By Avenell Dave
Tomorrow night could well be vital for the success of Arsenal for the rest of the season.
If you look at the history books, they'll tell you that we've now won every Premier League game against Stoke at home. It's away where we have a problem against them.
Anyone who's been to their horrible windswept stadium will know that it's perfectly designed for the 1980s neanderthal football that Tony Pubis promotes.
Yesterday's match was about as one sided as a game can be and one in which Gervinho hopefully found the form he can carry into the rest of the season. Aaron Ramsey also showed the sort of quality and impact we desperately need from him every week and his chipped pass to the Ivorian was a joy to behold.
Yes, we could all see knuckledragger Shawcross unmarked at the back post when Stoke got a very undeserved free kick and our failure to pick him up or deal with the second ball underlines the need to keep working on the defensive side of the game. But while Robin van Persie's introduction and match-winning cameo got us the points we deserved, so too must Arsene Wenger find alternatives to the Dutchman to help spread the goalscoring load.
Of course we relied heavily on Thierry Henry in the past as well. But he always had a Bergkamp, Wiltord, Adebayor or even RvP alongside him or waiting in the wings.
With Carlos Vela failing to live up to expectations and Nicklas Bendtner thinking he was way better than he was capable of being, our attacking options now look very threadbare.
Despite an early goalscoring burst upon his arrival, Maraoune Chamakh has never been a prolific goalscorer and while he tried hard yesterday, he never looked like scoring. What is more concerning for a player who seems to do little more than hold the ball up, is that when a low cross came in midway through the first half, he made little attempt to stretch out a leg. That lack of positional awareness and finishing anticipation, which should be a basic, renders him no more than a passenger.
While we only have him for two years, Korean Ju Young Park has been in better form for his country and it's a mystery why he has yet to be integrated into the first team.
I appreciate that even at 3-1, Wenger wanted to shut up shop and not risk the grandstand finish that comes with our fragile confidence after conceding a goal. But even so, with Le Boss hinting that RvP has a muscular injury which could have led to another long lay off had he started the game, it underlines our need for more firepower. All the other top teams have two or three stikers of quality and, with Wenger's eye for a promising forward, how we need him to uneart another gem.
Of course, having a striker in such fine form is never a problem. But Wenger is right to worry that the Dutchman needs some rest. That's why the Bolton game will be so important, both for Park to get some game time and for Chamakh to find some form. We're getting closer to our rivals but there's a long long way to go.
The dismissal of Didier Drogba yesterday makes for a fascinating contest against Ch*vski next Saturday.