granted it was a poor clearance from Djourou).

2nd half substitutions

At the start of the 2nd half, Wenger threw on Bendtner and Chamakh, giving Arsenal a very attacking 4-4-2 shape with Bendtner coming in off the left. Van Persie dropped deeper and Chamakh assumed the centre forward role, looking to play with his back to goal as usual. The Morroccan completed 26 out of 29 passes, and won 3 out of 4 tackles, adding a different dimension to Arsenal's attack.

This gave van Persie much more freedom than he had in the first half (where he only recorded 1 shot). After the break he managed to fire away 4 shots, 3 of them on target (including the goal) - all straight down the middle.

Chamakh was vital in creating space for van Persie. His tendency to drop deep, control it neatly (the Morroccan has a great touch, which is often overlooked) and lay the ball off quickly - drawing a marker towards him in the process - was very useful, and led to 2 great chances for the Dutchman, one of them a goal.

The first was on 73 minutes - Chamakh controlled the ball well from a goal kick, drew Stoke's right back out, and laid it off to Wilshere. Wilshere spotted the gap in behind Wilkinson and threaded the ball into the space for Bendtner, creating a golden chance for van Persie which was saved at point-blank range. See the following video:

                      stokrvpchance467 by arsenalist

The goal (see first video) was a culmination of the effect of the 3 Arsenal substitutes. Rosicky - twisting, turning and probing as usual - played a good forward pass between the lines. Chamakh, with his back to goal and drawing the attentions of Wilkinson, flicked the ball quickly to van Persie. Bendtner made a run to the left, dragging a centre back with him and giving van Persie enough room to fire away his 6th right-footed goal of the season.

Unfortunately the comeback was short-lived, but the one positive that can be taken out of this game (as with the 2-2 draw against West Brom and 2-1 win over Everton) is that a modified, attacking 4-4-2 is a decent plan B.