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Stoke jinx strikes again for Arsenal

The Britannia Stadium has been the equivalent of Room 101 for Arsene Wenger over the years.

Published: 07th December 2014 10:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2014 10:56 AM   |  A+A-

The Britannia Stadium has been the equivalent of Room 101 for Arsene Wenger over the years. This was another chastening experience to fuel the debate over Wenger's future as manager and every time Arsenal visit the Potteries they receive stark notice of where their weaknesses are.

After 45 pitiful first-half minutes containing one of the most fragile defensive displays in recent memory, the 'Wenger Out' hashtag was trending ominously. He was only spared from a more severe post-match inquest by a late response in the second period which threatened to turn an absorbing encounter on its head.

Yet Stoke were still able to extend their remarkable record over Arsenal to just one defeat from the last nine encounters and Wenger simply cannot find the formula to win here.

Calum Chambers's dismissal for a second bookable offence ensured further frustration for Wenger, whose defiant claims of winning a Premier League title within the next three years appear flimsy until he addresses the problems that are staring him in the face.

"There's a lot of regret, we had given a lot. Unfortunately we were too tender at the back and when we started to respond it was too late in the game," he said.

"Defensively we missed the start of game. We gave easy goals away. We were not decisive in challenges. We gave them a good present and once we were 3-0 down, we had a mountain to climb.

We did climb, but a bit unlucky I must say. We were a bit inexperienced at the back and couldn't play Koscielny or Monreal and altogether it made us a bit softer to cope with what they offered."

There is something about Wenger and Arsenal that always seems to lift Stoke at home, with the bad blood continuing to linger between the two clubs after a number of spiky encounters. This match was no different as Wenger savaged referee Anthony Taylor for sending off Calum Chambers.

"The referee did not know what he had seen for the second yellow card," Wenger fumed.
"It was a bad decision. If Chambers had to go off today I can watch the game with you again and find five other players [who should have been sent off]. Some other people put arms and elbows in faces."

However, the Frenchman may have to look closer to home for his side and their latest failings.
By opting for the inexperienced Hector Bellerin and Chambers, two players not renowned for their aerial prowess, it rolled out the welcome mat to the home team, and suspicions over the fragility of Arsenal's back four were confirmed after just 20 seconds.

Steven Nzonzi's cross into the box created panic and after Bellerin failed to clear under pressure from Mame Biram Diouf, Peter Crouch was presented with the simple task of sweeping home from four yards. It was alarmingly easy for Stoke, the quickest goal in the Premier League this season and the first conceded by Arsenal in four games.

Wenger must have been fearing another excruciating afternoon and his frustration increased in the 11th minute when Olivier Giroud missed a routine header from Bellerin's cross. Stoke were inspired by the trickery and invention of Bojan, a player more befitting of Arsenal's traditions.

Signed for around pounds 500,000 he is undoubtedly one of the shrewdest signings made in recent years and seems to be getting better with each passing week. The former Barcelona prodigy was at the heart of every threatening moment and added the second goal on 34 minutes.

"Two-nil to the rugby team" chanted the Stoke fans, in response to Wenger's famous snipe from four years ago.

Arsenal attempted to respond again, with Asmir Begovic tipping over a Giroud header, but they were devoid of direction and leadership. Even more damning was the lack of tenacity, surely a pre-requisite when teams face Stoke.

A third goal seemed inevitable and Walters provided it on the stroke of half-time, lashing home from close range after further defensive hesitancy.

The hapless Hector Bellerin was hooked at half-time, as Wenger scrapped his approach and finally they started to produce some nervy moments.

Alexis Sanchez was given far too much space to amble into the penalty area and although he rounded Begovic his shot came back off the post, with the rebound unable to fall to his Arsenal team-mates.
Stoke could have had a fourth but Bojan's goal was disallowed and Arsenal were given hope in the 67th minute when Diouf brought down Mathieu Flamini in the area. Santi Cazorla put away the penalty and suddenly Stoke looked nervy. A clearance then fell to Aaron Ramsey whose volley from outside the area was exquisite.

Their chances seemed to flicker away in the Staffordshire cold though as Chambers was sent off for a second bookable offence, a needless tug on the ever-impressive Bojan, and despite a late bombardment, the home side did enough to carry on the curse.

Mark Hughes, the Stoke manager, said: "To beat Arsenal you have to show intensity and Arsenal at the back this year have had a lot of changes, we sensed that would be the case again."

"If we could get at them quite early, we thought they would be disorganised after a change in personnel.

"It has gone from a situation where could be 4-0 to 3-2. The game should have been dead in buried but in the end we hung on for the win."



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