Arsenal 3 – 0 Stoke City
The typically disjointed post-international break performance yielded three points while lulling the watching CSKA Moscow scouts into a false sense of security. Job done in front of a half-empty stadium.
Wenger added the usual misinformation over the time of year and international break, before hitting the nail on the head over the sparse crowd.
“It’s explainable by the fact that it’s Easter. It’s a family happening where people go away and it’s a fact that we don’t think about a lot in the Premier League. There’s also the fact that we had a break. In the Premier League, in the last two or three weeks, we’ve faced that problem. It’s just down to the fact that we’re not fighting for the championship. People know that will not change now.”
The only thing he didn’t mention was the poverty of the football on offer. We’re not tempting people back to the stadium. An astute owner will wonder how low crowds will tumble next season. Enos, apparently, is astute; let’s see.
The match itself was almost as much of a non-event as the Joshua vs Parker fight the night before. At least somebody won a prize with that; we got three points and moved closer to Chelsea in the race for desperation to find hope in your season.
The crowd will, as Wenger said, be back later this week, and the club must be praying for the Europa League run to continue because you wonder how much lower the attendances can drop in the season. That said, even elimination in the quarter-final won’t stop the majority of our remaining games being Sunday lunch-time kick-offs; the die is cast.
I’m desperately wracking my brains for positives from the match, which for a 3 – 0 win is a bizarre thing to have to do.
There’s Good and Bad Everywhere, Don’t You Think?
The first positive was Aubameyang’s “generosity”. He gave up his first Arsenal hat-trick so Alexandre Lacazette could have a goal for his confidence. Good team spirit, and all that jazz.
Lacazette’s introduction came after Welbeck suffered a back injury, knackering Thursday night’s plan up. Will that change Wenger’s thinking over the XI? He hinted it might. Lacazette “lacked the competitive edge” and it isn’t going to return in one forty-minute cameo. Can he lead the line? Do we have another choice?
Two penalties were rightly awarded to us, to the chagrin of Stoke City who bemoaned that this used to be a contact sport. It’s unusual to see an official unafraid to make those decisions, especially after the Mane farce at Selhurst Park. Then again, that was Neil Swarbrick and the VAR farces become a lot more understandable.
What made the difference? Was it the Shaqiri corner which rattled the woodwork; that late into the second half, it wasn’t anything the manager said during the interval.
Almost immediately, the ‘uh-oh’ cogs were turning. Aubameyang drew the first of a few good saves from Butland before the contentious Özil penalty award. It was right in my book, given the low bar set by other officials for contact in the sport.
Aubameyang struck it well, making it hard to save even if Butland were Stretch Armstrong.
The Gabon striker’s second was finished with aplomb. He kept it low while retaining the power in his shot from a position when all too often you see those chances balloon over the bar.
There’s no doubt he’s a confident player but it’s disconcerting to hear Wenger talk about playing him on the left. Converting a prolific goalscorer to a left-winger isn’t much of a plan, to be honest; 4-4-2 is not an option.
You Have Two Emotions: Silence and Rage
Look, it was three points and contrary to Paul Lambert’s optimism, Stoke are not alright with points going to be hard to come by between now and the end of the season. Joy to the world, and all that; the Orcs are going down with West Brom. Now, if only Southampton can continue their woeful form although I won’t shed a tear if Palace go with them.
There’s not much else to say about yesterday. It was the Godfather III of football matches. You knew it was coming, and now that it’s over, there’s nothing to write home about.