Forget bogey-teams, this was a case of bogey-manager
Yes, Arsenal often struggle against Stoke City, but they would also be glad to see the back of Potters boss Mark Hughes.
The former Welsh international has overseen victories against the Gunners for four different sides – the first manager to do so in the Premier League. Before yesterday’s 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium, Hughes oversaw wins for Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers.
Arsenal are not in free-fall, but they are increasingly erratic
Following their 5-1 defeat to Liverpool, questions were asked of Arsenal’s ability to see out this title race after an outstanding start. The goalless draw at home to Manchester United was better but not great, while the FA Cup victory over the Reds was sweet if not exactly ample revenge.
But after that slow return to a semblance of form, Arsenal then lost at home to Bayern Munich (which, to be fair, most do) before putting Sunderland to the sword in impressive fashion only to stumble against Stoke.
In short, they are up-and-down, and a club with title aspirations cannot afford to be so erratic with the run-in fast approaching.
Wenger may already be regretting a frugal January
When the January transfer window opened, you would have been hard-pressed to find an Arsenal fan who did not want Wenger to sign a new striker. In the end, he did not, with only the injured Kim Kallstrom arriving in what proved to be an anti-climactic month for the Gunners faithful.
Arsenal needed a goal yesterday, and when a gilt-edged chance fell to Yaya Sanogo, he failed to capitalise.
The 21-year-old has huge potential, but Wenger is over-reliant on Olivier Giroud and he may live to regret not digging deep for one more addition in the post-Christmas sales.
Rumours of Ozil’s demise may be premature
When people have spoken about Arsenal recently, they have almost invariably got on to the topic of Mesut Ozil pretty quickly. The German play-maker started his Arsenal career in impressive form, but has dipped in recent months, with some blaming the winter schedule and others saying – perhaps unfairly – that he does not perform in big games.
He started Saturday’s match on the bench, but he added some sparkle when he arrived as a second-half substitute and he could have scored late on. His form will return; he is too good for it not to.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald