Arsenal vs Stoke City (3-0 )
Two goals from Alexis Sanchez and another from Laurent Koscielny was enough for the Gunners to secure a comfortable 3-0 win over Stoke. Arsenal dominated the game from the first minute to the last and showed no signs of the problems they had at the back, a month ago, against these same opponents. It was Sanchez, who was once again the star for Arsenal as he set up the first goal for Koscielny before getting on the score sheet himself with a well-taken finish in the 33rd minute. The Chilean capped off his day with a wonderful free kick in the second half, which lifted Arsenal to fifth place, level with Southampton in fourth.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
Arsenal press Stoke into submission
There are plenty of things that Alexis Sanchez brings to this Arsenal side. A goal threat in attack, an ability to create chances and dribble past opponents even in tight spaces and a threat on the break. But if there is one aspect of his game that has vastly improved Arsenal is his energy and desire to win the ball back.
Far too often, the Gunners are criticised for not pressing high up the pitch. But in Sanchez, they have a player who doesn’t stop running and who, also invites his teammates to press higher up the pitch. Led by Sanchez, the hosts didn’t give the visitors any time on the ball. Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky all joined as the hosts pressurized the visitors into making mistakes and ensuring that their defense, which has been under pressure over the past few weeks, had very little to do.
Some things never change
Although Stoke had beaten three of last season’s top six away from home, an Arsenal win was never in doubt once they scored the first goal. Barely a month after they comprehensively beat the Gunners at home, many expected that the Potters would give the hosts a run for their money and claim what might be a surprise first away win at Arsenal in the Premier League.
But if a competitive game is what the fans wanted, that isn’t what they got. Even before the first goal went in, the Gunners dominated the game and the Potters simply looked lost. They were dragged out of position, time and again by Arsenal’s willing runners, while going forward, they seldom looked a threat. While not many would have come to the Emirates expecting a win, what they didn’t expect was their side to look so toothless and lack any belief whatsoever in their ability to beat the Gunners in their own backyard.
Are Arsenal starting to click into gear?
Arsenal really needed to beat Stoke on Sunday. Not only to avenge their defeat to the Potters in December, but also to move them level with Southampton in fourth place. A lot has been said about Arsenal so far this season and their inability to show the necessary mental strength to win difficult games. But a win and a clean sheet against a Stoke side who have looked better away from home might just prove to be the spark they need to go on a winning run.
Although Mathieu Debuchy was injured early in the game, the midfield looked as good as it has been all season. Coquelin looked solid in front of the back four, Cazorla and Rosicky were crisp and precise with their passing and in goal, David Ospina barely had anything to do all game. Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott returned to first team action in the second half and with Aaron Ramsey also on the way back, it looks as though they are finally getting everyone fit.