For the first time this season, our attacking threat was really on display. We have looked dull and uncreative at times, but we fashioned a huge number of chances throughout the game against Stoke.
We also failed to take many of them unfortunately, but thankfully our lack of clinical finishing went unpunished as we ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.
It was a bright start to the game, and we really should have had a couple of goals in the opening few minutes. Jack Butland made a fantastic save to deny Alexis Sanchez, palming his headed effort onto the post. The ball fell to Theo Walcott at close range, but the Englishman skewed his shot horribly wide.
Butland made another excellent save to deny Alexis moments later, his free kick pushed round the post. The Chilean then struck the woodwork again, his venomous strike leaving the Stoke keeper beaten all ends up.
Walcott isn’t known for his heading ability, but it looked easier to score than to miss when Hector Bellerin’s pinpoint cross found him in the box. The speedster somehow contrived to head it over though, Olivier Giroud watching from the bench.
Laurent Koscielny made a marauding run forward later on in the half, and unchallenged he decided to take the shot on. The ball rocketed towards the top corner, and Butland was again required to produce a moment of magic.
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The breakthrough finally came, with Stoke caught unawares. Francis Coquelin put a superb tackle in to win the ball in midfield, and dropped it off to Mesut Özil. The playmaker put a sumptuous ball over the top for Walcott to run onto, and the 26-year-old slotted under Butland to make it 1-0.
We continued creating chances in the second half, but our failure to convert was slightly worrying. Aaron Ramsey had a couple of decent opportunities, but the Welshman still looks guilty of trying to force things.
A great bit of build up play resulted in Özil finding Ramsey in space on the right, with a plethora of options in the box. He opted to shoot though, and looked to slip as he did so – blasting it high and wide.
Walcott should have scored a couple more times in the second half, but was denied once again by Butland after being put through one-on-one.
Stoke grew into the game later on, with Xherdan Shaqiri in particular looking dangerous. It was starting to look like we might end up ruing our missed chances, especially after Giroud replaced Walcott and missed one of the best chances of the game – dragging the ball wide from a few yards out.
He made up for it shortly after though, heading in a Santi Cazorla free kick won by fellow substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Frenchman badly needed that goal, and you could see the relief on his face. 2-0.
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There was an incident involving Gabriel and Marko Aurnatovic, with the Austrian furious at what he felt was an arm in the face. It was a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other really, and the Stoke forward really just showed once again what a vile human being he is.
Giroud should have had a penalty late on when he was dragged down in the box, and probably would have scored if Erik Pieters didn’t have a handful of his shirt.
The game finished 2-0 though, and although we should have scored several more goals and won far more comfortably, it was a good performance all in all.