Wenger makes case for defensive signings
Arsene Wenger appeared to hint at a U-turn on his transfer policy after Arsenal's Premier League title challenge finally came to an end with a woeful 3-1 defeat at Stoke on Sunday.
Wenger is considering whether to splash the cash on defenders during the close-season as he reflects on six years without a trophy. Arsenal have conceded the most goals from set-plays this season and once again their frailties were laid bare at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday.
And Wenger seems intent on curing the malaise and lifting his self-imposed caution on transfer spending after another wasted campaign. "We conceded 21 goals from set-plays and only 17 from open play, less than anybody else," Wenger said.
"We have been caught on set-pieces and for the first goal Kenwyne Jones didn't even need to jump. That is of course something we have to correct and we have to get some experience because I feel we are sometimes a bit naive. It was a disappointing performance and the competitive level of Stoke was higher than ours.
"Overall I think we lost the game because Stoke defended much better than we did, with much more purpose. This is the Premier League, if you don't turn up with the same competitive streak in every game you can lose games anywhere. The most important thing was not to be 1-0 down and that's what we produced when we gave away the first free kick. We were not dangerous enough."
Wenger has continued to back his players throughout their meltdown in the second half of the season and even defended them after this dreadful display finally killed off his title challenge. The defeat leaves them nine points adrift of league leaders Manchester United but Wenger refused to castigate his players.
"This team has done well overall in the season," he added. "It's not the best time to analyse games after a disappointing game and if you analyse all competitions and the number of games we've played we've done well. Of course something has gone, you can see that today."
Meanwhile, Stoke manager Tony Pulis paid to his players after this comfortable victory, just a week ahead of their FA Cup final with Manchester City. Pulis is understandably in confident mood going into the Wembley clash and he said: "We've got a cup final only six days away but the players' commitment and attitude to winning a football match was 110 per cent, without a doubt.
"I think it speaks volumes for them as a group, they've given it their best. We're very pleased to have won a game of football. Staying up three years running is a wonderful achievement. The team has improved but we've kept that DNA."
Stoke took the lead in the 28th minute when Jermaine Pennant bent in a delicious cross and Kenwyne Jones easily converted his fifth goal in six games from close range. The hosts were further ahead in the 40th minute as Pennant picked up a botched Aaron Ramsey pass and was allowed to run unopposed before his shot took a substantial deflection off Johan Djourou to loop over Wojciech Szczesny.
The only headache Pulis suffered from this game was the loss of defender Robert Huth early in the second period with what appeared a shoulder injury, making him a doubt for Wembley.
Arsenal did produce a snarl of defiance and Robin van Persie beat Asmir Begovic with a low drive in the 81st minute. But Jonathan Walters was given far too much room a minute later to clinch a sweet victory.