Arsenal 3 Stoke City 1
Walcott 43, Özil 49, Iwobi 75, Adam 29, (pen)

Arsenal completed a winning week with a steely 3-1 win over a Stoke City the win the more worthy against a visiting side who have more technical quality than long ball game these days. The visitors took the lead courtesy of a controversial penalty awarded when Joe Allen appeared to be caught by Granit Xhaka’s flaying arm. Charlie Adam sent Petr Cech the wrong way from 12 yards, and that seemed to be the catalyst to get the Gunners firing. Theo Walcott finished off a fine move from Hector Bellerin’s cross. Four minutes after the re-start, Arsenal took the lead they would not relinquish. Mesut Özil’s perfectly cushioned header lobbed Lee Grant and Alex Iwobi came off the bench to strike past Grant as referee Lee Mason allowed play to continue with the advantage when Alexis Sanchez was fouled in the build up to the move. With Walcott’s ten goal before Christmas target reached, he deserved goal number eleven after he slalomed through the Stoke defence, only to see his effort kept out by another low save from Grant. The win takes the Gunners to the Premier League summit, with Chelsea due to play West Bromwich Albion in Sunday’s lunchtime kick off, when the Premier League summit may change again.

Arsenal made six changes from the side that beat FC Basel 4-1 in the Champions League in Switzerland on Wednesday.

Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi, Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in. Dropping to the bench were David Ospina, Rob Holding, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Lucas Perez and Alex Iwobi.

Mustafi however was to last all of 24 minutes, having to come off with what Arsene Wenger later described as a bad hamstring injury which could see the German out for up to 21 days. Still when you have Bellerin on the bench, the re-organisation was minimal with him slotting in at right back and Gabriel now switching across to partner Laurent Koscileny in central defence.

Stoke came out with an intent which the Gunners had to come to terms with. Marc Muniesa hit a volley from distance, which required Cech to tip over his bar for a corner. The passage of play would see Stoke get three successive corners, but Arsenal held firm.

Özil and Alexis Sanchez have been in fine tandem form and here the latter almost profited from a poor back pass. Alexis surged clear, but elected to cross when a shot was needed. The Stoke defence hadn’t learnt their lesson, and we’re clearly in fear of the Chilean. Alexis again seized on back pass, this time he tried to play in Özil but enough blue shirts had surrounded him and the chance had gone.

After 12 minutes, Mustafi’s surge, set up Walcott for a well struck low shot which Grant did well to save. Two minutes later and Özil’s free fell for Koscielny at back post but he saw his header deflected for a corner.

Midway through the first half and Joe Allen struck wide as the visitors sensed opportunities. With Bellerin now on for Mustafi, Stoke were fortuitous to benefit from a controversial decision. Allen appeared to be caught by Xhaka which seemed to be a result of nothing more than the momentum of the Swiss player. A penalty was awarded however and Adam scored sending Cech the wrong way.

That almost proved to be the catalyst for Arsenal to begin to dazzle. Only Mame Biram Diouf’s last gasp block on Ozil denied the German from Bellerin’s cross. Still Stoke were adventurous, as Arnautovic teased his way in, only to be denied by Nacho Monreal’s block.

Three minutes before the break and Arsenal were level. Gabriel found Alexis, and his ball was clipped away with perfection towards Walcott who ran in to level. The complexion of the game had changed as then Alexis’s smart turn and snap shot flew just over Grant’s bar.The Gunners should have taken the lead in first half time added on.

Gabriel fed Bellerin. The Spain defender picked out Oxlade-Chamberlain perfectly, but the England man saw his shot fly high over the bar.

A minute after the restart and Bellerin tried his luck from wide out to the frustration of Alexis who was better placed following a swift breakout move. With their next move, Arsenal took the lead.

Xhaka surged out to thread a ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left. The Arsenal number 15 put in the perfect ball in to Özil. Fully aware of his and the Stoke keeper’s position, the German intelligently cushioned and looped his header over Grant to give his side a deserved 2-1 lead.

The Gunners were firing and were about to fire with more purpose.

Xhaka has yet to score at the Emirates and the Gunners faithful were again encouraging him to shoot from distance. More likely to play in a team mate as he would do later for Arsenal’s third goal, this time he let fly but was wide of the target.

A minute later and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s control and shot at Grant deserved better, with Özil and Alexis again involved in the build up.

Now Alexis with another strong run from Özil’s assist, but the shot was deflected away from Grant’s goal.

At the other end, Gabriel at centre back was alert to Diouf’s shot which he blocked for a corner.

On 69 minutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain made way for Iwobi. With time running out for Stoke, Mark Hughes threw on Peter Crouch to a now predictable visitors response.

High balls and plenty off them, the first of which from a corner saw Cech get down smartly to save from Crouch’s header and an almost immediate impact.

Arsenal were not going to be denied however , and when Alexis was impeded by Martins Indi, the Gunners striker was furious. His anger would soon turn to joy as with Iwobi having possession, play was waived on.

The 19 year old held off the attentions of Adam to beat Grant for Arsenal’s third goal and a second goal for the Nigeria midfielder in the space of five days. Alexis made way for Giroud, who gave the Gunners attack an alternative late dimension. Walcott’s late slalom and low shot deserved a goal, but by coming back from a goal down, Arsenal proved that they are equipped with the perfect response when they face any problematic defence.