The visitors were held to a hard-fought draw against tough opposition – courtesy of excellent goalkeeping from both sides of the pitch.
The visitors started well, but always knew it’d be a tough test to break down Stoke’s robust defence. With the likes of Ryan Shawcross and Phillip Wollscheid marshaling the backline, Arséne Wenger‘s men looked to play through their opponents – easier said than done.
Both goalkeepers called into action
Olivier Giroud came close to breaking the deadlock after latching onto a perfectly-weighted pass by Joel Campbell, but sharp reactions from Butland denied the Frenchman with his feet from close-range.
Cech won the Man of the Match award after being called into action – and responding well – as Stoke began applying pressure on the Gunners’ backline. The former Chelsea man was forced into some good stops either side of the half-time interval, as Bojan and Joselu came closest to breaking the deadlock for the visitors.
A point, probably fair result
Cech made an excellent double save to deny Bojan from opening the scoring on a counter-attacking move in the second-half, having thwarted Joselu’s effort in the first 45. Mark Hughes’ men would have been wondering what they had to do, to score, as they continued to pressurise the Gunners’ goal, but had no reward for their efforts.
Theo Walcott was seemingly ineffective, having been deployed on the left-hand side in a wing position. Mathieu Flamini showed flashes of spatial awareness and intelligence, as well as moments of an erratic nature too at times, as he quelled Bojan’s threat well throughout – until the Spaniard was hauled off in the second-half.
However, despite the goalless draw, headlines will be drawn towards fans’ conduct and the distressing chants that Aaron Ramsey was subjected to from sections of the Stoke supporters, six years on from his infamous leg break at the hands of Shawcross.
Arséne Wenger admitted that although it’s a shame to have heard such language, he himself tried to “block it out” during the fixture – ignoring it, focussing on the job at hand.
Although they failed to score – and were unable to take advantage of Leicester dropping points against Aston Villa, a draw is an encouraging result from Arsenal’s perspective, considering the trouble that they’ve had to contend with at the Britannia in recent years. They entertain London rivals Chelsea next Sunday, in what will be a test of their title credentials – regardless of the two teams’ contrasting form.