Two changes for our first @premierleague away game of 2017/18#SCFCvAFC pic.twitter.com/cixTW8AVNd— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 19, 2017
Hector Bellerin actually lined up at LWB with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right side unlike what the graphic says. Aaron Ramsey and Shkodran Mustafi were the two changes for Arsenal.
#SCFC Starting XI v @Arsenal: Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Cameron; Diouf, Allen, Fletcher, Pieters; Shaqiri, Jese; Choupo-Moting. pic.twitter.com/xo6K9GVp4N— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) August 19, 2017
Jesé Rodriguez made his first start for Stoke City after joining the Potters from PSG.
The first half was uneventful. Arsenal dominated play and threatened Stoke with some incisive through balls and chips over the backline, but didn’t have the final product and pass they need to create any good chances to score.
Stoke’s best player Xherdan Shaqiri was subbed off with an injury in the 25th minute. Saido Berahino was his replacement.
The best chance of the half came from a free kick from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the left side. His cross to the far post found Aaron Ramsey, but he didn’t have much room to shoot at with Jack Butland covering his lines well as he made a routine save.
Stoke became more comfortable as the half moved on and starting to put pressure on Arsenal by winning some free kicks. The Gunners back line with left backs Sead Kolašinac and Nacho Monreal at CB struggled to clear the crosses.
The end of the first half came with the score knotted at zeros and both teams feeling positive.
Stoke continued their solid play from the end of the first half, and got an early goal from new man Jesé from an assist from Berahino. Arsenal defended the run of Jesé far too casually and he was given far too much space to make his run into the box.
Olivier Giroud came into the game for Kolašinac marking the second straight week that Arsene Wenger abandoned the 3-4-3 formation. Wenger hasn’t been playing this formation for too long, and these last two weeks leaves big questions about its future.
Arsenal dominated possession after conceding, but were not able to find the final product needed to break through.
Oh, except for a goal from Alexandre Lacazette off a great finish that was incorrectly ruled offsides by the assistant referee. This call took away a point from Arsenal directly, and changed the momentum of the game. VAR cannot come soon enough.
Alex Iowbi and Theo Walcott came into the game for Granit Xhaka and Lacazette, but were both largely ineffective, and left the without a player to control the ball in the middle like Xhaka.
Arsenal have a case to feel they were cheated in this game by the officiating. It’s unfortunate to have one goal taken away with an incorrect call. Combine that with the questionable no-call on a Bellerin penalty shout in the first half, it’s understandable to blame the referee partially, but Arsenal bossed the game and had their chances. They again couldn’t finish against an inferior team parking the bus.
These are the type of games that have hurt Arsenal in not contending for a title in years, and for dropping out of the top four last season. It’s not the performance against other top sides, but games that Arsenal drop points against mediocre sides due to an inability to break though.
Arsenal need to find a way to not drop points in these type of games, but after seeing this trend going on for years, it’s difficult to see a major change coming.
It’s not time to seriously worry about Arsenal yet. It was only the second match, and Wenger is without a full squad with Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez set to return soon. But, these may be three vital points that Arsenal will regret dropping at the end of the year.