Szcz: In Wenger’s pre-game interview he was reminded of the statistic that Szcz successfully catches or punches 98.5% (I think it was) of crosses in which he attempts either a catch or a punch. This was palpably shown against Stoke, whose rigorous slaving on the training ground to devise such great tactics as “the long throw” or “the long ball” was used to its full might. Szcz was called into action on many occasions and proved his poise and ability by confidently making safe the majority of punches or catches he attempted, even if many punches only just left our own box. The header from Crouch was well taken and would have taken a Seaman-esque claw to keep from going in. I’m sure he’ll develop it in the years to come. There was one moment late in the game where he was successfully boxed out and couldn’t make Delap’s throw, but Sagna cleared well. 7/10.
Sagna: He gave the ball away which eventually lead to their goal, but I think we should have recovered as a team to defend their cross better. Going forward he threw in a few good crosses but I think the synergy between him and Gervinho isn’t quite what he is used to with Theo, and he wasn’t able to be as effective as he normally is. He wasn’t overly tested defensively, but did what he needed to do quite well. 6/10.
Koscielny: This was the kind of game that Koscielny has come to enjoy, one where it is brutish and he can get stuck in and battle his opposite number. He dealt well within the defensive unit to expel the numerous crosses and throw-ins which came his way and generally had a good game up against the likes of Crouch and Walters. He is doing his bid to become a French international regular no harm at all with his consistently solid performances. 7/10.
Vermaelen: He will be blamed for Stoke’s goal as he was bested aerially by Crouch, but I don’t think there is a lot you can do if Crouch picks up good positions in the box. He is so much taller than everyone else that even Vermaelen, who jumps out the gym, struggles to beat him, as was proved in the opening 10 minutes. The only way to combat Crouch in the air is to pressure the person crossing more intensely, or pressure Crouch to the extent that he misses, which is what normally happens. I thought for the rest of the game he played well, and came quite close to lashing in a power driver from a free kick late in the game, which I think he also won. 6/10.
Gibbs: He had an adventurous game up the left and got forward regularly, but unfortunately didn’t get many crosses in and often had to check back into midfield. He had a good game on the ball however and didn’t relinquish possession on any occasion that I remember. He could perhaps have done better to challenge Crouch along with Vermaelen and put him off from scoring the header, but we all know that Gibbs is weak in the air. It is something which, for me, he has to improve massively on if he is to become one of the premier English full backs in the league. 6/10.
Song: For me he was one of our best players, making a number of good tackles and battling for the ball in a typically feisty encounter. He didn’t attempt quite as many difficult passes in this game, perhaps at request from the management, and as a result we didn’t turn the ball over as many times from midfield. He intercepted a number of passes, presenting us with opportunities to counter attack. 8/10.
Ramsey: I think this was one of his better performances for us this season. Whether he was spurred on by the crowd booing him every time his leg, now not in two pieces, touched the ball, or whether he felt he had something to prove to himself, he was very good both on the ball and off of it. He performed very much the Arteta role, getting from box to box and getting plenty of touches. I think recently his defensive game has been present; it has just been the offensive department in which he has been found wanting. I still feel that he dwells on the ball a little too long, sometimes slowing the game down, but if he can keep up this level of performance then he will surely get the haters off of his back. 7/10.
Rosicky: He played with zeal and gusto, chasing down every loose ball into the final minutes of the game and never giving up on what many would have considered a lost cause. He played a superb ball over the top of the Stoke defence to Van Persie who was denied by a very good save low down by Begovic. Moments later he got his assist, crossing in from our left hand side to give Van Persie a close range tap in. He recently said that because of a two season lay off with injury that he feels 29 instead of his actual 31; judging by performance and work rate alone, it is hard to disagree with him. 8/10.
Benayoun: He worked hard as always both going forward and tracking back, but was relatively ineffectual in attack. He is a good squad player to have for games like this because you know you’ll get a solid performance, even if he won’t light up the pitch. 6/10.
Gervinho: As I suspected before the game he struggled when the game came down to physical battles, but I thought that on the ball he had a good game, bordering on his pre African Cup of Nations form. He carried the ball well and displayed good pace, often getting past their players in their half. There was a moment where for me he should have been a touch more brave and should have attacked a good cross from Sagna, but I felt he saw Begovic approaching and backed out. He also spurned a half chance after bursting through and out pacing their defence, with the angle being tight and him eventually losing his balance. I’m hoping for another starting place for him against Norwich and am expecting a good performance. 7/10.
Van Persie: He finally scored from open play, I think for the first time in eight Premier League games. He couldn’t really miss the chance to be honest, but you could see from the look on his face what it meant to him to get back on the score sheet. He forced a good save early on from another Rosicky ball over the top, but I felt that he was muscled and harried off the ball a few too many times, which isn’t often a criticism one can level at Van Persie. However his work rate was as good as ever, so can’t fault his endeavour. 7/10.
Diaby: There were enough glimpses in his performance to show me that he still has bundles of ability, and the only thing holding him back is his constant struggle against injury and illness. Whilst he looks rusty on the ball, he still took it past players, beat them for pace and looks almost as much an Arteta figure as Arteta does. Wenger’s patience is admirable, but unless he can shake this spate of injuries I don’t think his future will be at the club, even though I really wish it would be. 6/10.
Santos: Only came on with a few minutes left, leaving him no time to influence the game. I do like how we have a left back that can come on into offensive positions and do a good job though, as it increases squad depth. 6/10.
Chamakh: A rare appearance for Chamakh who did precisely what I expected him to: held up the ball well, won a few headers from our goal kicks, but didn’t look like scoring or getting on the end of anything in their box. If he was close to any kind of form in sure we would have seen him start in this game with Persie working off of him on the left or right flank, as he did a better job of holding the ball up that Persie did. 6/10.