Arsenal FC: Gunners' Keys to Beating Stoke City in Second EPL Fixture
Michael Kightly scored in the first half for the Potters, but a late penalty from Reading striker Adam le Fondre salvaged one point for the newly promoted side.
The next match for Arsenal will see them traveling to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke, which is by no means an easy match.
That said, it is a very winnable match: not at all beyond their reach. However, there not only have to be changes from what happened last week, but also there are some crucial elements specific to Stoke which Arsenal must be prepared for.
Here are five keys for Arsenal to beat Stoke.
Beware of Throw-Ins
Stoke City have the luxury of effectively having set pieces from throw-ins, and not only ones near the corner flag.
When Rory Delap goes to towel off the ball in touch, it can be anywhere in the attacking third. As the opposing team, you are scared. He has a cannon of a throw, which is amazingly useful for Stoke, because sometimes it can be easier to throw accurately than to kick accurately.
This is especially bad for a squad like Arsenal, who have problems defending set pieces in the air. (It makes me think of when Ricardo Fuller scored a header off a Delap throw against the Gunners in 2008 to give Stoke the lead.)
Especially with the likes of Peter Crouch up front. Arsenal are going to have to be solid in the air like they were against Sunderland.
Start Giroud Up Front, Not Podolski
Against Sunderland, Olivier Giroud didn't start for Arsenal. Instead he was a second-half substitute, which meant that Lukas Podolski had to play striker.
Arsene Wenger making a tactical miscalculation is not something that you see very often, but this was it. Podolski had trouble getting involved in the passing play, partly because he is not a natural striker, but a midfielder.
This is why Arsenal have to start Giroud up front and move Podolski back into the midfield instead of Diaby, and maybe have Arteta hold. The Spaniard did a great job of making tackles last Saturday, something which is fairly new around the Emirates.
Despite Giroud's bad miss, it is not something that anyone needs to dwell on, because everyone knows that the No. 12 is a clinical finisher.
This formation change will help Podolski greatly.
Width in the Attack
Stoke City's back four consists of fullbacks Marc Wilson and Andy Wilkinson, as well as center-backs Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross.
The partnership of Huth and Shawcross is very good, but Wilson and Wilkinson aren't as solid as their teammates.
For this reason, Arsenal have to try to find width when they go forward, instead of trying to channel everything down the middle, down the throats of Huth and Shawcross.
Theo Walcott may not have played very well against Sunderland, but he can always use his pace to good use. On the other hand, Gervinho was fantastic in Arsenal's opener, dancing around defenders and creating chances.
Walcott and Gervinho against Wilson and Wilkinson are matchups that favor Arsenal.
Harass Peter Crouch
Peter Crouch may not be the most talented player, but he is a tough man to defend, kind of like Theo Walcott, but for a completely different reason.
At 6'7" (2 meters), the Englishman is a devastating target man to hold the ball up. When he is on the pitch, his teammates have the option of finding him from anywhere, simply floating the ball high in the air and hoping that the giant will reach it.
Crouch will tower over Arsenal's first-choice center-backs: Vermaelen is 6' (1.83 m), Koscielny is 6'1" (1.85 m), but Mertesacker is 6'6" (1.98 m), only one inch shorter.
If Arsenal go with the shorter two to defend Crouch, since Koscielny should be back from injury, they have to annoy Peter Crouch, get under his skin.
On long balls, they have to be physical, maybe double up on him on some occasions, or even try to win the ball by blocking the aerial route and trying to keep the ball at Crouch's feet.
Especially on long throw-ins from Rory Delap, Arsenal must make sure that he cannot latch onto any headers.
Composure in Front of Goal
Missing chances is something that has come with the Arsenal teams of the last few years. And now with the loss of Robin van Persie, it will be even more apparent with the Gunners.
Olivier Giroud had an absolutely horrible miss against Sunderland, which may have been the winner, but the Frenchman said why he missed. From Arsenal.com:
If it had been on my left foot, I probably would have taken more time. It was on the right foot...that’s all. I'll have to work my right foot.
Though it is the moment that most people remember from the game, you can look at the positives of that very play. Cazorla showed his dribbling ability and vision in order to set Giroud up, and Giroud showed good positioning to make that run.
Next time, he will probably make that shot.
Gervinho and Walcott need to also be better when they are through on goal, while Arteta needs to be shooting some more.
It will be a tough battle for Arsenal, but I think they will be able to grab the 2-1 win, with Crouch scoring first off of a Delap throw-in, but Giroud and Cazorla winning it for the Gunners.
It will be a physical game, as Stoke are tough as nails, and there may be a few yellow cards, maybe even a red.
Hopefully, the likes of Alex Song and Robin van Persie won't be missed too much in the next few games for Arsenal, but I think that Cazorla, along with Eden Hazard, will turn out to be the best signing of the summer transfer window.
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