Arsenal 3 Stoke City 0
( Koscielny 6, Sanchez 33, 49 )

Arsenal scored three unanswered goals against Stoke City at the Emirates stadium to record d a deserved win over one of their controversial foes in recent Premier League seasons. A double from Alexis Sanchez added to Laurent Koscielny’s sixth minute opener and proved to be too much from a typically robust Stoke side. The win however came at a price for Arsene Wenger’s side with Mathieu Debuchy having to be stretchered off after being clattered into by Marko Arnautovic as he tried to see out a routine ball at his byeline. Wenger selected David Ospina to replace Wojciech Szczesny, and the Columbian had an assured performance in his first Premier League start.

Arsenal made a bright start and after just two minutes should have taken the lead. Sanchez hit a low drive and it seemed destined for the back of the net, until Asmir Begovic palmed the ball away for a corner. Moments later, another all action display from Tomas Rosicky was about to unfold. The Czech Republic midfielder worked an opening after jinking his way into the Stoke area, but again his shot was saved by Begovic.

Within minutes however, Stoke’s and Begovic’s luck would change. The visitors failed to clear a corner and as Koscielny tidied up to maintain the pressure of the attack, he fed Sanchez on the left. Making his way through the Stoke box, Koscielny then rose to power a header totally unopposed and just in time to meet Sanchez’s cross to power beyond Begovic after six minutes.

The Gunners were slow starters in December’s corresponding fixture in the Potteries earlier in the season, but here they were in total control and with an early lead. Sublime passing and movement was too much for Mark Hughes men, whose players were shall we say on the lenient side of referee Jon Moss’s decision making, especially when trying to get to grips with Sanchez. Of course they never did, they couldn’t live the with pace, power and vision of the Arsenal number 17.

With Debuchy feeling his right shoulder as he was stretchered off to warm applause, the pacy Hector Bellerin came on and played another assured game.

Arsenal were in the mood and wanted a second goal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired just wide after some good work from Sanchez, with advantage allowed in the build up.

Olivier Giroud played his first Premier League game since his red card against Queens Park Rangers and he forced Begovic into another good save and moments later, fired wide from follow up chance from Rosicky’s pass.

The Gunners were creating many chances and their football was a delight on the eye. They eventually doubled their lead, and it was Sanchez who was the Stoke tormentor once again. The energetic Rosicky was alert to win the ball back as Stoke tried to break out. Sanchez skipped past another robust challenge from Steven N’zonzi and struck low and powerfully to beat Begovic at his near post. In first half time added on, Oxlade-Chamberlain flashed his strong shot just over Begovic’s bar.

Four minutes after the restart however and Arsenal had a third. From a free kick, 20 yards out, Sanchez struck low. The Stoke wall rose in unison, and although Begovic saw the ball late, he still managed to get a palm on it. However, the ball’s momentum took it onto the post and over the line for a 3 -0 scoreline.

Once again, Francis Coquelin underlined his credentials for a sustained first team run, with a measured performance of strength and intelligence in front of his defence and behind his attack.

Arsenal should’ve had a fourth goal when the sublime Santi Cazorla was played in by Rosicky, and with the goal at his mercy, the tight angle and the upper side of the bar was to deny his lifted shot.

Wenger brought The Walcott for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil for Giroud. It was the first time we got to see an Arsenal line up containing the combined talents of Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott and Cazorla.

Sanchez has been the difference and seems to lift the side at will. If Ozil and Walcott can get his work rate and strength into their respective games, then Wenger and Arsenal fans will have a fearsome front line to look forward to.

As it was, Sanchez tried to beat Begovic from, from 30 yards and with the Bosnian keeper out of position, shot high. Ten minutes before time and Sanchez found the pacy Walcott. With only Begovic in front of him, Walcott shot into the ground and just wide, when power and even perhaps a return to Sanchez would’ve been the better option for a player returning to the game after over a year out through injury.

The win will restore much needed belief in Wenger’s men, who next face Champions Manchester City at the Etihad stadium in Sunday 18th January’s evening kick off.