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By Fab4

Very disappointing, yet not unsurprising, FA Cup match. I am pissed off that we are out of the FA Cup (the easiest trophy i felt was up for grabs this year) but am not surprised by the result. With Villa, Utd, Chavs and Liverpool up next for the Gunner’s, Arsene Wenger had no choice but to field a weakened side. He simply couldn’t risk any injuries to key men. I had very little hope for the kids. The optimist in me predicted a 2-1 win before KO. I imagined Theo and Vela rampaging down the wings and Eastmond bossing the midfield. But i knew deep down it was going to be a tall order. If this was at the Emirates i would fancy us, but Stoke at home are a tough outfit for any team.

The surprise inclusion of Fabgregas gave me slight hope before KO. But even our little Spanish magician couldn’t fight against the Stoke bully boys on his own. Even the old heads at the back couldn’t deal with them. Whether you like it or not Stoke took advantage of our weaknesses, simple as that. We couldn’t cope with their physical approach and it would have been foolish to expect them too. It would have taken monumental performance’s from Coquelin, Eastmond, Vela, Traore, Emmanuelle-Thomas,  Denilson and Walcott to out muscle and out fight Stoke.

Match report:

1-0 – Stoke throw in after 75 secs, just what we needed. As expected Delap slings it in to the danger area. Fabianski comes to collect but without the needed authority, Fuller gets in ahead of him and nods it in off the post/bar.

Very little quality football from either side. Stoke’s overly physical approach is putting Arsenal out of their stride. Gunner’s danger-men Fabregas, Walcott and Vela cant get in the game enough. Denilson is getting bossed in the middle, as usual. Campbell looks assured at the back. Delap is taking the piss, spending about 1 minute per throw, drying the ball with a towel then gaining about 10 yards. No word from the ref. Shawcross stamps on Fabregas’ foot with a cynical late tackle, no card from the ref. Will we see this ‘challenge’ all over the papers and in the news?! Very doubtful.

1-1 – free kick on the edge of the Stoke box. Fabregas shapes to shoot, lays it off to Denilson, i scream ‘nooooo, don’t shoot!’ at the TV. Sure enough, he scuffs it…its going down the keepers throat but the ball takes a deflection off an on-rushing Stoke man to deceive Sorenson and bury in the bottom corner.

Half-time. Typical match versus Stoke. In your face, physical, low quality football, long balls and a goal from a set piece. Not enjoyable to watch.

Much to my surprise Stoke are the better side early in the second half. They are actually passing the ball on the floor and using Ethrington down the left. Arsene calls for the big guns. Arshavin, Eduardo and Ramsey on for Coquelin, Walcott and Thomas. End to end stuff without much being created.

2-1 – Sidibe runs down the right wing. Denilson is with him but fails to put a challenge in. Wonderful cross from the big Stoke man, Campbell fails to cut it out and Fuller heads down low past Fabianski. Absolutely no desire from Denilson to prevent Sidibe from putting the ball in the box. Unbelievable.

3-1 – As Arsenal push for the equilizer Stoke hit us on the break. Ethrington is free down the left. I sit and watch Traore fail to track Whitehead as he makes a run towards the far post. I scream at him to get goal side. Ethrington’s low cross finds…yes you guessed it…Whitehead free at the far post for an easy tap in. Game over. Basic defending mistake from the young Frenchmen. Get goal side of your man. Even when he turns and sees he has lost Whitehead, i saw no effort from him to get back and attempt to cut out the cross. Clearly Traore lacks the positional sense to be a top class full back.

So we are out of the FA Cup and another trophy is out of our grasp for another year. But what worries me more than our exit was Arsene Wenger’s attitude during the game. It seems Arsene Wenger no longer cares about the FA Cup. It’s clearly his third priority, which is understandable, but during a cup game he doesn’t lose it on the touchline like he does during a league or European match. I honestly think he wasn’t fussed either way yesterday. We win, great. We lose, oh well we can concentrate on the league and Europe now. Which some people will say is correct, given the fact that our squad wouldn’t be able to handle participating in three competitions. I just can’t help but feel we have missed out on a great opportunity to end our much publicised 5 year wait for a trophy. With Man Utd and Liverpool already out, this year’s FA Cup was wide open. Even more so now Arsenal are out.

I was particularly disappointed with three players yesterday. Traore, Fabianski and Denilson. I like Traore and he is a useful squad player but his positional sense was exposed again. Managers now target him. I have called for Fabianski to be our No.1 but he was very disappointing. I really hoped he would show Almunia how to dominate a box, but he failed within 2 minutes. He did reasonably well for the rest of the match, but as a goalkeeper mistakes cost games. I don’t want to be too harsh on Denilson but i really struggle to see what he brings to the team. Deflected goals aside, he doesn’t do enough for me to warrant his position as a regular first team player. Never takes the game by the scruff of the neck as a midfielder should. As for the other young players, they all did ok without standing out.

What do you think? Should Arsene have taken this game more seriously, or was he right to field an inexperienced side?

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