Scoreless draw at Stoke puts Arsenal back on top of Premier League
18:12 17 January 2016
Stoke City 0 Arsenal 0
Arsenal fought out their first scoreless draw since August to claim the point that lifted them back to the Premier League summit.
The Gunners, who were missing both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez at the Britannia Stadium, were good value for the draw that nudged them back above Leicester on goal difference.
With that said, the visitors were largely outshone in midfield during a lively first half, with Stoke displaying greater drive and desire but rather deficient in terms of shots on target.
Ibrahim Afellay should have done better, pouncing on a lay-off by Marko Arnautovic but drilling wide on his left foot, while Joselu’s header sailed tamely into the gloves of Petr Cech.
In fact, the better first-half scoring opportunities fell to Arsenal, with Joel Campbell’s precise through ball splitting the Potters defence to pick out the run of Olivier Giroud, but Jack Butland sprang forward to block the chance.
Butland also tipped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s drive over the crossbar and the resulting corner presented the Arsenal midfielder with another go – this one spinning off the boot of Laurent Koscielny and wide.
And there was no question of the Stoke goalkeeper switching off at the start of the second half, getting down to claw away a header from Giroud that was destined for the bottom corner of the net.
Butland’s agility was soon matched by his opposite number, with Cech diving to parry a well-struck effort from Joselu and getting up in time to foil Bojan.
Arsenal were indebted to their veteran keeper again midway through the second period, pushing another Joselu attempt clear after Koscielny’s pass had gone astray.
While there were shorts bursts of pressure from both sides, neither could ever sustain them long enough to snap the deadlock – although not for the want of trying.
Campbell blazed wide late on for the Gunners, while Stoke might also have snatched all three points when Glenn Whelan’s glancing header was cleared off the line by Aaron Ramsey, with Cech stretching out a leg to keep out the rebound from Afellay.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini; Campbell; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Chambers 90), Ramsey, Walcott (Iwobi 72); Giroud.