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Arsenal Go Top After Easing Past Stoke

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

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.

Sayonara.

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Stoke Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

We are back to the Premier League with Arsenal taking on a Stoke side that has picked up form in recent weeks. Considering their poor start to the season, Mark Hughes has steadied the site at the Bet365 stadium, winning five and drawing three of his last nine Premier League matches. However, Stoke’s record at the home of Arsenal is downright terrible with the Potters getting their last win as far back as 1981. The Gunners have beaten Stoke in their last 14 home games, notching up eight clean sheets in the process.

Arsene Wenger did well to shuffle the squad in midweek, making six changes to the side, and he must be very happy with the result, as the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Lucas Perez in particular, contributed immensely to the overall outlook of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they return to the bench today but the bottom line remains that they can put up a good shift when they are called upon. Arsenal would have fitness tests for Hector Bellerin and Per Mertesacker, while Francis Coquelin returns from his suspension. Stoke on the other hand, will be sweating on the fitness of Marko Arnautovic and Bruno Martins Indi, as both players received knocks in their victory against Burnley.

With the current table toppers, Chelsea, playing West Brom on Sunday, the Gunners can have a psychological advantage if they beat Stoke with two goals, as it would send them to the top of the table. With several teams scalping for points, it would be important for the Gunners to get three points today.

Injury Updates

Arsenal: Per Mertesacker (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), Santi Cazorla (Achilles tendon), Chuba Akpom (back), Matt Debuchy (hamstring), Yaya Sanogo (calf), Hector Bellerin (ankle – doubt)

Stoke: Ryan Shawcross (calf), Phil Beardsley (knee), Geoff Cameron (knee), Ibrahim Afellay (knee), Stephen Ireland (leg), Jack Butland (ankle), Marko Anautovic (hip – doubt), Bruno Martins Indi (face – doubt)

Arsenal Form

  • Last Five Games: D W L W W
  • Last Result: FC Basel 1-4 Arsenal
  • Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (13)

Stoke Form

  • Last Five Games: W D L W W
  • Last Result: Stoke 2-0 Burnley
  • Leading Goalscorer: Joe Allen (4)

Predicted Lineups

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott; Sanchez

Stoke (4-2-3-1): Grant; Pieters, Muniesa, Martins Indi, Johnson; Imbula, Adams; Arnautovic, Shaqiri, Diouf; Walters

Gooner Daily predicts a 3 – 0 Arsenal win.

Sayonara.

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A Hard Earned Point at the Britannia Stadium

Stoke 0 Arsenal 0

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

The Premier League title race took another twist over the weekend with Leicester City dropping points at bottom club, Aston Villa, and Manchester City taking Crystal Palace to the cleaners so the onus was yet again on Arsene Wenger’s side to come up with the goods in a ground the club is known for having poor results.

The biggest news of the day was that Mesut Ozil was going to miss the game due to an inflammation on his foot, so the manager didn’t deem it necessary to risk his most valued asset. Alexis Sanchez was believed to be fit enough for the game but the manager threw caution to the wind by allowing his Chilean hamstring to some more rest. This ultimately meant that the lads that would be selected on the day would have to give their all for the Gunners title bid. Ozil’s absence made Wenger switch to 4-3-3 with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey anchored by Mohamed Elneny Mathieu Flamini. Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell flanked the red-hot Olivier Giroud.

As you expect from a typical Stoke vs Arsenal game, the lads lacked cohesion but it was like a battle on the pitch. The first clear-cut chance arrived when Campbell unleashed his inner Ozil with a sumptuous pass to Giroud but Jack Butland made himself big to deny the Frenchman from continuing his goalscoring form.

Giroud had another chance to put Arsenal ahead when he reacted first to a corner kick and headed a goal-bound effort that was parried to safety by the ever-impressive Butland. From then onwards, it was a Stoke barrage and Arsenal had Petr Cech to thank for a string of superb saves to keep the match at bay. There was a double save in particular from the legendary Czech goalie that made my jaw drop from my mouth. Then there were the punches to safety and claiming crosses to those lovely Adidas gloves of his.

Shortly after the game, Hector Bellerin spoke about how Cech gives the team some confidence and I agree with the Spaniard. The goalie has kept 10 clean sheets in the 22 Premier League games he has featured and in these games the clean sheets have been ‘hardly routine’. When he was departing from Chelsea to Arsenal, John Terry stated that Cech would give the Gunners 12 to 15 points this season. I believe he has done that and even more.

Wenger was criticized for not signing any outfield player in the summer, but in Cech, he got himself a gold mine and I don’t see the likes of David Ospina or Wojciech Szczesny usurping the legend unless it’s a lower competition fixture or he suffers some injury. Having some solidity at the back offers the right platform to attack and Cech has proved his worth to his manager, his teammates and we, the fans.

Watching the lads draw at Anfield was very painful but this draw in Britannia was highly welcome, especially when you think of the fact that Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City were all beaten on the ground. However, it makes Sunday’s game against Chelsea an all-important fixture as Manchester City play away to West Ham and Leicester hosts Stoke.

The Gunners are still on top of the Premier League table after a hard earned point at the Britannia Stadium.

Sayonara

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