Arsenal lost 1-0 to Stoke in an infuriating match at the Bet365 stadium.
Up at Stoke, with dark clouds looming over the Bet365 stadium, and a team shorn of its best defenders, Arsenal had a real task on their hands. Up in the studio, BT’s pundit couldn’t resist throwing out cliche after cliche. Could Arsenal beat a bogey team on a cold night in Stoke?
Arsenal made two changes from their opening day victory against Leicester. Shkodran Mustafi and Aaron Ramsey came in for Rob Holding and Mohamed Elneny. Per Mertesacker returned to the subs bench. Hector Bellerin started on the left of Arsenal defence, with Chamberlain on his more familiar right side.
Stoke’s new boy Jese Rodriguez gave Arsenal an early scare when he burst past a rusty Mustafi and got to the byline. Cech was able to block the cross and spare Mustafi’s blushes. Arsenal responded with their first menacing piece of interplay, as a one-two between Bellerin and Lacazette released the Spaniard down the left, but his cross found a Stoke defender.
15 minutes gone, Arsenal had their first shot on target. Lacazette stole the ball off of Stoke’s midfield and lofted a pass into the run of Ramsey. The angle was tight, and Ramsey was knocked off balance by Zouma’s enormous shoulders as he took the shot and barely troubled Butland. A couple minutes later, some neat passing from an indirect set-piece found Welbeck in behind the left hand side, but his shot was also saved. It seemed Arsenal had found a weakness down Stoke’s right.
Just as Arsenal were applying some pressure, a lame corner set-up a Stoke break. Jese carried the ball up the pitch, somehow escaped Bellerin and cut the ball back to Choupo-Moting. Fortunately, his effot was tame and straight at Cech. A quarter of the way through the game, Shaqiri’s thigh could no longer support his weirdly large torso and gave way. Saido Berahino replaced him.
Butland came to Stoke’s rescue again when a expertly flighted free-kick found Ramsey sneaking round the back post. His effort was saved. Half hour in, Stoke had their first big chance. Arsenal failed to clear the ball after a succession of set-pieces, and Ryan Shawcross ended up with a free-header that he put well over the bar. Cue BT zooming in on his orcish face contorting in anguish.
It was goalless at the break, with Arsenal decently placed to win the game if they improved their end product. Or concede to Peter Crouch during a set-piece.
Two minutes into the second half and Arsenal are punished for leaving their defence in the dressing room. A poor Xhaka pass in midfield gave the ball to Stoke. Xhaka followed the loose ball, and left a big gaping hole for Jese to run into. Jese laid it off to Berahino, who slipped the ball in behind Mustafi back to the Spaniard. Monreal didn’t challenge him and he just put the ball in the corner. Easy as you like for Stoke and infuriatingly poor from Arsenal’s defence.
Arsenal responded well and continued to find runners in behind Stoke’s right. A good move played Bellerin in, but hit shot from a tingle angle was saved by Butland. Moments later, we had a wonderful opportunity. Ozil played a pinpoint cross to Welbeck, who had escaped his markers. But as Welbeck does in front of goal, he managed to do the most awkward thing possible and shoulder the ball over the bar. Then Arsenal had yet another chance. Mustafi and Chamberlain played a one-two down the right. The German cut the ball back into the path of Ramsey, but he shot straight at Butland.
We nearly paid for our poor end product when on the hour mark Stoke broke away with Erik Pieters. He whipped a dangerous ball that Berhino stooped low to head. The ball bounced up and forced a top save from Cech. They had another chance when Fletcher’s horribly scuffed shot miraculously found Choupo-Moting unmarked, but he shot into the side netting.
65 minutes gone, Giroud came on for Kolasinac as Arsenal shifted to a back four. He made an immediate impact, as his first touch set Welbeck away, but he shot straight at the keeper. If our players stopped doing that, we wouldn’t be losing this game.
Arsenal thought they got their equaliser when another Giroud flick round the corner caught Stoke out. Lacazette latched onto it and thrashed the ball into the top corner, only to find the linesman had his flag up. Replays showed that Lacazette was level and that Arsenal had been screwed by the officials again. Remember when the benefit of the doubt was supposed to go to the striker?
It was all or nothing for the last ten or so minutes, as Walcott and Iwobi replaced Lacazette and Xhaka. The subs did nothing but make Arsenal more predictable. Five additional minutes gave Arsenal hope. A minute and a bit to go, Monreal tossed a ball into the Stoke box and found Giroud’s forehead. He made awkward contact with it, and the ball went harmlessly wide of the post.
1-0 to Stoke the final score, as Arsenal wasted chances, couldn’t defend and were screwed a number of times by the officials.
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