Arsenal’s loss to Stoke City on Saturday yet again underlines the defensive frailties inherent at the North London club and the disappointment expressed by fans and supporters of the Gunners has been met today with manager, Arsene Wenger giving an insight into the team selection and the reasons for some of the decisions he made during the match. Arsenal started the match with Olivier Giroud as the point man upfront, Hector Bellerin as the right back and Calum Chambers pairing Per Mertesacker in the heart of the defence. These were the changes from the team that defeated Southampton 1-0 at the Emirates in the English Premier League fixture before last weekend. However, against Stoke City Arsenal had Laurent Koscielny and Danny Welbeck on the bench and many fans have pointed that fact as the reason why Arsenal performed poorly in the first half of the match.
Arsenal fell 3-0 in the first half of the game courtesy goals from Peter Crouch, Bojan Krkic and Jonathan Walters before Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey scored 2 goals in the second half to bring the score line to 3-2. However, the criticisms from fans have been much of the reason why Danny Welbeck didn’t start the game than the defensive frailties which was understandably forced to happen due to injuries. When asked about Welbeck’s omission from the starting line-up, Wenger said: “Danny has played a lot, he had a little groin problem. He could have played. I rotated a little bit because I wanted to give him a breather. I had to respond at half-time unfortunately and it looked like he was alright. We have three or four strikers from game to game and not everybody can play. As Alexis Sanchez has played every game, he has to dig deep in an every game. At some stage you have to rest the players.”
While Olivier Giroud’s inclusion was somewhat justified with the brilliant cameo appearances the French attacker had against Manchester United and Southampton, the talk of not starting Danny Welbeck stems from the fact that the French man has not gotten to the top form that is capable of excellent 90 minutes displays for Arsenal against English Premier League oppositions. The EPL is known for very physical and heavily built defenders and any attacker playing against such oppositions should not only be physically fit but also in very top form to make an impact in the EPL. However, Giroud toiled all match long without a significant impact on the game leaving Cazorla, Chamberlain, Sanchez and Ramsey to do all the assault on Stoke. Welbeck was later brought on in the second half but the damage done to Arsenal was far too heavy for the 23-year-old forward to amend.
On the defensive front, the changes made against Stoke were both precautionary and forced as Koscielny sat the match out on the bench to allow Chambers play alongside Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal was simply absent, while Bellerin operated from the right side of defence. On that situation, the manager said: “We were a bit inexperienced at the back- we couldn’t play Koscielny or Monreal and we had Debuchy out as well. We were altogether a bit soft to cope with what they offered us.” Wenger would reportedly rest Alexis Sanchez against Galatasaray for the Gunner’s final UEFA Champions’ League match and may be a couple more players as Arsenal has already made it through to the next stage of the competition alongside Borussia Dortmund.