Mesut Ozil was the catalyst for victory against an unusually brittle Stoke side which conceded three goals from set pieces. The German superstar took his league assist tally to four in two games as Wenger’s men climbed back to the top of the table.
Stoke were physical as usual, with Huth in particular guilty of taking out young Gnabry with a cynical body check in the second half, but they failed to deal adequately with Ozil’s deliveries into the box allowing Mertesacker and then Sagna to score with headers.
Ramsey had started the scoring after reacting first to Begovic’s tame parry from Ozil’s free kick, but instead of pushing for a second goal, the home side seemed to relax and Stoke soon found themselves back in it after some ball watching in the Gunners’ rearguard.
Arsenal reacted well and redoubled their efforts as Mertesacker put them into a halftime lead, but the second half saw Arsenal retreat somewhat into a solid defensive shape, content to hit Stoke on the break, as they did against Spurs. Thankfully the visitors had no creative quality whatsoever and even though Arsenal were sloppy at times, the Potters couldn’t fashion any decent chances to test Szczesny.
Sagna settled any nerves amongst the home faithful with a looping header on 72 minutes and Arsenal saw the game out comfortably.
I’m not getting as carried away as some after this win because I saw glimpses of a few old failings. The complacency after taking the lead never ceases to annoy me and we weren’t very creative from open play, although I think that will improve once Ozil gets used to his new team mates and we get the likes of Cazorla and Walcott back. Young Serge Gnabry did well as a late replacement for Theo, overcoming some uneasy moments in the first half where he seemed to dwell on the ball too long to have a very encouraging game.
The other notable performance came from Flamini, who showed good discipline and positioning in his defensive midfield role (something Song rarely did as he swanned up the pitch trying to find RVP with a killer pass). He was also very vocal, visibly shouting and motioning to his teammates at the back and seeming to organise them which is something we’ve been missing for a long time now.
So a few minor criticisms aside this was a solid performance and another good victory. Apart from Spurs we haven’t played any quality teams this season though, so the jury is out as to how improved we are from last year when we won against ‘average’ teams but struggled against class opposition. However, all you can do is beat what’s put in front of you and we are doing that well — long may it continue.
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