Lucky win? Arsenal did deserve to come out as the winners for once, but not with the usual style their known for, that hasn’t been bringing them lots of points this season. Lukas Podolski scored the winning goal, needing a lucky touch to actually see it go in, but winning ugly is something Arsenal might need to start doing more often.
Winning with the usual slick passing in midfield hasn’t been working. Winning “ugly”, through a more physical display, with tenacity and intensity usually unrelated to Arsene Wenger and his sides, might be just the way for things to open up, and for the points to start coming a bit more steadily after winning only five of them in the previous five matches.
It’s always a clash of styles when Arsenal and Stoke square up, but for once, Wenger made the right kind of mental preparations for this match. Arsenal simply stood up to a team that usually bullies them anywhere they play; Nacho Monreal didn’t show any fear on his debut with the team as a left-back, even opening a gash or two on someone’s head. Jack Wilshere squared up to anyone who tried giving anyone of his teammates some trouble.
And the way Arsenal attacked was Stokesque in style: Crosses to Olivier Giroud, and then some more. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski started on the bench, while Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got to play the wingers role, which didn’t really pave way for great football. In the few opportunities the gunners did create through their focusing on crosses to Olivier Giroud, Asmir Begovic was splendid in reacting, proving once again why Manchester United are so into him.
Arsene Wenger keeps shifting lineups and formations. Injuries and his own personal preferences, not to mention his view on fatigue reduction, cause quite a shift in the way Arsenal play from match to match. The defense is mostly safe, and so is Jack Wilshere in the middle, Theo Walcott on the wing-forward position and Olivier Giroud up front. The rest keep going in and out, while Wenger keeps looking surprised when his lack of consistency in his players’ choice doesn’t’ bring more consistent success with it.
There is no better culture shock than Stoke when you come from Spain.
Stoke represent half of what’s wrong with football for Arsene Wenger – the opposite of what he’s been preaching for at Arsenal since the moment he arrived from Japan. The other half are clubs like Manchester City and PSG, but Wenger is the one who isn’t picking up any titles. For once, at least, his players didn’t turn away from a physical challenge, stepping up to the plate, keeping their concentration in the back (especially the fragile Laurent Koscielny) and making the most of the few chances they made during the second half.
The win puts Arsenal only one point behind Everton, two behind Tottenham (match in hand). The Champions League dream is still alive, despite everything that’s happened this season, and the few moments of actual brilliant football. Maybe this is proof, that brilliance and “beautiful” play isn’t what’s needed anymore to reach the high places. Simply win, no matter how.