Stoke City 1 (Crouch 9) – Arsenal 1 (van Persie 15)
Man of the Match – Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)
If last week’s result bought as much as a frown on my face, today’s result, or rather results did much better to my anger management. A 1-1 draw at a rugby team, is not a bad result, at the end of the day, or in this case, towards the end of a campaign.
With just 2 games left now, Arsenal will need all 6 points against Norwich and West Brom, to be completely sure of 3rd spot. But, with Newcastle faltering, like they did today, losing 4-0 to Wigan, and Sp*rs own bad run, which has seen them lose to Norwich and QPR, it seems sealing 3rd spot could all but become a formality for the Gunners.
There were no surprises in team selection for Arsenal. With Arteta and Walcott out, Benayoun and Ramsey both started, with Gervinho on the wings. Surprisingly, for Stoke, Jermaine Pennant recovered in time, to start the match. Stoke have had a long and hard campaign, which has seen them play 52 games, including Europa league ties in locations as far as Split in Croatia, Thun in Switzerland, Kiev in Ukraine, Tel Aviv in Israel, Besiktas in Turkey and Valencia in Spain. However, their fitness levels remain appreciable.
It was, infact the home side, that made the brighter start to the game. However, Arsenal carved out the first two real chances of the game, with Benayoun timid’s shot and van Persie’s header both being saved by Begovic. Stoke got the early breakthrough, as Mathew Etherington, in acres of space, crossed to Peter Crouch and lanky striker had to just direct the ball into the net, despite the challenges of the Arsenal defence.
6 minutes later, scores were level, as Yossi Benayoun robbed Ryan Shotton off possession, and setting up Tomas Rosicky to delightfully cross for Robin van Persie, who headed in this time. It was the Dutchman’s 28th goal of the season.
Arsenal created more opportunities, but failed to trouble the scores. Gervinho should’ve gotten on the end of a fine Sagna cross. van Persie had a shot blocked, while Koscielny blazed his header over. It ended 1-1 at half-time.
The second half began, in the same fashion as the first with Stoke doing some early running, and Arsenal easing into the game. A van Persie header was easily held by Begovic. And there were more chances, as Gervinho and Vermaelen both skied their efforts. Aaron Ramsey almost scored, in the same stadium, where two years previously he had been struck with a career threatening injury, before he was bought off.
Arsenal had penalty claims turned down, when it seemed Glen Whelan had pushed Yossi Benayoun, but the referee didn’t oblige. It was Stoke, though, who had the better of opportunities to win it late on. Cameron Jerome almost did a Kevin Prince Boateng, but Szczesny produced a fine save. And in the dying moments, a Delap rocket, was almost turned in, but for Sagna’s alertness.
Now that Stoke away is out of the way, it is but natural to say that Arsenal simply must win their last two games, to be completely sure of that 3rd spot.
Szczesny (8) – Had a fine game. His decision making was spot on.
Sagna (7.5) – At fault for the first goal, but otherwise a good game. Supported Gervinho well.
Vermaelen (7.5) – A good game from him, but again seems to get caught out far too often. Lucky for him, he is partnered by Koscielny.
Koscielny (8) – Another consistent game. Rarely put a wrong foot.
Gibbs (7.5) – Was given a good run around by Pennant, but never really looked troubled.
Song (7.5) – A good improved performance after the last two games. BTW, what are his shins made of? Metal? First, Balotelli and now Whitehead!
Rosicky (8.5) – Worked hard through the game, in pressing forward and tracking back. His clever cross proved to be vital.
Ramsey (7.5) – His work rate can’t be faulted. Had a decent game overall.
Benayoun (7.5) – Had a couple of decent opportunities. Industrious performance.
Gervinho (7) – Looks too lightweight for the Premier League, and not brave enough. His shooting is woeful. Wenger has a lot of work to do with him. His game today was overall decent, made some good runs, but then gave most of them away.
van Persie (7.5) – Scored the equalizer, and then had a couple of chances to score the winner. Was always under pressure from Stoke’s defenders.
Diaby (7) – Looks well short of match fitness. By the looks of it, he has got another injury. Hope to see him next season!
Chamakh and Santos – Came on too late to get a rating.
Overall Team Rating – 7.58