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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
2 February 2013
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: C. Foy
• Attendance: 59872
L. Podolski 78'
Phew! Well folks, that's it from me - Tom McKeown - for today. Thanks for joining me for this key Premier League encounter. Be sure to stick with Goal.com for all the reaction but, for now, goodbye!
That's it!! It's FULL TIME at the Emirates Stadium and Arsenal have managed a hard-fought 1-0 win against Stoke this afternoon. For so long it looked like the Potters would frustrate the hosts but Podolski's deflected free kick - which was eventually given - proved the difference.
90' + 5'
We're still going as Stoke launch it forward but Arsenal clear. Surely that's that?
90' + 4'
Job all but done now, as Arsenal win a free kick in their own half. This will be a massive win for the Gunners.
90' + 3'
It's all kicked off now and the referee has to calm things down after a clash between Owen and Arteta. The striker was unhappy with a challenge from the Spaniard, and Wilshere stepped in with much pushing ensuing. No cards though and eventually Arsenal have a free kick.
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
Walcott comes off to a standing ovation from the home crowd as he is replaced by Aaron Ramsey. The Gunners very close to picking up a hard-earned three points.
Arsenal give the ball away and Stoke are in posession. Jones tries to knock down for Owen but Arsenal clear, and as Jerome concedes a foul the board goes up indicating four minutes will be added on.
Yellow Card Ryan Shawcross
Shawcross goes in hard on Koscielny and the referee brandishes a yellow card. The Arsenal defender looks in some pain as he hobbles away from that clash.
Not long left at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal look to have done enough, but can Stoke find a goal? They push forward with a long ball but Arsenal break through Walcott, who overhits a pass and Begovic collects.
Monreal and Podolski exchange some sublime passes on the left wing, but the Germany international is unable to keep the ball in play as he presses to the by-line, and Stoke have a goal kick.
Tony Pulis decides to go for a late gamble with a TRIPLE substitution, throwing on Kenwyne Jones, Michael Owen and Cameron Jerome as they search for an equaliser.
It's still all Arsenal and the visitors look like they have no chance of getting an equaliser now. The hosts move the ball around the middle, taking their time now they have the lead.
Chance for two!! Cazorla is found in the box, and tries to blast it into the top corner, but somehow Begovic manages to get a fingertip on the ball to divert it away.
Goal Lukas Podolski
GOAL!! Arsenal finally in front! After much messing around with the wall by the referee, Podolski is the man to take the set piece, and it deflects in off a Stoke player past a helpless Begovic. The flag goes up, but after much deliberation with his assistant referee, Chris Foy awards the goal, and Arsenal have the lead!
Yellow Card Andy Wilkinson
As it stands, Chelsea are level at Newcastle and Everton are losing at home to Aston Villa. Anything other than a win will be hugely disappointing for Arsenal today. Wilkinson takes out Walcott on the edge of the box, earning a yellow card, and giving the hosts a free kick in a dangerous area...
Monreal tries to be the hero on his debut, driving an effort from long range, but it flies nowhere near the target and behind for a goal kick.
Walcott and Sagna link up on the right, but Wilkinson comes across superbly to knock the ball out off the Arsenal right-back and win a throw for the visitors.
The hosts are piling forward once more, and Cazorla whips in a cross from the right which is met by Giroud, but it loops wide of Begovic's post.
Yellow Card Glenn Whelan
Sagna fouls Etherington and the visitors have a chance from a free kick out wide. Etherington whipe it in but N'Zonzi can't get on the end of it and Arsenal break forward. Whelan takes out Cazorla and promptly picks up a booking.
Arsenal can finally make their changes, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby making way for the two substitutes. Can they inspire the Gunners to find a winner?
Walcott rises high to meet Oxlade-Chamberlain's deep cross at the far post, but can't direct his header on target from a tight angle.
Walcott is caught in the face by a flailing arm from Wilkinson, and is down for treatment again. Meanwhile, there's activity on the bench as Wenger readies Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski.
Cameron tries to get on the end of the throw but can't connect, before Crouch lays back to Shawcross. Unfortunately for the visitors, the defender completely slices his effort and it goes behind for a goal kick.
It's a much brighter spell for the visitors, and N'Zonzi spreads it to Whelan. Stoke are forced to go backwards, but eventually win a throw by the corner flag off Monreal from Shawcross' long ball forward.
Wilshere tries to find Oxlade-Chamberlain but Shotton does well to clear for a throw. Time steadily running out for the Gunners to break the deadlock.
We've entered a bit of a lull here. Stoke are getting much of the ball but not doing much with it. The flag goes up for offside and Arsenal are back in possession.
Stoke finally manage to string some passes together, with N'Zonzi and Crouch linking up in the middle. The ball comes to Walters, who tries to set Etherington free but the pass is too strong and it rolls through to the goalkeeper.
