The Sunday game against Stoke was my first chance watching any incarnation of Arsenal since last May and as predicted there were some good points and bad points that caught my eye. I felt they started the game with a lot of energy and speed and basically controlled the pace of the match. Abou Diaby actually stood out for the first 20 minutes as it’s as good as I’ve ever seen him play. However, like the rest of the squad, he faded over time. But he showed he has the skills to move the ball forward by either making the smart pass or carrying it himself when he’s so inclined.
I’ve seen Lukas Podolski play many times before and feel he’s a world-class player. He showed an excellent work rate at both ends of the pitch and played his usual physical style. As for Olivier Giroud, I’m still not sure what the Gunners are going to get from him, but he showed he isn’t afraid to attempt the remarkable when going for goal. Santi Cazorla looked impressive in the midfield and looks like he definitely has an eye for the game. He could be a key ingredient this year concerning the success or lack of it for this squad.
I wasn’t impressed with Gervinho and haven’t been ever since he came to the club. I don’t see him bringing anything tangible to the team. He doesn’t penetrate in the offensive zone other than the odd run. Nine times out of 10 he simply takes the safest route there is by playing the ball laterally or backwards. There are much better options than Gervinho and Arsene Wenger brought them onto the pitch later on as substitutes in the form of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
I would have started Walcott instead of Gervinho as the Ivory Coast international just slowed things down when Arsenal reached the last third of the pitch. None of the defenders really stood out for me and this is probably a good thing as it means they’re going about their job effectively without making any major mistakes. On the whole, they defended well when they had to and Italian keeper Vito Mannone was there when called upon. I don’t think anybody’s really seen Mannone play enough games for Arsenal form a solid opinion of him, but I’m still not sold on Wojciech Szczesny being the Gunners' first choice keeper.
I feel an upgrade in goal would strengthen the squad. There are going to be several more times when Arsenal are going to struggle at finding the back of the net this season and a world-class goalie is needed to help secure 1-0 wins. Gone are the days when you can afford to perhaps slip up and make a mistake by allowing a soft goal and having the firepower to answer with a goal of your own. This team is going to find it a little hard to come by this season when it comes to scoring goals.
On the downside, there were a few instances when Diaby got a little lost as the game went on and the club still isn’t shooting as much as they should be. Mikel Arteta didn’t have one of his best games either. The team simply has to create more chances in the offensive third and needs to make sure their conversion rate is in the top four in the league to succeed this season. Getting two clean sheets in the first two games is obviously something to look upon as a positive, but getting shut out twice in a row isn’t anything to write home about.
The points at the start of the season are just as important as the points at the end of the season. Unfortunately, Arsenal has dropped 66.6 per cent of their points after two games and as Man United found out last season, this, and a lack of scoring, could come back to bite them when May rolls around.
From a neutral point of view, Arsenal looked pretty impressive to me and it wasn’t a bad game to watch. However, club fanatics probably have a lot more to say and are obviously more opinionated. I’d like to hear what you thought about the squad’s performance against Stoke in particular and over the course of the first two games.