Jonathan Brady
Missing in Action
Jon Walters nowhere to be seen as Stoke given a footballing lesson by Arsenal
Mark Hughes had said the Irish international would feature today but he wasn’t included in the matchday squad.

BOTH THEO WALCOTT and Olivier Giroud answered their critics with well-taken goals as Arsenal picked up a first home win of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Stoke City at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners laid siege to the visitors’ goal in the opening exchanges, twice hitting the woodwork, and finally took the lead through Walcott on the half-hour mark, racing onto Mesut Ozil’s excellent pass and sliding the ball under Jack Butland.

Butland remained in excellent form throughout the contest, thwarting the hosts on numerous occasions, but could not prevent substitute Giroud from nodding in Santi Cazorla’s pin-point cross as the Gunners moved up to second place in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger’s men pushed forward from the off and Alexis Sanchez came close to gifting the hosts the lead after three minutes. Cazorla set up the former Barcelona forward with a fine cross, but the Chile international’s header was kept out by Butland.

Sanchez threatened again shortly after when he tried his luck with an opportunistic long-range strike, but his attempt struck the post and bounced to safety.

Arsenal kept on pushing for an opener with Walcott angering his team-mates in the 11th minute when he unleashed a shot from a narrow angle rather than set up one of his fellow attackers.

Stoke caused the Arsenal defence problems for the first time when Xherdan Shaqiri fired in a dangerous free-kick but Petr Cech rushed off his line to push the ball clear.

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Butland was called into action once more midway through the first half, but the 22-year-old showed his class with another fine save to deny Cazorla.

Walcott finally got the better of the Stoke goalkeeper after 31 minutes, though. Ozil set up the England international with a sublime, lofted through-ball in behind the Potters defence and Walcott coolly slotted home.

Stoke made a lively start to the second half with Shaqiri trying to set up Marko Arnautovic, but the Austria international just failed to pick up the pass in a dangerous position.

A sublime attack involving Sanchez, Ozil and Aaron Ramsey should have resulted in Arsenal’s second goal but Wales international Ramsey aimed too high and the chance went begging.

Stoke again escaped when full-back Phil Bardsley nearly put a cross from Ozil into his own net but the ball flashed just wide of the goal and out for a corner.

Arsenal continued to create chance after chance, yet poor finishing from Walcott and substitute Giroud kept the away side in the game.

Stoke’s fortune eventually ran out, however, when, with five minutes remaining, Giroud headed home Cazorla’s free-kick to settle matters; the result means only Manchester City lie above Arsenal in the table, while Stoke drop into the relegation zone.

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