Arsenal FC: 5 Takeaways from 0-0 Draw Away Against Stoke City
Another draw puts Arsenal tied for 11th place in the 2012/2013 EPL table.
Yesterday's match at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium lacked what are generally considered to be the makings of a great football match.
Neither team played very well, and it was Arsenal who were mostly knocking the ball around in the opposing half, and they didn't manage to get it in at all despite the best efforts of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and company.
The most exciting moments of the match were the disallowed offside goal by Jonathan Walters, which was a tap-in flicked on by Crouch, as well as the extremely long effort from new Arsenal signing Olivier Giroud.
It isn't a good position for Arsenal, all in all.
But here are five things we learned yesterday.
You Can Shut Gervinho Down If You Play Him Right
The difference between the Sunderland fixture and the Stoke fixture was like black and white for Gervinho.
Against the Black Cats, Gervinho was wreaking havoc, running at the defenders, taking on two or three at a time. But against Stoke, something seemed very wrong.
It may just have been because he was playing on the right rather than on his natural left, but you need to give credit to left back Marc Wilson and left midfielder Michael Kightly for playing the Arsenal winger brilliantly.
Tony Pulis was completely solid on this score (as well as others), as he had Wilson denying the line while Kightly and Huth blocked other paths for Gervinho.
It seemed as if the Ivorian international was not even present since he got less touches as he performed worse and worse.
Gervinho was on the right side because Giroud was playing up top and Podolski on the left, as opposed to the German up top and Gervinho on the left.
Hopefully, Gervinho can find some way to overcome this or hope that other teams don't catch on to how to defend him.
Podolski Is Better off as 2nd Striker/Tucked-in Winger
Another player had a completely different game against Stoke than against Sunderland: new signing Lukas Podolski.
Except fortunately, it was the other way around.
Giroud's absence in the first league game meant that Podolski had to play striker, and this turned out to be a mistake from Arsene Wenger. Podi had trouble getting involved against Sunderland because he isn't a natural target man, so he wasn't winning a lot of balls in the air.
However, when he was playing deeper against Stoke, Podolski was a lot more involved with the build-up play of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta, as they linked up nicely quite a few times.
Podolski played off of Giroud some of the time, but also played out wide a little. However, he did what he is good at by straying from his wide position and floating centrally in order to take part in quick passing, which is essentially the foundation of the Arsenal attack.
Mannone Is Shaky in Goal
Yes, I know he didn't make any mistakes, but this is how it was.
Due to Wojciech Szczesny's rib injury and Lukas Fabianski's not being 100 percent right now, Italian Vito Mannone was chosen by Arsene Wenger as the starter yesterday.
My nerves were not at rest because the effect of Mannone's presence isn't even close to that of Szczesny's, since the Pole commands the team much more and is more assertive as a player than Mannone.
By this, I mean that Mannone waits for the ball to come to him more than he goes out to get the ball.
Plus, he almost fumbled the ball once when he challenged Cameron Jerome in the box, which could have lead to disaster.
Mannone may be the third-string backup, but it is at times like these that you really realize that you take Szczesny's place in the Starting XI for granted.
Diaby Cannot Fill Song's Shoes
What was initially believed to be just another empty transfer rumour became shockingly real, and Alex Song found himself packing his bags, headed for Catalonia in one of the most unpredictable deals of the summer.
And the man to replace him was supposed to be Abou Diaby.
Against Sunderland, Diaby wasn't bad but wasn't great either, as he had a performance which I would give about a six out of 10.
But it was a whole different story at the Britannia on Sunday. One of Diaby's vices of hanging on to the ball for too long was highlighted against a defensively-solid Stoke; the Frenchman tried to bite off more than he could chew by attempting to dribble past too many defenders on his own.
Even his passes were slightly off. He just couldn't seem to get anything going. More importantly, it doesn't look like he will be able to get much going for the rest of the season, either, as a player who has been horribly plagued by injuries.
It's extremely hard to fill the hole in the midfield left by the ever-imposing presence of Cameroonian Alex Song, but one thing is for sure.
Song will be sorely missed.
Steve Bould's Work Is Paying off
Newly-appointed assistant manager and successor of the extremely accomplished Pat Rice Steve Bould is in charge of the defense, having famously been a fantastic defensive partner of fellow Arsenal legends Lee Dixon and Tony Adams.
Bould's work has been palpably effective at Arsenal, because though it's hard to believe, this is the same team whose woes of defending set pieces were so extreme that a goal became likely every time a corner was conceded.
Bould has done a great job of working with the back four of Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs.
The defense hasn't conceded a goal as yet, and as an Arsenal fan, you can bear to watch set pieces being defended without your heart in your mouth. (That's a first!)
This feat becomes even more impressive taking into account the fact that the players who they have had to defend have been huge threats to the defense in the past.
Peter Crouch is a player who always causes problems for a defense, not because of skill, but because of his height. Arsenal essentially shut him down. Sessegnon is also one who hurt Arsenal last season in the FA Cup, but they managed to keep him quiet.
This isn't to say that it's perfect.
They haven't, of course, been tested yet by the likes of Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Carlos Tevez, Robin van Persie, Gareth Bale or any other superstars, so let's hope for the best when those moments come around.
As mentioned in the introduction, Giroud's attempt was amazing.
Though it may have been a little selfish, the new No. 12 finally showed his presence of mind, composure and pure skill when he almost put in a long-distance shot past Asmir Begovic in the late stages of the match.
But then again, he could have tried a tough pass to Aaron Ramsey, who may have been through on goal.
Speaking of Ramsey, it was shameful when Stoke City fans booed the Welshman as he was coming on. The kid almost suffered a career-ending injury there, and now that he comes back, instead of applauding him, the fans act like that. I still can't believe it.
I did give some positives and negatives from the match, but please leave me your comments, feedback or just random thoughts on the match.
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