I’m certain for a fact that I’m not the only Gooner that categorises a fixture against Stoke City, into the same category as Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Manchester City; especially having to play the Potters at the bet365 stadium.
The Gunners were once again faced with a tough task at Stoke en route to qualification for Champions League football next season. The Gunners seemed to have a tough task ahead of them prior to the match at the bet365 stadium, having never won a league match at Stoke since 2010.
When these two sides meet, it’s always a physical contest from Stoke as the often time bully Arsenal, hindering the Gunners from playing their usual free-flowing football they’ve been accustomed to playing.
Playing in our third kit that has brought us some luck, winning all seven games we’ve played wearing the kit; Wenger fielded a strong physical side with a back three compromising of the amazing Rob Holding, Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi. Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin partnered in midfield as Spanish nationals Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin filled the wingback role, with Oliver Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in attack.
The game started on a bright note as we looked to threaten in front of goal. Nacho Monreal came close to giving us the lead in the 18th minute when he headed a Mesut Ozil cross off the post.
It took until the 42nd minute before we witnessed the games first goal. A lovely pass from Francis Coquelin to Hector Bellerin was enough to signal danger for the Potters, as a latter’s cross found the feet of Oliver Giroud who perhaps had one of the easiest tap-ins for a striker.
The Gunners switched into beast mode in the second half, scoring three more, something we barely witness at the bet365 stadium. A moment of brilliance from our star men Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil extended our lead to two; a ravishing through ball from Alexis made its way past two Stoke City players and found Ozil – who was clinical enough to put the Potters to the sword.
A tactical change from Mark Hughes was made minutes after the second goal of the match, he brought on Peter Crouch and Saido Berahino for Mame Diouf and Joe Allen. The tactical change eventually paid off as Stoke were awarded a controversial goal, scored by substitute Peter Crouch using his hand.
Stoke continued being physical as usual, leaving Alexis Sanchez with a knock and signalled to be replaced but the Chilean wasn’t done with Stoke just yet. Hector Bellerin got his second assist of the game when he laid off a pass to Alexis who struck one past Jack Butland and celebrated his goal by wheeling his hands and tapping the badge in delight. I hope it’s an indication of better things as he was then substituted for Aaron Ramsey immediately after celebrating his goal.
Oliver Giroud got his second goal of the match and his third in two games when Mesut Ozil lashed a pass to Aaron Ramsey that had to be at his best to control the ball, hold off a Stoke player and finding Oliver Giroud who scored a Giroud-like kind of goal. Ramsey and Giroud seem to have formed some type of bond on the pitch, with the Welshman assisting the Frenchman in two consecutive games.
A delightful performance from the players against Stoke City, Alexis Sanchez had an immense game and was everyone’s Man of the match but I need to point out Rob Holding’s performance. The young English defender whose first year in the English Premier League is about to come to an end had an outstanding performance against Stoke City. He once again showed his defending prowess and mellow composure
that would turn him into a legendary player in years to come, as he complimented Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi. In my opinion, I feel Arsene Wenger has found his preferred back three.
I believe we would make top four and I hope our neighbours West Ham do us a huge favour this cheerful Sunday against Liverpool as the race for top four heats up.