Arsenal Go Top After Easing Past Stoke
This fixture against Stoke at home was one that the fans had become accustomed to collecting three points at the end of the game. The records spoke for themselves – 14 consecutive wins at home against the Potters with eight clean sheets to match, but this was a team arriving at the back of two consecutive Premier League victories, so it wasn’t going to be a stroll in the park.
The stats boys also made us understand that Theo Walcott had 99 club goals and was in search of his century, and it goes to show how much time has passed since that young kid Sven-Goran Eriksson took to the World Cup and never handed him an appearance. The English forward had a chance early on when he received a brilliant through ball from Skhodran Mustafi but his first time drilled effort was saved by Lee Grant. Then in typical Arsenal fashion, the Gunners conceded what seemed to be a soft penalty. Granit Xhaka challenged the ‘Welsh Pirlo’, Joe Allen, in the box and his trailing elbow caught the Stoke midfielder on his face, causing Lee Mason to point to the spot. Normally, that kind of the decision was meant to be followed with a booking, but the ref chose leniency.
Charlie Adam stepped up and sent Petr Cech the wrong way to put Stoke one up. You tend to wonder when Cech would save a penalty though. I read somewhere that since the 2011/12 season, he has faced 12 penalties and conceded all. My bigger concern would be why the Gunners have conceded three penalties at the Emirates this season. What’s up with the clumsiness in the box? Only Hull has conceded more with seven.
To add insult to injury, Mustafi picked up a hamstring injury and the boss has confirmed that he would be sidelined for at least 21 days. Thankfully, we have Rob Holding that has been in good form this season and a Gabriel Paulista that can put a good shift when required. There is also a certain Per Mertesacker that is working his way to full fitness. Mustafi’s injury allowed Hector Bellerin to return to the fray, pushing Gabriel to the middle to play alongside the captain. Bellerin’s introduction proved to be a stroke of genius as he reacted quickly to Alexis Sanchez’s through ball to feed Walcott whose one-timed poked effort beat Grant on his near post to level the score. 100 club goals for our man and 1-1 to the Arsenal.
Going into the break with the draw was the least the Gunners deserved and they came into the second half with some hunger to do something more. The home side grabbed the lead when Mesut Ozil beat the offside trap to latch onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dinked effort. Seeing Grant off his line, Ozil lobbed the goalie with a looping header to score his ninth goal of the season. If he scores one more goal this season, he would reach double figures – a feat he has never achieved with Arsenal. This has already been his highest scoring season in an Arsenal jersey but he scored 11 in Werder Bremen and scored 10 goals on two different seasons with Real Madrid.
2-1 is always a delicate scoreline, so it was important for the Gunners to grab the next, and they did with another substitute, Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian was in something of a drought in recent weeks, now he has two goals in two games. Kudos to Mason for giving the advantage after Sanchez was scythed down by some bloke but the Nigerian unleashed his inner Robert Pires to side-foot the ball home.
As Walcott stated in post-match interview, ‘everybody is contributing‘ which is a hallmark of the team this season. I look back at seasons past when a certain Robin van Persie would have 37 goals, then Walcott would have 10 while the rest of the team would be struggling for scraps but this season, it’s a lot different. You’d be surprised to know that Arsenal has scored 60 goals already and we are not in the half way point of the season. Alexis has 13, Walcott 10, Ozil nine, Ox has six, Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez have five each, new boy, Xhaka has three, Iwobi, Koscielny and Santi Penalties and Sir Own Goal have two, then Chambers had one against Liverpool before switching to Middlesbrough.
This essentially means that Wenger can rely on any of his players on the pitch to do the business and it would go a long way.
All focus will be moved to Everton, that continued their rot with a 3-2 loss to Watford but the Gunners would have to put a leash on Romelu Lukaku that found his scoring boots with a brace after a four-game dry spell.
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