Arsenal’s frailties were shown again on Saturday and it is no irony that it was Stoke City that highlighted how the Gunners are still vulnerable against teams willing to dig their heels in and make the game a scrap. The Potters outdid Arsenal over 90 minutes to send the North London club packing from the Britannica Stadium pointless, with the hosts winning 3-2.
That Arsenal had only won a single game in their last eight attempts against Stoke showed that this would be no easy clash, but once again Stoke revealed why. It has become almost cliché that Stoke City are the team that expose Arsene Wenger’s newer teams with rough and tumble football, but it was painful reality again on Saturday.
Wenger said afterwards that his team had been dominated, and in the first half that was certainly the case as Stoke raced into a 3-0 lead. Peter Crouch opened the scoring in the first minute when he latched on to a Steven Nzonzi centre to tap the ball past Arsenal stopper Emiliano Martinez, after 19 seconds the Gunners were against the wall.
The home team doubled their lead after 35 minutes after dominating much of the first half. Bojan had been causing plenty of problems as a creative foil for Crouch, but he got his own rewards when he coolly finished a Jonathan Walters cross. Arsenal’s task had just got tougher, but it became all but impossible ten minutes later.
Bojan’s curled corner was guided to the free Walters by the head of Peter Crouch and he wasted no time in putting the ball into the net. It was Walters’ 100th club goal and Arsenal had been thoroughly punished in the first half.
The Gunners emerged in slightly better touch in the second half, with the newly introduced Danny Welbeck providing more impetus in attack. The action became more open as Alexis Sanchez hit the post after being clean through and Bojan scored only to be ruled offside. Arsenal’s breakthrough finally came in 68th minute when they were awarded a penalty which was converted by Santi Cazorla.
Two minutes later and the visitors made it a one goal game as Aaron Ramsey scored at the back post from a Sanchez corner. Arsenal pressed for the final twenty minutes, but Stoke remained in control while also providing plenty of threat and the Gunners could not find the breakthrough.