On the face of it a draw may be seen as a good result for the Potters, but scratch the surface and there is most definitely an undercurrent of discontent.
The main sticking point would be the lack of attacking intent from Tony Pulis’ side from the off, something that has caused Arsenal so many problems when visiting the Potteries in recent years.
The manner of the performance is what leaves Stoke fans scratching their heads, having said that, a point against one of the country’s top sides cannot be undervalued.
Using Possession Well is the Key
Stoke have never been a team to dominate possession and certainly not against the likes of Arsenal. But to play 90 minutes of football and have the ball for only one-third of that time is quite poor.
Stoke made 21 successful tackles, the same number as Arsenal, so it wasn’t as though they didn’t get opportunity to make a pass. It was the accuracy that once again let the side down with a team average of just 63% almost 20% less than their opponents. With this is mind, who were the main culprits for the breakdown in Stoke’s play, especially in the final third:
The figures make for a pretty grim read. With the exception of Geoff Cameron, these are first team regular’s and should be capable by now of completing at the very least one pass per two attempted. The fact that this was not the case highlights both the need for increased quality throughout the starting eleven and also in the squad in general given that Shotton was introduced from the bench.
Losing Out on Tackles at Home
Stoke v Arsenal has almost become a derby for the two clubs and Stoke have been known for bullying their opponents into submission at the Britannia.
As mentioned earlier despite Arsenal having quite literally double the possession Stoke only managed the same amount of tackles throughout the game. One area that Stoke fans would expect their team to excel is in a one on one battle, however when you take a look at the number of Ground Duels Won: Stoke 39 V 51 Arsenal then it seems to confirm that Stoke really are missing a dominate presence in the middle of the park.
Stoke’s new midfield ”Dynamo” made double the amount of tackles in the game than his central partner Glen Whelan. Given it was his first ever start in the “World’s top league” there is definitely scope for enthusiasm even more so when you consider he made more tackles than anyone on the pitch (2 more than next best Arteta).
Front Two Don’t Work
Just over £25 million has been thrown at the Stoke forward line recently, with half that amount sitting on the bench. The favoured front two Crouch and Walters is a partnership that lets just say, has yet to blossom. There is a reason that Stoke scored the least amount of goals of any team in the country last season.
Peter Crouch had by his standards a poor game, low passing accuracy, no real chances and most of all no support. Crouch won 18 Aerial Duals in the game, mainly against Per Mertesacker. The sad thing was that when the ball was won, his strike partner Jon Walters was nowhere to be seen.
The fact that both “strikers” could only rack up a Passing Accuracy of 48% says it all. They simply do not work together. When one has the ball the other should be around supporting, making runs and being available for the ball; however in this Pulis set up it either isn’t allowed to happen or one of the players simply isn’t good enough, I can’t put my finger on which one.
You Have to Take Your Chances at This Level
When a team like Stoke create so little chances it is vital that when they do come along that someone can step up to the plate and take them.
The fact that Stoke did not have a single corner in the entire match is a casing point.
The one chance Stoke did create (thanks to a brilliant through ball from Michael Kightly) fell to Jonathan Walters. The crowd were on the edge of their seat for the first time in the game as he went through on his left foot; only to watch him awkwardly attempt to turn it in with his right, resulting in an embarrassingly bad paddle back to the Arsenal stopper.
It is clear (to me at least) that the Stoke forward line is need of change. Big change. The boot and rush approach to Peter Crouch is not effective in its current form and if the manager is going to continue in the same vein, with the same personnel then they WILL struggle.
Saying that Crouch did win a lot of balls in the air, which if accompanied by a supportive partner, with an eye for goal, could well have helped to tell a different story for the Potters.
Next week Stoke travel to Wigan, a team they have struggled to get the better of since promotion to the Premier League.
The transfer deadline falls just a few hours earlier and supporters will be hoping to see some fresh faces come through the door as well as a select few out of it.
- Good Read