Arsenal 1 v Stoke City 0

It may not have been the way he would have wanted it, but Arsene Wenger will have been pleased with the way a gritty Arsenal earned a 1-0 win over Stoke at the Emirates. The only goal of the game came via Sebastien Squillaci, but the evening had an air of despondency with Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott being replaced through injury.

Fabregas may have been withdrawn by Wenger as a precaution with nothing as menacing as a tight muscle. The Gunners’ captain was able to walk off the pitch Walcott on the other hand looks to have injured his ankle after a clash with Dean Whitehead from which the Arsenal striker landed badly.

The win closes the gap to a solitary point at the top with Arsenal having played a game more than Manchester United.

From the start,Fabregas and Walcott demonstrated why they are such an integral part of this Arsenal side with swift moves that threatened to blow Stoke away. So much bad feeling between both sets of fans after Aaron Ramsey having his fibula and tibula shattered by a reckless Ryan Shawcross tackle almost a year to the day, with shout of ” You’re a disgrace to football,” being levelled at Tony Pulis’s side.

Walcott had seen his shot hit the post after some neat play from Jack Wilshere and Fabregas ripped through the Stoke defence all inside a minute. With Thomas Vermaelen still out and Laurent Koscielny suffering a back injury, Squillaci was alongside Johan Djourou in central defence. However, Squillaci would not have know he would be the match winner with his first Arsenal strike.

Wilshere’s corner found it’s way to Nicklas Bendtner and from close in, Squillaci headed in what was to prove to be the only goal of the game on eight minutes.

Andrey Arshavin came on for Fabregas,as Samir Nasri took a more central position, but the home side seemed to suffer without their inspirational captain.

Wojciech Szczesny was having a quiet night, but when John Carew threatened with a powerful drive, the Poland ‘keeper was alert to the danger, pulling off a fine save.Robert Huth threatened with a header that went high and former Gunner Jermaine Pennant saw a free kick hit the side netting.

It was Arsenal who were to prevail, and the win will put the Gunners in good heart for Sunday’s Carling Cup final.