The Premier League returned over at the weekend and so did the Gunners return to playing, following the international break, as they welcomed Stoke City to the Emirates who are seriously threatened with the relegation battle. The Gunners were looking to make it back-to-back wins in the Premier League since November, following their win against Watford at the Emirates.
Wenger made a couple of changes with his usual team selection, with the Europa League quarter-final amidst days in sight – squad rotation would be needed to lift the Europa League in may. Wenger’s starting XI involved: David Ospina, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, Nacho Monreal, Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The first half wasn’t a reflection of the scoreline with misplaced passes and loose balls in the final third, as the match ended in a 3-0 home win for the Arsenal but, all that was a result of the team’s effort in the second half and a good gesture from Aubameyang.
The match was pretty much a summary of most part of Arsenal’s season that had, boos from its fans with empty seats at the Emirates stadium. It was even more surprising to see Stoke who are battling relegation play at a less-intriguing pace.
It’s normal for Stoke fans to rain abusive chants at Aaron Ramsey, but the Welsh international has found a way of paying no mind to these terrible set of fans. In the 23rd minute, Ramsey came close to opening the scoring for the Gunners; when he pounced on a loose ball from Jack Butland, before delivering a lob that came off the top of the crossbar.
This was perhaps the Gunners best real chance in the first half, as our creative players couldn’t get their magic wand working properly.
The second was a different story and the Gunners began picking out holes at the opposition. A through ball from Ozil to Aubameyang could’ve produced the first goal of the match, but the Gabon international hesitated in placing his effort into the corner of the post but rather went for the delicate chip which he almost pulled off, but was denied by the shoulder of Butland.
Shaqiri came close to humiliating David Ospina from the corner circle, as his corner-kick curled all the way to the back post – which Ospina misjudged, but was saved the embarrassment when the ball rattled off the post before it got cleared.
An unfortunate incident from Bruno Martins Indi would then lead to scoring of the first goal of the match. The Dutch international came from behind to steal the ball from Ozil’s feet in the penalty box, but the German kicked Indi’s feet which brought him down; judging from the referee’s angle and the game in real-time, it looked like a penalty but with replays, it sure wasn’t a penalty.
Aubameyang stepped up and took the penalty in fine form, sending Butland the wrong way and calmly slotted the ball in the net to put the host in front.
Soon after, he (Aubameyang) got himself on the scoresheet again following a corner kick. Ozil took the Gunners corner that was headed and fell perfectly for an isolated Aubameyang in the penalty box, which he latched onto and confirmed all three points for the Gunners – making it 5 goals in 6 appearances since his transfer from Dortmund.
With frustration kicking amongst Stoke players, N’Diaye needlessly barged Lacazette in the penalty box, which was a right decision by the referee to award a penalty. Aubameyang who was on a hattrick allowed fellow striker Lacazette take the penalty and he scored brilliantly on his return back from injury, to further continue the woes of Stoke City football club.