Arsenal grateful for home comforts

Arsenal 3 Stoke 0: What a difference a ground makes.

Arsenal grateful for home comforts

Only five weeks after Arsenal suffered a humbling fifth defeat since Stoke were promoted in 2008, Arsene Wenger’s side moved up to fifth in the table having now won every Premier League match when hosting the men from the Potteries.

This was never even a contest and was all over when the outstanding Alexis Sanchez scored his second goal of the match, and 18th of the season, four minutes into the second half, following Laurent Koscielny’s early Arsenal opener.

The match was even without its usual bad blood despite Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy suffering a dislocated shoulder following a niggly push from Marko Arnautovic.

Both managers dismissed the incident as bad luck and focussed on what was a convincing display by Arsenal and a miserable one by Stoke, whose bad day was compounded when their train home was cancelled and they had to get a bus back north.

Wenger, who dropped keeper Wojciech Szczesny for David Ospina, said he would try to buy a central defender before the end of the month and admitted afterwards: “What was important for me was we kept a good concentration and a clean sheet at the back.

“Overall we played well. The only negative today is we lost another defender, an experienced defender, with a dislocated shoulder. And that gives us a problem because we are already short at the back.”

Explaining why they are such a better side against Stoke at home he added: “They (Stoke) are different as well [when they play here]. We forget sometimes that the opponent is different as well, they are less confident than when they are at Stoke and maybe we are less confident at Stoke than when we are here.”

Stoke manager Mark Hughes conceded: “We lost to a very good Arsenal side who were too quick for us and Sanchez was outstanding. It wasn’t just him, though, and we can have no qualms — on the day we were well beaten.”

“We are disappointed because we came here thinking we could do well, but our performance was poor.”

Asmir Begovic had already made two stunning saves to deny Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky before Arsenal took a sixth minute lead through Koscielny’s header.

Arsenal continued to dominate at will until the match took a nasty turn on 10 minutes as Debuchy was shoved in the back by Arnautovic as they jumped for a harmless cross that was already going behind for a goal-kick .

It was not a brutal challenge, but it was wholly unnecessary.

While Debuchy, just back from a three-month injury absence, received lengthy treatment from the physios and paramedics Stoke fans taunted him with an England rugby song while Arsenal followers retorted with ‘1-0 to the football team.’

After more Begovic heroics, Arsenal’s second goal eventually came with a cute finish from Sanchez on 33 minutes as Steven Nzonzi and Geoff Cameron were left in tatters by the Chilean’s quick inter-play with Rosicky.

Hughes reacted for the start of the second half by sending on Marc Muniesa and Arsenal old boy Steve Sidwell for Erik Pieters and Steven Nzonzi.

But it was still all Arsenal and Sidwell’s first contribution was to earn a booking for a foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the free-kick from which Sanchez scored Arsenal’s third on 49 minutes.

It was a clever free-kick — driving the ball under a jumping Stoke defensive wall — but the otherwise outstanding Begovic finished it off with a goalkeeping howler, palming the ball on to a post and into the back of the net.

No such action for Ospina, who could will also be joined in the squad for next Sunday’s clash with Manchester City by the returning Mesut Ozil, who marked his three-month injury lay-off by coming on as a sub for Giroud with just over 15 minutes to go.

ARSENAL: Ospina 7, Debuchy 6 (Bellerin 13, 7), Mertesacker 6 , Koscielny 6, Monreal 6, Coquelin 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain7 (Walcott 68, 6), Rosicky 7, Cazorla 8, Alexis 9, Giroud 6 (Ozil 73, 6).

STOKE: Begovic 7, Cameron 5, Wollscheid 5, Shawcross 5, Pieters 5 (Muniesa 45, 6), Nzonzi 5 (Sidwell 45, 5), Whelan 5, Arnautovic 5, Bojan 6 (Ireland 73, 5), Walters 5, Crouch 6.

Referee: Jon Moss.

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