Forget about our recent thumpings of West Ham and Basel; if Arsenal fans are looking for real reasons for optimism – THIS win showed that the Gunners are up for the fight.
A goal down and an injury to one of our starting defenders put us in an awkward position, but we pushed on to grab victory.
Goals from Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil and Alex Iwobi saw Arsenal come back from a goal behind to emphatically grab all 3 points – and go top of the Premier League in the process.
The match began well, with the home side bossing possession, and Stoke looking to utilise Arnautovic and Shaqiri on the break. The Gunners were edging the game and going through the gears, before Shkodran Mustafi went down with a suspected hamstring injury.
Only just declared fit, Hector Bellerin came on and replaced Gabriel on the right of defence, who took the spot vacated by Mustafi. Three minutes later, Stoke were ahead.
Against the run of play, Stoke were gifted a penalty, as Joe Allen ghosted into the box ahead of Xhaka, who was set to clear. Allen was brought down, and Charlie Adam converted from the spot.
Arsenal were behind, and had only been behind for 73 minutes this season in total. This was proving to be a crunch match, a decisive moment.
Bellerin made an instant difference, and it was his first time ball into the box which saw a vibrant Theo finish well and equalise. It was Walcott’s 100th goal for Arsenal, and his 50th at The Emirates.
The second half saw the Gunners bring extra gunpowder. The Ox and Theo in particular, were terrorising Stoke’s backline, and they had the Potters stricken in their own last third.
It took only three minutes for Wenger’s side to convert their dominance into the lead, and it was a thing of beauty.
The Ox had the ball in the centre of Stoke’s half and picked out Özil who had made a run into the box. He then proceeded to lob the ball over Lee Grant, the away keeper, with his head and the ball sailed over the timewasting keeper and into his goal.
It wasn’t over though. Arsenal were playing well and toying with Stoke, who did have a few chances but Cech was equal to them.
Alex Iwobi tied up the points, as referee played advantage with Sanchez being fouled. Iwobi had continued his run and a low finish across Grant made it 3-1.
The game had ample chances and lots of incident, so here are the 5 key points from the 90 minutes;
Bellerin Changed the game
Before the young Spaniard was introduced, Arsenal were having the better of the game. Upon his arrival, he found his team a goal down instantly, but Bellerin showed no signs of rust after his layoff. His constant availability and running was a nightmare to track and it was his ball that brought about our equaliser. Gabriel has been solid, but my, how we’ve missed Bellerin’s fizz.
The special players of this world are capable of magic, and Özil’s header was certainly that. Not many players would have opted for his lobbed heads finish, as it was technically difficult, but Mesut made it look like child’s play. Time seemed to stand still, but it certainly wasn’t and he had milliseconds to first decide, and then implement, his plan. Wonderful.
A tip of the hat to the referee.
The match officials get a crapload of stick, so when they make a correct decision that the majority of their colleagues would fail on, it is important to commend them. Lee Mason saw the obvious foul on Alexis as he was looking to get into the box, but had enough savvy to see Iwobi could pick up the pieces of the attack. Fair play.
Stoke may be prettier, but they’re still the kings of Gamesmanship
They may not play constant 80yrd passes, but the fact that Stoke were persistently wasting time – in the first half – tells you all you need to know about their game plan. Arsenal heads kept cool though, which is another plus.
Top of the league – for 24 hours at least
We have been in promising positions before, but regardless, we sit top of the Premier League until Chelsea play later. We have also banged in more goals than any side, and our current league run is the best we’ve enjoyed for six years. If we can’t enjoy being a Gooner now, then when can we?
There was a lot more to write about as well.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is showing consistency and lowering his rate of error, and he was excellent in this game. Coquelin kept it simple, and Xhaka was the bridge between defence and attack. We coped ever so well with whatever Stoke threw at us and we looked like we could break them open at will.
Oh yes, I also called the correct score line in my match preview. You may call me your oracle now.
Next up is a trip to Goodison Park on Tuesday. On this form, we will be a real test for anyone.