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Stoke 0-0 Arsenal: Gunners frustrated in bore draw
Arsene Wenger's were toothless in attack and draw another blank as the resolute Potters earn Tony Pulis's men a point at the Britannia Stadium
By Andrew Sixsmith
The north London side dominated large periods of the game, with Santi Cazorla prominent in every attack but, despite looking resolute in defence, their cutting edge in the final third deserted them at the vital moments.
Chances were few and far between throughout the encounter with new signing Olivier Giroud volleying over the best of Arsenal’s and a Jonathan Walters’ scuff the best moments of a lethargic 90 minutes.
Tony Pulis made two changes from the side held to a 1-1 opening day draw against Reading. Jermaine Pennant had recovered from a slight knock to take his place on the wing with new-bow Geoff Cameron making his debut in central midfield. Dean Whitehead and Matthew Etherington made way.
Arsene Wenger also made two changes to his Arsenal side which appeared to have more than a hint of physicality about it.
The big team news came in goal, with regular number one Wojciech Szczesny missing out with a rib injury, allowing Vito Mannone to make his first appearance of the season. Giroud was given his first start for the club.
Much of the pre-match build-up centred around discipline, with Pulis claiming Arsenal to be a “dirtier” side than the Potters.
It was Arsenal, however, who used Pulis’s words as inspiration, settling into their trademark rhythmical passing game from the outset and moving the ball around with confidence and precision, with new signing Cazorla pulling the strings.
Stoke did provide a reminder of their aerial threat within the first five minutes, with Peter Crouch knocking the ball down for Walters to net from an offside position.
But the game’s first real opening fell to Lukas Podolski, the German breaking into the penalty area only to see his left-footed shot deflected wide, seemingly by the outstretched hand of Andy Wilkinson.
Podolski was involved again shortly after; his slaloming run was cynically ended by a Robert Huth block, with the resulting free kick tamely fired into the wall and then wide by Cazorla.
And Arsenal could have broken the deadlock a minute later, with Kieran Gibbs’ clever overlapping run undermined by his misplaced clip across the six yard box with Giroud well placed for a simple scoring chance.
The match was starting to fall into a similar Stoke-Arsenal pattern with the home team happy to soak up any pressure through two solid banks of four and allow the Gunners to pass the ball around in front of them.
And Cazorla and Podolski were the epitomes of Arsenal’s approach, looking lively and enterprising in their link up play, with little end product to show for it.
Despite the Gunners’ monopoly of possession, Stoke remained dangerous on the break with a strong run from Walters resulting in a Michael Kightly drive stinging the palms of Mannone.
Five minutes later, it was Stoke custodian Asomir Begovic’s turn to be tested, having to push behind Cazorla’s rising 25-yard drive.
And it almost came as a relief when referee Lee Mason brought an end to a turgid first half.
It was a similar story at the start of the second period with the match largely being played in the Stoke half.
Pennant felt he should have had a penalty when his driving run into the area was theatrically halted by Gibbs but the appeals were rightly waved away by referee Mason.
At the other end, Giroud had Arsenal’s best chance of the half, spectacularly bouncing the ball over Begovic’s crossbar from Cazorla’s beautifully flighted corner.
The introduction of England international duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain briefly injected some life into a tired looking Arsenal side, with first Arteta blazing over when well-placed and Abou Diaby skewing wide after getting his legs in a tangle in the six-yard box
But Walters could have nicked all three points for Stoke at the other end, scuffing a tame shot through to Mannone when set clear.
Giroud was agonisingly close to doing similar for the Gunners when his audacious 35-yard chip landed inches over Begovic’s bar.
But a 0-0 draw was the right result for a solid Stoke performance and a muted Arsenal display as both sides continue their search for a first Premier League win of the season.
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