Arsenal have won their last 14 home matches against Stoke in all competitions so this should have been an easy match. Although no match is ever easy with Arsenal, these are the type of games they need to win if they want to be serious title contenders.
Stoke started the game strongly with two corners in the first five minutes. Arsenal grew into the game and forced some good saves from Stoke keeper Lee Grant. Both sides were going forward and creating chances which made for an open and entertaining game.
Arsenal had numerous opportunities in the first half but they were unable to take the lead.
Mustafi suffered a hamstring injury in the 24th minute and Bellerin came on to replace him. It was good to see Bellerin back in the starting 11 after an ankle injury but Mustafi has been a crucial member of the side since joining in August and would be a big loss.
Things went from bad to worse for Arsenal when Granit Xhaka elbowed Joe Allen in the penalty area and birthday boy Charlie Adam scored from the spot, with his first goal of the season, to give Stoke the lead. This meant Arsenal had now given away penalties in their last three Premier League home games. It seemed like it would be one of those days for the Gunners.
Theo Walcott ensured that Arsenal went in 1-1 at half-time after he finished off a superb move from the Gunners. It was Walcott’s 50th goal at the Emirates and his 100th career club goal (including five for Southampton). The team goal – Alexis to Bellerin then Bellerin to Walcott – was just what Arsenal needed before the break.
In the second half, Arsenal were 2-1 up after five minutes. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s brilliant pass was met by a lopping header from Mesut Ozil who scored his 5th Premier League goal of the season. A great assist for a great goal.
Stoke did not start the second half as well as the first and found chances hard to come by as Arsenal dominated the game and went in search of more goals.
The Potters eventually started to pressure Arsenal and had shots on goal although few of them were on target. Stoke’s best chance was a header from Mame Biram Diouf which went wide. Arsenal were 2-1 up at the time and if Diouf scored, it would have given Stoke some much-needed momentum.
Arsenal were through on goal when Alexis was fouled but referee Lee Mason played the advantage and Alex Iwobi went on to score, just six minutes after coming on. It was Iwobi’s first Premier League goal of the season, only four days after he scored his first ever Champions League goal. What a memorable week for the youngster.
Arsenal did not start the game well but they improved as the match went on and finished the match 3-1 winners, just like I predicted they would.
The Gunners are top of the league overnight, at least until Chelsea face West Brom. It wasn’t Arsenal’s best performance of the season but it got them three points and ultimately, that’s all that matters. Arsenal’s next game is against Everton on Tuesday, and with two wins out of two in December they should be full of confidence when they travel to Goodison Park.