Arsenal 2 Stoke City 0
( Walcott 31, Giroud 85 )

What was that all about a dearth of strikers at Arsenal? The two goals which sunk Stoke at the Emirates stadium on Saturday where scored in either half, but Theo Walcott, whose cool first half finish and substitute Olivier Giroud – who came on for his strike team mate deep into the second half to head past an impressive Jack Butland sealed not only the win, but also the first Gunners’ home goals of the season. It was an impressive win for Arsene Wenger’s side, but the Arsenal manager will have been relieved to see the home goal tally up and running as well as a first home win. Largely under the cosh for the majority of this match, the visitors did test Cech, but back to back wins and clean sheets for the Arsenal keeper ensures the post international break return was fruitful for the Gunners.

Walcott was given the nod in attack at the apex of an attacking trio which included Alexis and Mesut Ozil. Santi Cazorla held a now familiar deeper initial role, but was soon in support of his front men. An energetic start in bright North London sunshine, and after just two minutes, Hector Bellerin found Cazorla out on the right. His left footed cross, fell just right for Alexis’s header. It’d beaten Butland, but came back off the post. Walcott couldn’t have been better placed for the rebound, but somehow managed to miss an open goal when it appeared easier to score.

Arsenal were in the mood. Aaron Ramsey was caught by Van Ginkel and a free kick duly awarded. Alexis let fly with a thundering drive to sting Butland’s fingers and win a corner for the home side.

Another neat move and Alexis again hit the same post with low shot, which should have been better rewarded. Bellerin was getting joy out on the right, his pace was proving to be too much for Phil Bardsley. The Arsenal right back struck over another cross for Walcott, the England man’s header was good, but lacked the direction and the ball veered over the bar with Butland a relived man.

A mere eight minutes had elapsed and it wouldn’t have been unfair to say that Arsenal should’ve been four nil in front. Walcott switched with Ozil and now cut in from left but again Butland held firm. Cech was in the mood when Stoke tried to advance, and cleared all in front of him from a free kick, taking out Marko Arnautovic in the process.

Back came Arsenal and a Bellerin cross, which Bardsley had to clear for a corner. As is their way, Arsenal we’re seeing a lot of the ball, with Stoke content to sit back and frustrate the home side.

Days after celebrating his 30th birthday, Laurent Koscielny must have thought the visitors had a belatex gift for him as he surged forward to drive from 30 yards. The shot had Butland worried, but he stretched his large frame to save and concede another corner.

More pressure from the home side, Özil and Alexis worked an opening on the left. The Chile striker struck instinctively, but found Butland save instinctively.

The bedrock of Arsenal’s defensive game, Francis Coquelin was enjoying keeping the robust Stoke style at bay. His excellent defensive tackle on Mato Joselu, lost Stoke the possession. Özil picked up the pieces with a raking 60 yard pass to Walcott. The England man held off Marc Muniesa to score after 31 minutes, and relief for Arsenal’s first hime goal of the season.

Stoke searched for some attacking traction, and could’ve been rewarded if Cech hadn’t been alert to deny Joselu. It was a mere relapse to Arsenal’s attacking prowess. Alexis crossed for Ramsey. The Wales midfielder took a touch and saw his defender clear for a corner.

Arsenal emerged for the restart with similar attacking intent. Alexis found Ozil, and the German sprayed the ball out to his right to feed an unmarked Ramsey. As he lined up to shoot, Ramsey lost his footing and struck the ball over Butland’s bar.

Xherdan Shaqiri struck an effort which Cech blocked clear, with Koscileny doing the same for his follow up. Arsenal responded when Walcott raced clear and seemed odds on to get a shot away but was denied when last Stoke defender Geoff Cameron recovered to clear.

Bellerin continued to torment Bardsley. His cross, found its way to Walcott but a tame shot was easy for Butland to collect.

More Arsenal pressure as Ozil found Cazorla. He took the return pass and took a powerful shot, but Butland was again in inspired form with another fine save. And then when Walcott latched onto Bellerin’s pass, he tried to lift it over the Stoke keeper, who managed to foil the Arsenal number 14 once again

With Per Mertersacker still recovering from illness, Gabriel formed a strong defensive partnership with Koscielny. The Brazil defender was certainly strong in the face of some of the strong stuff from Arnautovic, and that bodes well for the Gunners rearguard.

With fifteen minutes remaining, Wenger took off Walcott for Giroud. The France striker was in the thick of things immediately, holding off his marker. When Stoke failed to clear their lines, Giroud found himself with only Butland in front of him, but dragged his shot wide from eight yards out.

Cazorla’s direct approach should’ve got an Arsenal second. The Spain midfielder raced at the visitors defence, and as he wound up for the shot, he struck just wide of the target. With eight minutes reminding, Özil made way for Oxlade-Chamberlain, and his pace was the last thing a tiring Stoke defence needed.

With five minutes remaining, Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought down, to win a free kick. Up Stepped Cazorla to whip in a perfect cross for Giroud to head in past an exposed Butland to double the Arsenal lead.

Stoke substitute Bojan struck wide, of Cech’s upright, but with their last attack of note, Arsenal were unfortunate not to get a third goal. Another Cazorla free kick, and Butland spread himself to deny Koscielny’s powerful header.

A good win and more reasons to be cheerful at the Emirates.