Stoke 3 Arsenal 2: Hard lesson for Arsene Wenger’s ‘soft’ young defence

Wenger acknowledged that Calum Chambers may need to work on his positioning

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The Independent Football

Mark Hughes said he fancied Stoke City’s chances of victory against Arsenal the second he saw the opposition defence, again raising questions about Arsène Wenger’s recruitment policy.

The Arsenal manager himself used the word “soft” to describe his back line after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at the Britannia. And when Hughes was asked whether a defence featuring so many young players increased his optimism, he replied “yes”.

“We expected [Laurent] Koscielny to play, so that was a surprise [when he did not],” the Stoke manager said. “When you’ve had changes in the back four, as we’ve had in recent weeks too, it can upset the balance of your team.”

That was instantly illustrated as Peter Crouch scored after 18 seconds, and Stoke were 3-0 up by half-time. Wenger admitted Arsenal’s defence may have been “a bit young”, with two 19-year-olds in Hector Bellerin at right-back and Calum Chambers at centre-half.

The latter was sent off for a second booking and, although Wenger described that as a “killer” and railed against the decision, he acknowledged Chambers may have to work on his positioning. “Maybe, yes. He has to learn. We were a bit young today at the back, and defending is a job for all of the people,” Wenger said.

At the same time, Wenger appeared oddly content to get out of Stoke with a defeat that was not as bad as it might have been. He did say Arsenal’s second-half comeback to bring the score to 3-2 made it “unbelievable [we] didn’t get anything out of this game just because we didn’t start well”.

The comment itself is almost unbelievable, given Arsenal’s recent history of poor starts. Wenger put this latest instance down to the fact Hughes’ side specifically raise their game for Arsenal.

“They played a game where we had problems to cope,” he said. “I watched them many times on television. They are especially motivated against us. You do not see them as much up for it [in other games as] against us.”

Chambers.jpg
Chambers ‘has to learn’ after his performance and dismissal at Stoke, says Wenger

Hughes denied that, but it was a feeling later confirmed by Jon Walters and Crouch.

“There’s a bit of history, words have been exchanged,” Crouch said. “Things have happened in the past, there is a little bit there. So it’s always nice to win for the fans.”

Bojan Krkic was also great to watch for Stoke, and Crouch jokingly compared him to Lionel Messi.

“He was built up, a young kid playing for Barcelona, it’s always going to be difficult to live up to Messi’s standards,” Crouch said. “We’re lucky he chose to play for us and hopefully his form continues.”

As regards another former Barça player, Wenger confirmed Alexis Sanchez would be rested for tomorrow’s Champions League trip to Galatasaray and not travel.

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EUROWATCH - YILMAZ SHINES FOR GALA

Galatasaray got in gear for tomorrow’s Champions League visit of Arsenal to the Turk Telecom Arena with a 2-1 win over Akhisar Belediyespor on Saturday. Burak Yilmaz scored in either half, both from free-kicks by Turkey midfielder Selcuk Inan, to give last season’s Super Lig runners-up a two-goal lead before Greek striker Theofanis Gekas replied with four minutes left.

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