Arsenal 2-0 Stoke: profligate Gunners get the much-deserved points

Arsenal players celebrate the opening goal

I’ll start my review with two simple facts:

  1. Jack Butland would be my MoM if I could have voted him. The man made 10 saves. That’s more than Petr Cech against Liverpool (8).
  2. If you can’t enjoy the win and the performance because Arsenal were quite profligate again (or for any other reason), I suggest you find a new team to support or, even better, a new sport to watch.

I suspect the review will be a short one today, as I’m not feeling well. I’ll thus get straight to the point.

The chances we had

“Maybe if I wanted to be critical I could say that there is too big a difference between the number of chances we created and the number of goals we scored but that will come quickly once you win your games at home.”

Frankly, we nearly played Stoke off the park in the opening ten minutes and we came out of that period without finding the back of the net, I admit I was worried. Games where you start like that and fail to score an early goal don’t always turn out the way you want them to, but luckily, it was not the case yesterday.

Ozil and Cazorla were our top players yesterday in terms of chances created, with 8 and 7 respectively (each got an assist for his troubles). Unless I’m much mistaken, Ozil created the same amount of chances yesterday as Fabregas in 5 games (lol). The German also tops the league in 2015 calendar year with 76 chances created. On a side note, Bellerin fancied 4 chances for his teammates yesterday, making him 3rd in this regard.

Ozil, influential once again

Ozil, influential once again

On overall, we created 24 chances yesterday (remember, a chance is a pass that leads to a shot), but the crazy stat is that out of those 24, 9 were big chances. A big chance occurs in a one-on-one, as a result of a shot from close range or in other scenarios in which you’d reasonably expect your striker to score. By taking 2 of these 9, our conversion rate went from 0% to 12% (last year we had a 45% conversion rate of big chances).

You can check out some other interesting bits here.

Theo Walcott vs Olivier Giroud

I’ll put it in black-and-white: Theo was extremely profligate. Out of 9 big chances we had, 5 fell to Theo: a rebound after Sanchez hit the post, a header, a one-on-one, a flick at the near post and, finally, a goal.

In simple terms, Theo had a bad day in terms of finishing. He scored the least easy-looking chance, yet horribly squandered everything else. Giroud would have been slaughtered for such a performance (indeed he was, when he failed to take any of his 6 big chances against Monaco in February).

The upside is, of course, that Theo did finally score. Also, he got into dangerous positions, ones in which Giroud probably wouldn’t have. I think a run of games will ensure Theo’s finishing improves and it looks like Wenger will give him a chance:

“He has chances. He can be a prolific goalscorer. When you come out of the game and look at the amount of chances he scored. The bigger the belief he has to score the more he will score. But he gets in good situations.”

Theo breaks the deadlock

Theo breaks the deadlock

Giroud, meanwhile, came on as a substitute and sealed the game in the 85th minute. But not before he fired wide with the goal at his mercy. It’s amazing, really. Ollie can screw up the easiest of chances and then score a worldie. I don’t have stats to back this up, but I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this.

However, I’ve liked what I’ve seen yesterday. Letting Theo rip from the start and then throwing on Giroud for 20 minutes looks to be a very good plan, one which suits both the players and the team. Theo’s impact is maximised when he starts (11 goals in 11 starts), Ollie is a devastating player from the bench. Hope we’ll see more of this over the course of the season.

By the way, do you get the feeling we cross the ball when Theo is on and then start playing through balls when Giroud comes on? It’s not the first time I get this feeling. Weird.

Ollie seals the game

Ollie seals the game

What next?

Among other things, Wenger vaguely touched on why Mertesacker didn’t play:

“He should not worry. He should just come back and play. It is good we have four centre backs and this produces a problem.

It is always a vicious circle and at some stage you just have to believe in your players and Gabriel has shown that he can play with Mertesacker, he can play with Koscielny and he can be a great defender.”

Does this mean Mertesacker has been dropped in favour of Gabriel? Cause Wenger didn’t exactly say “Per is short” or “Per hasn’t yet fully recovered”.

When I saw the squads, I thought that Mert just isn’t fully fit, yet from Wenger’s comments it looks like this wasn’t a decision based on fitness. Guess the next game will tell us more.

Our next game is the first Champions League game, where we face Dinamo Zagreb away. And a couple of days later we have a trip down the road to our old pal Mourinho. The poor lad isn’t looking too good these days, that with back-to-back losses and four points in five games. Hope we’ll be the final nail in his coffin.

Right’ that’s it for now. So much for keeping it short. Enjoy the win and I’ll be back with you with a preview of our midweek game.

Until then

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