Arsenal set for defensive crisis against Stoke?

Against Leicester City, Arsenal showed a weakness against the high ball into the box. A weakness which Leicester City exploited ruthlessly with all 3 of their goals coming from crosses into the box.

In Arsenal’s defence, they were playing two left backs and a 21 year old Rob holding at centre back. But it is not really a defence, in both ways.

Leicester continually played balls down the channel between Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin, which dragged the only centre back out of position. This left space in the middle for Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki to attack.

Arsenal were also poor at corners. They lacked leaders at the back, someone to take control of the situation and get his head on it. So often this man is Olivier Giroud, but with him playing second fiddle to Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal looked short at the back. Literally.

Up next is Stoke City. And there are reasons to worry.

Stoke City have one of the narrowest pitches in the league and have destroyed Arsenal before using the simple game plan of swing as many balls into the box as possible. If over the next few days Arsenal do not develop a game plan to deal with the high ball, the side will once more struggle.

Laurent Koscielny is still out suspended. Stoke City will be the third game after the silly sending off on the last day of last season which caused him to miss the cup final.

Also missing from the game against Leicester was club captain Per Mertesacker.

Having been involved in a gruesome clash with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill at the Community Shield, his wound had not sufficiently repaired itself in time for the victory over Leicester.

The Arsenal website does not have him listed as injured, but they do list Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey as out. My bet is the lad who updates the website is currently face down in a gutter in Magaluf.

Mertesacker’s height in the middle of the park would be key against a side like Stoke City. And his organisation and leadership would see both Holding and Monreal perform better.

Shkodran Mustafi was fit enough to be on the bench against Leicester. Another weeks training under his belt and he should be fit to start against Stoke City. Gabriel is 100% out – injured and set to be sold.

Taking into account the threat faced by Stoke City, if Mustafi and Mertesacker as fully fit, it would be worthwhile playing both alongside Rob Holding. It would even be worth starting Olivier Giroud upfront.

If Arsenal do start with the same defence as they used against Leicester, Arsenal’s travelling fans could be in for another tough day in the grim city.

Keenos

 

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