Arsenal celebrate Islington centenary as Stoke win puts them top of the Premier League
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Arsenal 3 Stoke City 1
Defensive pair Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna were both on target as Arsenal marked their Islington centenary by going top of the Premier League.
Aaron Ramsey extended his remarkable scoring streak with his seventh goal in as many games and, although Geoff Cameron levelled for Stoke, headers from Mertesacker and Sagna secured victory for the Gunners.
That result – Arsenal’s seventh straight win in all competitions – lifted Arsene Wenger’s side to the summit on the day the club celebrated their move from south London to Islington 100 years ago.
The Gunners got off to a dream start when Charlie Adam brought down Jack Wilshere on the edge of the box, Asmir Begovic failed to hold Mesut Ozil’s curling free-kick and the ball dropped perfectly for Ramsey to rifle home.
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Arsenal looked comfortable in possession, with Wilshere, Ozil and Serge Gnabry – making his first Premier League start in place of the unwell Theo Walcott – all asking awkward questions of the visitors’ defence.
But they were unable to add to their lead, and Stoke stunned the Emirates crowd with a 26th-minute equaliser that came out of the blue.
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Steven N’Zonzi’s lofted ball into the penalty area caught Mertesacker out and Marko Arnautovic slammed his shot against the post, with Cameron reacting first to tuck the rebound into the corner of the net.
Arsenal responded well and it needed crucial blocks by Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth to foil Olivier Giroud and Wilshere respectively, while Mertesacker had a header cleared off the line.
And it was the captain who restored the Gunners’ lead nine minutes from the interval, meeting Ozil’s corner with another angled header that sailed out of Begovic’s reach into the far corner.
Gnabry looked lively at the start of the second half, testing Begovic with a left-foot drive before releasing Giroud for a shot that was clawed over the bar by the Stoke goalkeeper.
Begovic had to be alert to foil Ozil soon afterwards, but at the other end Wojciech Szczesny was also called into action to turn Marc Wilson’s effort around the post.
And, despite a good spell for Stoke, the next goal went to the home side as Ozil delivered a free-kick and Bacary Sagna got between Wilson and Jon Walters to send a looping header over Begovic on 72 minutes.
That was the French defender’s first goal in more than 18 months and it effectively ended the contest, although Ramsey blazed another injury-time opportunity over the bar.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker; Ramsey, Flamini; Gnabry (Miyaichi 73), Ozil (Arteta 80), Wilshere (Monreal 73); Giroud.