Stoke City 1 Arsenal 1

Robin Van Persie netted his 28th Premiership goal of the season to salvage a hard won point at the Britannia Stadium. The Holland striker levelled after Peter Crouch had seen the home side take the lead on 9 minutes, with yes you guessed it, the aerial route from Matthew Ethrington’s cross. There was only really one side who wanted to win this game, and whereas to the low expectations of of the home fans it suited Stoke not to lose, the Gunners should have been rewarded for their efforts with a late penalty claim when Glenn Whelan clearly bundled over Yossi Benayoun. Referee Chris Foy will accept that he made a howler of a decision, however a point at a venue that plays a game suited to the NBA will be some crumb of comfort to Arsene Wenger’s side.

 

. It was a game of two different approaches - one very direct in the air and one who tries to play on the ground says Wenger

 

Out of the blocks and flying, the Gunners had early chances to open the scoring, but Asmir Begavic denied Benayoun and Van Persie. As tends to be the way in such games, and against the run of play Stoke netted with their first real assault of Wojciech Szczesny’s goal. Prior to the game, Wenger had highlighted the menace of Crouch, but that advise appeared to have been forgotten as the lanky striker rose to head past Szczesny. Stoke’s desire for strong arm tactics was anticipated but this Arsenal side were fighting fire with fire. Benayoun’s tenacity won the ball and found Tomas Rosicky. The Czech Republic captain crossed and there was the Premiership’s record goal scorer to add to his season’s tally on 15 minutes.

In the first half we had the chances but we lacked something. It is more about belief because recently we didn’t score so many goals – we didn’t score against Chelsea last week. Maybe it is linked with belief “- Arsene Wenger

With their Champions League ambitions coming under threat from Spurs, Chelsea and tough talk from Newcastle on that front, Wenger accepts that only wins in the remaining two games will guarantee a seat at European football’s top table. Not that that should have bothered Stoke, or their fans, who shamefully booed not only Wenger, but Aaron Ramsey throughout this game, as Arsenal dealt with any further aerial assaults.

A bit more bravery from Gervinho could have seen the Gunners take the lead, but the Ivorian was unable to latch onto Bacary Sagna’s cross. Thomas Vermaelen saw his effort go narrowly wide of the Stoke upright, but still the home side – with their time consuming antics slowing the game – saw a Rory Delap throw cause confusion in the Arsenal defence, but Sagna was on hand to clear the danger. Wenger was however pleased with the point.

“We had good chances, especially in the first half. In the second half I felt our fluency dropped a bit in midfield – we still had chances though, especially a penalty that was not given. Overall we deserved at least a point and I can only give credit to my players for their battling qualities and the way they responded to what Stoke offered us – full commitment, well-organised, direct. We did not always cope with it but today I felt we did, ” he said and went on say that he had anticipated Stoke’s reliance on the long ball and strong arm tactics.

Wenger demonstrated admirable restraint in the face of vile chanting from the Stoke fans. “They have a relationship with me but I don’t have one with them! I personally have enough experience to cope with that (criticism). It doesn’t bother me too much. I don’t listen too much to what people chant and I just think one day people in football will have to tackle that as well. It is easy to sit in the stand and insult people – it is the easiest sport in the world.”