Whelan plays it over the top for Walters, who gathers and plays back. After an exchange of passes Walters looks for Crouch in the area but it's too close to Szczesny, who collects comfortably.
Shotton's cross is gathered by Szczesny and the goalkeeper sets Walcott loose straight away. The Gunners spread the play to the left and Wilshere slides it back for Giroud, who tries to shoot first time but can't direct it on target with Huth bearing down. The defender has been magnificent so far today.
Walcott is down for treatment, but eventually gets up to walk off the pitch. In the build-up to that chance it looked like the England international was fouled by Wilkinson but play went on.
Walcott does really well to find Diaby under serious pressure, and Arsenal are almost permanently camped in the final third, but Stoke's formation is sold and the hosts are still struggling to find an opening. Monrealy throws a cross in from deep looking for Giroud, but Huth gets up superbly to scramble the ball away.
Giroud gets up well to win a header in midfield, before Wilshere is fouled by Huth in the centre circle. Arsenal back to monopolising possession once more.
There are - I should say - no changes from the first half, but it'll be interesting to see how long Arsene Wenger goes without introducing someone. Oxlade-Chamberlain gets in behind the defence but can't find space to shoot. Eventually it works back to Monreal who wins a corner.
Both sides exchanging possession as they try and get back into a rhythm. Crouch concedes a foul and the hosts try to move forward, but a loose pass from Sagna rolls out for a throw on halfway.
We're back underway as Arsenal get the second half going.
Elsewhere, both Everton and Chelsea are losing. Arsenal have a fantastic chance to get one over on their top-four rivals this afternoon, but they need to be more ruthless than in the first half.
Ewan Roberts has been kind enough to check in with his half-time thoughts: "It’s half-time at the Emirates where Arsenal are a little unfortunate to still be drawing. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had two golden chances to open the scoring, but was denied by the towering frame of Asmir Begovic on each occasion. No team has registered more nil-nils than Stoke, so the Gunners will have to produce something special in the second half to break down the resilient Potters."
And that is HALF TIME at the Emirates Stadium. It's not been a classic, I'll be honest. Arsenal have dominated possession and had the better chances, but it goes into the break on level terms.
45' + 3'
The Gunners keeping the ball as we enter time added on in time added on, but Huth eventually sees it out for a goal kick, seeing off pressure from Giroud.
45' + 1'
Walters is back up and sporting a bandage akin to the one his team-mate Robert Huth is already wearing. Arsenal back in possession as play restarts.
Walters is still down as the board goes up for two minutes of stoppage time. I suspect there may be a little more than that now.
Crouch does well to bring a high ball down and spread the play. Stoke manage to stem the Arsenal tide for a moment. Walters goes up for a header against Monreal but the two clash heads and the former is down receiving treatment for what looks like a nasty cut.
Still all Arsenal here. Wilshere bursts into the box but is forced back. He manages to whip a cross in but Shotton clears. The hosts keep pressing forward but Stoke are finding men to clear; absolutely stoic defending.
Another chance for Arsenal, and another save by Begovic! Wilshere finds Oxlade-Chamberlain with a superb through pass, and the midfielder tries to curl it across goal but Begovic manages to get a hand on the ball and turn it behind.
Stoke have a set piece of their own, which Begovic launches high into the Arsenal penalty area but Koscielny clears. Stoke still in possession though.
Stoke really struggling to get out of their half now. Arsene Wenger will be disappointing if his side can't open the scoring before the break. Wilshere is brought down by Whelan but the referee waves play on.
After hardly being tested in the opening half an hour, Begovic has kept Stoke in it with two excellent saves in just a few minutes.
Oxlade-Chamberlain wins yet another corner for Arsenal; they've had plenty already this afternoon. Walcott whips the ball in and Giroud has a free header but heads across goal instead of towards it. The ball is cleared but comes back in and Koscielny forces a fine save from Begovic with a header effort at the far post.
Walcott looks like Arsenal's best attacking option this afternoon, and he sets another push forward going. Giroud and Diaby then link up but the latter can't control the ball and it rolls out for a goal kick.
Fantastic save by Begovic! Walcott skips away from Wilkinson with a fantastic touch, but fails to find a man with a poor low cross which the visitors clear for a corner. From the cross Oxlade-Chamberlain has a chance inside the six-yard box, chesting it down before being denied by the Stoke shot-stopper's legs.
Shotton has his first chance with a long throw, launching it high into the box from the right, but Arsenal manage to clear. The Potters try to get it back into the box and Shawcross goes up for a header before being first to react, blasting a volley way off target.
Sagna does well to win a high ball intent for Wilkinson, but the defender is caught on the head and is now receiving treatment. There will be plenty more of those balls coming this afternoon, you feel.
Diaby is caught out and Stoke win possession. Crouch wins another header but Arsenal win the ball. Wilshere finds Walcott who cuts inside and tries a shot, but it comes off a Stoke body and bounces away.
