Stoke 0 Arsenal 0: Arsene Wenger claimed Stoke fans would “not be proud” of themselves after targeting Aaron Ramsey with unsavoury chants about his broken leg during Arsenal’s goalless draw at Stoke.
Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League but their six-year Britannia Stadium hoodoo was extended thanks in no small part to Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.
The Gunners have not won in the Potteries in six attempts since February 2010, when Ramsey’s leg was broken in a challenge by Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross.
Wenger’s criticism of Shawcross and Ramsey’s initial refusal to accept the defender’s apology created bad blood with Stoke fans, who yesterday taunted the Welshman by singing he “walks with a limp”.
Wenger said: “I have no influence on it and I don’t know what generally you should do about it.
“When people get together sometimes they forget their individual responsibility. Maybe when you go home and watch it on television you are less proud.
“I focus on the game. I shut my ears — I think that’s best way to deal with it.”
Wenger and opposite number Mark Hughes also disagreed on Stoke’s style of play, with Hughes taking umbrage at Wenger’s claim that the Potters were physical.
Wenger said: “Overall it was a battle — an old-fashioned Stoke battle because they made the game very physical.
“The crowd was up for it, the players were up for it. They went for a very direct game and we had to show a physical response, solidarity, fighting spirit, togetherness, which we did.
“We lacked a bit of creativity to force a way through and on top of that we missed two or three good chances,
“Of course we wanted to win the game but looking at the history we have here it’s a positive result.”
But Hughes said: “I’ve just heard Arsene say he was a bit surprised that we went direct.
“I’m not quite sure what game he’s been watching. I was delighted with our performance and I thought on the day it was a good point for us.
“I don’t think there was a yellow card. I don’t know why the physical aspect of the game has to be mentioned. I thought it was a good football game with both teams trying to play and win a key Premier League game. That’s certainly what we were doing.”
There was little to warm fans of either club in the opening stages on a bitterly cold afternoon in the Potteries.
It took 10 minutes of niggling fouls and poor passing from both sides before either had a shot at goal.
When it happened it was Marko Arnautovic who drifted from the left flank into a central position to receive possession, but his 30-yard shot that flew high into the Arsenal end behind Petr Cech’s goal typified the early moments.
Finally, there was a moment to excite the home supporters in the 20th minute when they gave Cech a minor fright following an incisive move.
Glen Johnson and Jonathan Walters linked up on the right flank before Joselu’s clever lay-off set up Ibrahim Afellay.
His 25-yard effort worried Cech into a full-stretch dive but flew a yard wide.
Arsenal’s first chance followed immediately when a smart through-ball by Joel Campbell put Olivier Giroud in the clear, but the Frenchman was denied well by a decisive block from the advancing Jack Butland.
The game remained disjointed and Stoke almost took advantage 10 minutes before half-time, first when Joselu headed straight at Cech from an Erik Pieters cross and then when Bojan fired just wide after the Gunners had squandered possession cheaply.
Just over a minute into the second half the visitors thought they had taken the lead when Giroud leapt unmarked to meet a corner by Ramsey.
His header looked destined for the bottom corner but Butland reacted superbly to dive low to his left and turn it around the post for a corner.
After a largely tepid first half, the second began promisingly and Stoke ought to have led when Arnautovic teed up Joselu.
The Spaniard’s shot was saved superbly by Cech, who then reacted to block Bojan’s follow-up at the near post.
The Gunners needed Cech again on 66 minutes as he scrambled a shot from Joselu around the post.
The game became scrappy once more but it was Arsenal who made most of the running in the closing stages and Joel Campbell tried his luck from a tight angle with five minutes remaining. But his effort flew well wide to sum up an error-strewn contest.
And in the dying moments Stoke had their chances when Ramsey cleared off the line in a goalmouth scramble before Cech blocked a follow-up from Joselu.
That capped a fine day for both goalkeepers and edged Arsenal clear of Leicester City on goal difference at the top.
Wenger added: “People look at Arsenal when we come to Stoke but I must say I cannot fault my team for their attitude, it was spot on.”
STOKE CITY (4-2-3-1):
Butland 8; Johnson 7, Shawcross 7, Wollscheid 7, Pieters 6; Whelan 6, Afellay 6 (Van Ginkel 87); Walters 6, Bojan 5 (Diouf 64, 6), Arnautovic 6 (Adam 87); Joselu 6.
Subs not used:
Haugaard, Muniesa, Odemwingie, Crouch.
Cech 8; Bellerin 6, Mertesacker 7, Koscielny 7, Monreal 7; Ramsey 7, Flamini 6; Walcott 6 (Iwobi 72, 5), Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Chambers 91), Campbell 6; Giroud 6.
Subs not used:
Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Arteta, Elneny.
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