Arsenal climbed to seventh with a 3-1 win over Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium. While the scoreline would suggest a routine home victory for The Gunners, the result ultimately hinged on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s decision to introduce his talismanic captain Robin van Persie from the substitutes’ bench.
The game had begun well for the hosts. Following a huge win in Marseille, midweek match-winner Aaron Ramsey’s lofted pass found summer signing Gervinho to put the home side in front on 27 minutes. However, the lead would last just seven minutes, as the visitors levelled in trademark fashion. A high ball into the Arsenal penalty box was met with three touches from Stoke players, before a fourth, courtesy of Peter Crouch, found the net from close range, in a move which saw the visitors go from the initial free kick to final touch without the ball touching the ground.
In the latest challenge of a faltering campaign, Arsenal found themselves level at the break having surrendered their advantage. With the home support expecting a wave of pressure from their side in the second half, Arsenal continued to struggle in attack, as Wenger prepared to introduce his skipper. After his players emerged for the second half, Arsenal registered just a single shot on goal prior to Robin van Persie entering the field in place of Marouanne Chamakh on 67 minutes.
With the Dutchman’s arrival lifting spirits around the Emirates Stadium, Van Persie provided the goal threat lacking in an Arsenal side famed for attacking football in recent years. The striker linked well with fellow goalscorer Gervinho, who twice fed his skipper, following impressive work on either flank, to create two chances for him to score twice, from only three chances created after the Dutchman’s introduction. With Van Persie finding the net twice in a brief appearance, and strike partner Gervinho having a hand in all three goals, the main positive from the performance will undoubtedly lie in the potential in the Arsenal front line.
However, in an Arsenal side already depleted due to injury this season, the two key figures in this Arsenal performance are a far cry from regimented Arsenal sides of the past, with depth in midfield and attack. While the performances of Van Persie and Gervinho will be the source of great encouragement, the 67 minutes played in the absence of Van Persie will serve as an example of the lack of options available to Wenger, should the Arsenal boss find himself without either or both of his key strikers. With Chamakh struggling for form at The Emirates, the lack of a goalscoring threat for long periods of this match will be alarming to many Arsenal supporters. Although Gunners fans will be hoping to have seen the blossoming of a clinical partnership, those associated with the club may be looking to see the emergence of those around them as Arsenal look to continue their ascent of the Premier League table.
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