It's a very subdued atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal's early brightness slowly petering out. Worringly, the Gunners look like they're starting to run out of ideas already.
New boy Monreal shows good skill to turn away from a challenge and set Oxlade-Chamberlain loose down the right. The midfielder gets to the by-line and fires a ball across, but Stoke clear behind and Asmir Begovic claims the resulting corner.
The Potters well in this game at the moment, with Arsenal not creating anything. Olivier Giroud is flagged offside and the visitors launch a ball forward which Crouch wins in the air, and eventually it's worked to Whelan who fires it high and wide.
Andy Wilkinson takes out Theo Walcott and Wilshere whips in a free kick, but the defender who conceded the foul is able to force the ball away.
The game has failed to kick on from the bright opening couple of minutes, and the midfield is packed tight at the moment. Arsenal try to work forward, but the likes of Wilshere and Diaby are pressed well by Stoke's midfielders as Oxlade-Chamberlain eventually misplaces a pass.
Stoke trying to keep the ball at the moment, before Shawcross launches a diagonal ball forward, and it is eventually worked to Crouch, who has plenty of time to turn and hit a shot which deflects off Koscielny for a corner.
Sagna sets Diaby loose behind the Stoke defence, and the midfielder looks for Giroud at the near post, but Ryan Shawcross comes across to put pressure on the striker and Stoke win possession.
Walcott gives the ball away to Glenn Whelan, but as Stoke push forward there are very few options and they are forced back. The visitors eventually find Walters, who takes a touch before volleying a 25-yard effort straight at the goalkeeper.
Matthew Etherington skips past two challenges on the left-hand side and tries to force his way into the box, but eventually runs into danger and concedes a free kick.
After a quick start, the game has settled down somewhat. Stoke now enjoying a spell of possession of their own, and Etherington looks for Crouch in the box but Koscielny and Sagna clear. At the other end Oxlade-Chamberlain tries to set new man Nacho Monreal free but Ryan Shotton comes across to clear.
Crouch tries to flick the ball on towards Walters but Laurent Koscielny clears and Arsenal press forward. Abu Diaby and Oxlade-Chamberlain exchange passes before the latter gives it away.
Olivier Giroud is the only man in the box as a cross comes in from the left, but the Arsenal striker can't get near it.
Stoke are unable to make any inroads into the Arsenal half as yet. The hosts work it out to the right after good work from Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sagna's cross is sliced out for a corner to the Gunners.
Arteta sets Walcott loose down the right, and the England international pulls the ball back across the area, but it doesn't find another Arsenal player and Stoke survive.
Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna are linking up a lot on Arsenal's right already, and could cause Stoke some problems today. Meanwhile, Peter Crouch tries to release Jonathan Walters at the other end but it goes straight out for a throw.
Arsenal settling in to an early spell of possession, and Olivier Giroud tries to get behind the defence but Robert Huth clears the danger. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then has plenty of time to take a shot from the edge of the area but it rolls disappointingly wide.
Referee Chris Foy blows his whistle and Stoke get us underway.
The teams are out at the Emirates, and here's Ewan Roberts with more: "You suspect this will be a match of extremes, either a goal-fest or a bore-fest; 50 league goals have been scored at the Emirates this year – more than at any other ground – but Stoke City have been involved in more goalless draws (five) than any other side. Let’s hope for the former."
Not long to go until kick off then. Can the Gunners pick up a vital three points in their push for a Champions League spot, or can Stoke come away with a result and consolidate their top-half status? It should be an interesting encounter.
Ewan Roberts is at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon, and he's checked in with us: "Hello from the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal host Tony Pulis’ Stoke City. Speaking in his programme notes, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger believes the key to victory will be starting well. “There seems to be a fear of not doing well, and we need to start games in a more serene way.” The north London club have conceded the first goal in each of their last five games. Wenger expects the Potters to be “difficult to beat”, though it is worth noting that Arsenal have won their last 10 home games against Stoke, not losing on their own turf since 1981."
So, new signing Nacho Monreal goes straight into the starting line-up for the Gunners, but ever-present Santi Cazorla drops to the bench, and there's no place for Thomas Vermaelen who was doubtful. Meanwhile, Asmir Begovic keeps his place between the sticks for Stoke after being linked with a move away in January, while Tony Pulis looks to have reverted to 4-4-2 after playing three at the back against Wigan.
STOKE: Begovic; Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson; Walters, Cameron, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Etherington; Crouch. Subs: Sorensen, Jones, Owen, Adam, Whitehead, Kightly, Jerome.
ARSENAL: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Diaby, Arteta, Wilshere; Walcott, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain. Subs: Mannone, Jenkinson, Santos, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski.
The teams are in, so let's take a look at how they line up this afternoon...
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE play-by-play coverage of today's Premier League clash between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium. I'm Tom McKeown and I'll be here to guide you through all the action in today's game.
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