We secured a point away at Stoke this past Sunday, which, given our record at the Britannia Stadium, may not actually be that bad. The draw meant we remained top of the table by goal difference, but missed our chance to extend our lead over Leicester and Manchester City to two and three points respectively.
Both teams looked happy to concede possession in their opponent’s half, with a real lack of pressure high up the pitch. We were also struggling to create anything of note with our slow build-up play though, so it wasn’t clear where the goals would come from.
The only really clear cut chance we created in the first half was for Olivier Giroud, with Joel Campbell leaving the Stoke defence static with a sublime pass. Giroud looked destined to score, but some quick thinking and superb goalkeeping from Jack Butland denied him.
There was very little else of note in the first half, with both keepers having a few decent saves to make, but nothing you wouldn’t have expected them to make.
We should have been ahead early on in the second half, with Olivier Giroud once again looking likely to score. He rose highest to head a corner goalwards, but again was denied by a Butland save. The English shot-stopper got down quickly to keep the ball out of the bottom corner, and you could see by Giroud’s expression of disbelief he thought he’d scored.
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Stoke were benefiting from an extremely lenient referee, who was letting a lot of little niggling tackles slide. It wasn’t so much that Stoke committed any fouls worthy of yellow cards, but the cumulative effect of the constant fouls should have resulted in at least a few cards – especially for Erik Pieters.
We arguably should have had a penalty (or at least a free-kick at the edge of the area) when Theo Walcott was brought down by Philipp Wollscheid. First an arm came across the speedster at the edge of the area, then he took a kick to the heel as he attempted to force his way into the box.
Again though, we weren’t creating a huge amount of chances, and despite us dominating possession, Stoke were arguably looking the more threatening.
Petr Cech was called upon to make the save of the game so far, denying Stoke twice in a matter of seconds. Marko Arnautovic’s venomous shot was kept out acrobatically, but only palmed into the path of Joselu. Cech got back to his feet quickly though, denying the Spaniard from a tight angle.
It was a frustrating end to the game, with the time running down and nothing of note really being created. Indeed, it was Stoke who looked the most likely to snatch a win at the death, but again Cech was on hand.
The ball was cleared off the line by Aaron Ramsey during a corner, but again only fell to a Stoke player. Cech was able to get the shot away with his foot though, saving us from a last minute loss.
It was disappointing not to get the win – and our performance was arguably even more disappointing – but given our track record away against Stoke, it wasn’t all bad.
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We’re still top of the table, and still getting points without a number of our best players. The Premier League is still in our hands.