Arsenal 3 Stoke City 1
( Ramsey 5,
Mertersacker 36, Sagna 72, Cameron 26)

Mesut Özil was the headline act on his home debut, deservedly and expectantly so, he duly delivered with three assists as Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertersacker and Bacary Sagna – the last two with headers, comfortably saw of a typically physical Stoke City, who had threatened an upset when Geoff Cameron levelled at a goal a piece to punish a hesitant Gunners’ defence. It may have not been a vintage Arsenal passing game, but the win nevertheless sees Arsene Wenger’s side return to the Premiership summit.

The Gunners showed their intent from the off, and with only five minutes on the clock took the lead. Jack Wilshere received some of the rough stuff as he surged forward. Referee Mike Dean had no hesitation in awarding a free kick. Up stepped Özil to let fly with a low shot that Asmir Begovic spilled, Ramsey couldn’t have been in a better position with the follow up, and in his current form was never going to miss the target for the Gunners’ opener.

Arsenal continued to enjoy possession, but with Theo Walcott suffering a recurrence from an abdominal injury, saw his starting place given to German teenager Serge Gnabry. That forced change would always inhibit the Gunners’ attack from the right. Not that Gnabry looked out of place, far from it. Here Wenger has another genuinely talented player.

Without having troubled Wojciech Szczesny, however, Stoke found themselves level. Marko Arnautovic hit Steven N’zonzi’s long ball onto the post, and as the Gunners’ defence and Szczesny failed to clear the danger, Cameron placed his low drive into the gaping net. It was a shock for the expectant Arsenal fans, but that expectancy was ultimately to be rewarded in the most positive of ways.

Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere exchanged passes, from which the France striker saw his shot deflected for a corner. The same combination had earlier seen Ryan Shawcross make a last gasp block from Giroud.

Just past the half hour mark, from Ozil’s corner, Mertersacker saw his header cleared off the line by Erik Pieters. It was unfortunate from the Arsenal perspective, and would serve as a template for the Gunners’ second goal. Shawcross impeded Giroud and from the resultant free kick, the home side were awarded a corner. Özil swung in the ball which Mertersacker reached with a header which he guided the beyond Begovic for a 2-1 lead after 36 minutes.

Gnabry saw an effort sail just wide of the target from Özil’s return pass, and five minutes after the break the Arsenal youngster tested Begovic from range. Gnabry’s confidence grew and saw panic in the Stoke rearguard when Robert Huth received a yellow card for a blatant body check on the Arsenal number 44 making his Premiership debut. Play was allowed to continue which saw Giroud clip the ball which Begovic managed to palm for a corner.

Bossing affairs from midfield, Mathieu Flamini added the composure and robustness required in such fixtures, with good effect. Özil was worthy of a goal, and almost capped a dream home start when taking Ramsey’s pass from the right to unleash a shot which Begovic saved. After 72 minutes however, Arsenal grabbed a third goal. One of the tallest defences in the Premiership was unable to deal with another Özil free kick which Sagna rose to head to see his looping header placed past Begovic for a 3-1 scoreline.

Three goals with three Özil assists ensured an Arsenal job well done. A smiling Wenger later warned that Özil will only get better. Mikel Arteta came off the bench for a welcome return, and once Wenger can call on the remainder of his injured stars, including Lukasz Podolski, Thomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, undoubtedly so too will the Gunners.