Arsenal 1 Stoke City 0

It was in the end, that type of game that many had expected. One side played pure football, with a vision to pass and move and Stoke displayed their usual spoiling tactics. That said, justice and a well earned victory was earned by Arsenal after Lukas Podolski’s deflected free-kick finally beat Asmir Begovic. The City ‘keeper had an exceptional afternoon between the sticks, and it was only his inspirational performance that denied the Gunners an avalanche of goals. We even got another controversial tackle from Ryan Shawcross, this time on Laurent Koscielny. Eyebrows were raised after only a yellow card was brandished in the City defender’s direction, it was a red card offence. After his £ 8.5 million signing from Malaga, Nacho Monreal made a good start at left back for the Gunners.

” We are a team who can create chances, and score goals. Today it was not the case – we created chances but could not get the goals. But still I am happy that for a long time now, we didn’t concecede and the defence looked solid. The satisfaction is that Nacho Monreal had a good start for a player who just arrived yesterday and is in the team today. He did not have time to think about it, but he got stronger and stronger during the game,” noted Arsene Wenger.

Having gone a goal down early on twice prior to this game, the fact that the first half ended goal less was entirely due to Begovic, and not a jittery Arsenal back four for a chancge.

Rumoured to be in the sights of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Bosnian number one was at his best. Just past the half hour mark, Jack Wilshere’s corner avoided the height of the Stoke defence, and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the ball well, Begovic blocked on the line with his midriff.

Moments later, another corner, this time from Theo Walcott reached Olivier Giroud. The France striker chose to head across the goal when a more direct header would have been the better option. As Stoke failed to clear from the follow up, Walcott crossed again from the left, but Begovic denied Koscielny’s header.

The visitors defensive intentions were abundantly clear, but rare forays forward saw Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters with half chances.

Five minutes before the break, Wilshere set up Oxlade-Chamberlain away on the left. With only Begovic in his sights, the England striker caressed the ball away and on target, until Begovic swooped full stretch to provide another fine save, and another corner to the Gunners.

Fears of frustration were always evident, and given Wenger’s declaration that Arsenal cannot drop any more points this season just created more tension against a dogged Stoke. The turning point to the game arrived after 76 minutes. Walcott had been a thorn in the Stoke defence (and Andy Wilkinson’s in particular) all afternoon. He clipped the Gunners’ striker to earn the home side a free-kick and finally a yellow card for Wilkinson.

Up stepped Podolski, his shot clipped Geoff Cameron on the way past Begovic. As the Gunners’ players ran away in celebration, the linesman drew the attention of referee Chris Foy. After a brief consultation, the goal was awarded as Walcott appeared offside but was not interfering with play. Ten minutes before time, substitute Santi Cazorla fizzed past the Stoke defence, only to see an initial shot blocked. Alert to the follow up, the Spain midfielder let fly with Begovic ahead, but somehow managed to hit over the bar from 10 yards out. Wenger was both happy and relived with the win.

” They made it difficult for us, they were well organised, defended very deeply and we didn’t find the space but kept going. We were a bit lucky on the goal but overall we deserve this win. We had chances, their keeper made some saves. We played in one half in the second half especially and overall we deserved to win the game,” said Wenger.