Watching the Arsenal team take on Stoke felt like watching the Tortoise race the Hare, but knowing full well the Hare will emerge victorious, with no room for an upset.
The Arsenal team was lacking pace, originality and a genuine desire to win the game. They seemed slow, lethargic and all too ready to accept leaving the Britannia Stadium with a draw.
That had to change, with Laurent Koscielny conceding a penalty in the 76th minute. Up steps Jonathan Walters and confidently converts the penalty, sending Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way. Arsenal were 1-0 down with 15 minutes to go. They had to find a way to salvage a draw, to keep themselves within touching distance of Chelsea. What was their response? They didn't turn up.
The Britannia has been a tough place to come with United and Chelsea losing there, and City only managing a draw. That being said Arsenal cannot complain about this loss. Their performance was weak and below par, a stark contrast from last week's demolition of Sunderland.
They were pushed around by Stoke, who for their own part made some horrible challenges on the Arsenal players. Charlie Adam should've probably been sent off twice during the game, with the referee also having a very poor game.
The performance of substitute Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain was the only bright spark in a horrid day at the office for the Gunners, with his inclusion providing some much needed energy and incisiveness to the bland Arsenal attack. He was Arsenal's best player, despite being on the pitch for a meagre 20 minutes.
He provided the young Frenchman Yaya Sonogo with a gilt-edged opportunity five yards from goal, which he skied. He was a constant menace on the right flank for Arsenal and one wonders why he wasn't brought on earlier, when it was glaringly apparent the plan was not working.
The loss at Stoke puts the Gunners four points behind Chelsea, in third with Liverpool sneaking above them on goal difference. The familiar feeling of impending doom that has surrounded the Arsenal fans when push comes to shove, seems upon them again.
It's almost like a poor kid being told every year at Christmas that this is the year things get better, but he's still waiting. Arsenal have the highest ticket prices in the country, they now have the finances to compete with the richest clubs in the world and must, by hook or by crook win a trophy this season. They have gone nine years without a trophy and for a club of Arsenal's stature, that is not good enough. Pure and simple.
They are virtually out of the Champions League with a 2-0 defeat at home against Bayern Munich, after having conceded two away goals. They have to go to Munich in two weeks' time, score three goals and hope to keep one of the most free scoring teams in Europe, quiet.
The Premier League will go down to the wire, but with Arsenal having arguably the toughest fixture list of all the title contenders, things seem difficult on that front as well. The FA Cup seems like their best bet, with them entertaining Everton at the Emirates next and only Manchester City still left in the competition, from the big five.
March madness is what Arsenal fans have coined the month of March for obvious reasons. Will it be delirium or despair, that lingers at the Emirates come the end of the month?
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