By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger insists that the current Arsenal line-up is short by accident rather than design.
The team which faced Stoke City on Saturday was one of the most diminutive in the Club's recent history with only three six-footers - goalkeeper Manuel Almunia plus centre-back pairing Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas. Indeed, Arsenal's centre forward was the five foot four Russian, Andrey Arshavin.
It's all a far cry from the days when Wenger's team was packed with height from back to front. For example the 'Invincibles' towered above most opponents with strapping centre halves, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto in midfield plus Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry up front.
Saturday's 2-0 win against a lanky Stoke outfit proved that size does not necessarily matter. Wenger himself is adamant that the recent drop in the team's collective inches is down to injuries and not a change in philosophy.
"It was not a conscious decision [to have a shorter team]," said the Frenchman.
"We spoke about that because at one stage we had Emmanuel Petit, Vieira, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Tony Adams, they were all tall, and Anelka for example. But it was not a conscious choice.
"At the beginning of the season we started with Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, Alex Song and Abou Diaby. We were a tall team because we had the back four plus these four players and they were really tall. I think it's down to the injuries we have had. We lost Diaby, Bendtner and Van Persie together. They are three players who have an impact physically.
"When you don’t win people will find you a reason anyway. If you lose and you're tall they say you're too tall you know. I don’t think [a lack of height] stopped anybody from winning trophies but sometimes in England it can have an impact on set pieces away from home. But I looked on set pieces and we didn’t concede more than anybody else."
Wenger accepts that Arsenal don't actually score many goals from set-pieces themselves. But he attributes that to one man's absence rather than a lack of height in the opposition's penalty area.
"We don’t score many set-pieces since Van Persie has been out because his delivery was exceptional and we were quite dangerous on set pieces [earlier in the season]."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source