Stoke draw enough for Arsenal to go atop
Stoke-On-Trent, January 18
Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League but their Britannia Stadium hoodoo was extended with a goalless draw against Stoke City on Sunday.
A point was enough to take Arsene Wenger’s side clear of Leicester City on goal difference but it was another afternoon of frustration in the Potteries for the veteran French manager.
His side have now failed to win at Stoke’s home ground in six attempts. That victory became infamous for the sickening broken leg suffered by Gunners Aaron Ramsey, who was again singled out for some unsavoury abuse by Stoke fans during his 250th Arsenal appearance.
The bad blood from the injury and Ramsey’s refusal to accept Ryan Shawcross’s apology for the challenge that caused it remains for Stoke fans, who taunted Ramsey throughout on Sunday with boos and a chant about the damage caused to his leg.
Arsenal could not silence the home crowd as Stoke held their own, with both Potters goalkeeper Jack Butland and Arsenal counterpart Petr Cech in good form.
After a scrappy opening littered, it was Stoke who carved out the first chance through Marko Arnautovic.
The Austrian wandered in off the left flank to collect possession in a central area 30 yards from goal, but his ambitious effort flew high into the Arsenal fans behind Cech’s goal.
The game finally came to a semblance of life in the 20th minute when Glen Johnson and Jonathan Walters found space on the Stoke right to pick out Joselu on the edge of the area.
Arsenal immediately broke and created an opening of their own thanks to a fine pass by Joel Campbell and an equally clever run by Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman found himself one on one with Butland but the England international spread himself well to make an important stop.
The game remained disjointed but Ramsey had a goal-bound shot deflected wide for a corner which was dealt with easily by the Potters.
Ten minutes before half-time Arsenal failed to deal with Erik Pieters’s dangerous cross but Joselu headed straight at Cech.
The Gunners then handed cheap possession to Stoke, for whom Bojan fired just wide. Just over a minute into the second half, Butland denied Arsenal what looked like a certain goal.
The goalkeeper reacted superbly to dive low to his left and turn away a free header from Giroud. Then Stoke were denied as the tempo of the game was raised a notch.
Arnautovic advanced and fed Joselu, whose shot was clawed away superbly by Cech.
The former Chelsea star then reacted well to scramble Bojan’s follow-up.
The game became scrappy once more but it was Arsenal who made most of the running in the closing stages and Campbell tried his luck from a tight angle with five minutes remaining.
But his effort flew well wide to sum up contest.