Arsenal join list of Stoke’s big-name scalps
Wenger cannot deny recent away form has cost his side important ground
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger applauds supporters after the English Premier League soccer match on Saturday between Stoke City and Arsenal FC at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke. Stoke won 1-0. Photograph: David Jones/EPA
Arsène Wenger disputes the commonly held view that Arsenal tend to fade at this stage of the season – “Everybody repeats that so often it becomes an opinion, when in fact if you look at the records we have always been strong towards the finish” – though cannot deny that recent away form has cost his side important ground in the title race.
“At home we are still playing well, but at Liverpool and Stoke we were not at the races,” the Arsenal manager said of two away defeats in a row.
With Chelsea now four points ahead in the Premier League, the temptation must be for Arsenal to regroup and focus on Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Everton, except Wenger still wants to carry on fighting on both fronts.
“You don’t throw away the championship because you want to win the FA Cup. We needed to take something from this game, we were expected to perform and we didn’t. It was the sort of game where you cannot afford to make a mistake, but we did not produce enough going forward and were punished as a result.”
Stoke were not that scintillating either, but they worked hard, lived up to their reputation for spikiness and, while the game remained goalless, were always likely to snatch a winner from a set-piece or dead-ball situation. They almost managed it after an hour when Charlie Adam’s free kick picked out Peter Crouch in front of goal, only for the striker to attempt to bring the ball down rather than attack it with his head.
That was Stoke’s only chance of the game apart from the penalty that Jon Walters tucked away after Koscielny was slightly harshly penalised for handball, but the list of Arsenal goal attempts was similarly short.
“We had more intensity than Arsenal, we took the game away from them,” Stoke manager Mark Hughes said. “We seem to be able to do that against the top teams. Why we don’t do it against the so-called lesser sides is something I have been trying to work out.”