Stoke City 3 Arsenal 2
( Crouch 1, Bojan 35, Walters 45, Cazorla 68 pen, Ramsey 70 )

What is it about a visit to Stoke that sends the senses into meltdown. The Potteries, famed for its’ porcelain and its’ football, and so it would now seem a home win when the Gunners arrive, has sadly become the norm. Peter Crouch netted in just 19 seconds, Bojan doubled the home lead with Jonathan Walters giving Stoke and incredible 3-0 lead at the break. The Gunners fired back with two quick second half strikes though a Santi Cazorla penalty and Aaron Ramsey reducing the deficit to a solitary goal. Calum Chambers however was given his marching orders late in the second half and that arrested any hoped for an Arsenal revival as well as Arsene Wenger’s side’s three game unbeaten run.

Alexis Sanchez had a great chance to get his side on the scoreboard, but having waltzed past Shawcross and out smarting Begovic, saw his shot come off the Stoke upright, and that sought of set the tone of the Gunners’ afternoon. Wenger started with Bellerin at right back with Chambers reverting to a central defensive partnership with Per Mertrsacker. Laurent Koscielny was not selected as his troublesome Achilles still needs time to adjust to the demands of consecutive games. Of the game, Wenger said.

” Stoke started strong and we were not decisive enough in our defensive challenges. From then on we gave them an early present and after that put a lot of energy into the game. In the second half we had good opportunities to come back and we couldn’t. Overall we put a lot of energy into this game like we always have recently and unfortunately we missed our start. We were slow at the back and when we started to respond it was too late in the game.”

Pivotal to the Arsenal recovery was the need to keep eleven me on the pitch. Chambers and Oxlade-Chamberlain may have had their robust challenges punished, but Wenger felt that the home side were just as culpable in their on field off the ball robustness.

” It was a bad decision. If Chambers has to go off today, I can watch with you the game and I’ll find you five more players who should go,” observed Wenger who refused to comment on whether his player was harshly dealt with.

” I don’t want to comment too much on the referee’s decision. Watch the game again and watch what happened on the pitch. I don’t think that Chambers deserved to be sent off if compared to some other people who put arms and elbows in faces. They started strong, we have to give them credit for that. We were a bit inexperienced at the back – we couldn’t play Koscielny or Monreal and we had Debuchy out as well. We were altogether maybe a bit soft to cope with what they offered us.”

Having gone a deal down early on, Wenger’s frustration was compounded when Bellerin having chased down a ball, managed to cross for Giroud. The home side including Begovic switched off, but Giroud couldn’t power his header back the way it had come and beyond the Bosnia keeper. That would prove a crucial miss.

Bojan playing a free role was the beneficiary of more lax marking when Walters cross was flicked in by the former Barcelona player. Walters himself lashed in a third and a shellshocked Arsenal looked on. Bojan thought he had grabbed a fourth, but Diouf was adjudged to be offside early in the second half.

Then a belated Arsenal response. Flamini – now at right back, as Bellerin made way for Danny Welbeck, had his heels clipped and Cazorla thumped in from the penalty spot after 67 minutes. Three minutes later and Ramsey stroked home from Sanchez’s corner. Welbeck had forced Begovic into a fine save, but having been reduced to ten men late on, Arsenal were unable to get the leveller their second half display merited.

This kind of game was once the hallmark of an Arsenal away day. But having given a side a three goal cushion with football of the curios kind, the second forty five minutes suggest that there is fight. The trick for Wenger is now to have that over the full 90 minutes.