Mesut Ozil marked his home debut with three assists as Arsenal overcame Stoke City 3-1 despite a disjointed performance. Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring early before headed goals from defensive duo Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna sealed the points and a return to the Premier League summit after Geoff Cameron’s equaliser.
Arsene Wenger made one very late change from the side that beat Marseille in midweek with Serge Gnabry replacing Theo Walcott on the right. It was later revealed the England man has an abdominal muscle problem.
It wasn’t long before the Gunners found their stride. Ozil’s free-kick, following a Charlie Adam foul on Wilshere just outside the box, was parried by Asmir Begovic straight into the path of Ramsey who netted first time with a neat finish. (1-0)
The Emirates crowd smelled blood and goals, but despite early promise the we sat back seemingly happy to let Mark Hughes’ side knock the ball around.
It was a tactic that was to prove costly when on 26 minutes a lofted ball by Steven Nzonzi eluded Per Mertesacker before being volleyed against the post by Marko Arnautovic. Cameron was the quickest to react bouncing home the rebound despite the best efforts of Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny. (1-1)
Arsenal stepped up the pressure and were rewarded nine minutes before half-time when Ozil’s corner was met by Mertesacker who looped a header off the far post and in. It was second time lucky for the centre-back who’d come close from a similar effort just moments before. (2-1)
In the second half Arsenal struggled to keep possession of the ball. Gnabry, who grew in confidence as the match went on, had a decent long range effort saved by Begovic but for the most part it was Stoke who dictated the tempo even though they failed to carve any real chances.
Had the visitors scored during the opening 20 minutes of the second period there could have been few complaints. Thankfully, having weathered the storm the Gunners scored against the run of play from another set piece. Wilshere (for the millionth time) was tripped as he looked to dart towards the area, again Ozil lofted the ball into the box and this time Sagna looped a header over Begovic and into the net. He celebrated with gusto. (3-1)
Rather than lump the ball forward the visitors (to their credit?) continued to play the ball on the floor when a high, long ball might have caused Arsenal more trouble. Laurent Koscielny was excellent throughout and helped by the energetic Mathieu Flamini and ever improving Kieran Gibbs we rarely looked like conceding.
Ryo Miyaichi, Nacho Monreal and Mikel Arteta all got run outs as the clock ticked down before Ramsey nearly added a fourth with a fine effort which was just turned over.
‘We are top of the league’ sang the fans as the whistle blew. And indeed we are. You can’t ask for too much more.
Apologies for the delay, just got back from the match…we’re short on numbers at Arseblog News towers today.