Something about Arsenal playing away at Stoke City just doesn’t seem to add up.
Arsene Wenger’s side have won just once in their nine visits to face the Potters at the Britannia Stadium, and on Saturday they were embarrassed, as diabolical defending in the first half cost them dear.
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Arsenal were 1-0 down after 19 seconds as Peter Crouch set Stoke on their way and it was 3-0 to the Potters at half time after goals from Bojan and Jonathan Walters. To their credit Arsenal fought back with two goals in two minutes from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey with 20 minutes to go, but the Gunners could not find an equalizer despite their impressive rally.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Wenger was pleased with this sides spirit but not their sluggish start.
“It was a bad start. They were sharper than us and we were not dominant enough in the challenges and looked a bit tender at the back,” Wenger said. “We responded very well but it was difficult to comeback. We gave absolutely everything. If you look in the last two weeks what this team has given, you have to respect the level of energy we have put into the games.”
As we mentioend, Stoke has become an unhappy hunting ground for the Gunners. Arsenal have won just once in their last nine visits to the Britannia Stadium and Wenger admitted his team were not up for the physical battle against Stoke.
“We knew from the start we had to be at their level of commitment in the challenges and we were dominated in the air and the second ball from the start on,” Wenger said. “They are highly motivated against us. It was important for us to come into half time without being down to much or down at all, because we know they had given up goals in the second half of recent games.”
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Arsenal’s boss also believed that the Potters upped their game specifically for the visit of his squad.
“For Stoke, it’s their game of the year,” Wenger added. “They have more animosity against us than other teams. In the future, we have to be prepared for more commitment. We unlock them by winning challenges and showing it from the start.”
Wenger admitted that Arsenal missed defenders Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny in the defeat and also questioned Anthony Taylor’s decision to hand Calum Chambers a second yellow card and send him off late in the game. Asked if he was angry at half time after a tepid first half display, here’s what Wenger had to say.
“Of course because we did not do what we promised ourselves from the start of the game,” Wenger said. “It is something that makes you angry… What goes through the mind at half-time? Everybody is down so you have to pump the team up and make decisions to change what can be changed. It’s frustrating to see them lose. There were a lot of positives – defensively we were not strong enough.”