Stoke City 0 Arsenal 0
Life after Robin van Persie is turning out to be every bit as painful as many Arsenal supporters feared it would. A point at a stadium where Arsenal had suffered defeat in three of their previous five visits hardly qualifies as a bad day at the office but as long as Arsène Wenger’s side continue to lack a cutting edge in front of goal – they have failed to score in 180 minutes of football this season – it is difficult to look beyond the absence of a certain Dutchman. “Robin van Persie, he would have scored that,” mocked the Stoke City supporters time and again.
With Wojciech Szczesny missing because of a rib injury, there was a natural assumption that Stoke would subject Vito Mannone, who was making only his seventh Arsenal start, to an aerial onslaught but the Italian goalkeeper will feel that he got off lightly on a day when Tony Pulis’s side rarely made life uncomfortable for the visitors. Jonathan Walters snatched at a late chance for Stoke but most of the goalmouth action was at the other end of the pitch, where Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Olivier Giroud all had second-half chances for Arsenal.
Although Arsenal were well on top during an opening 45 minutes when they dominated possession, the visitors lacked penetration at the end of their neat approach play. Lukas Podolski, who started wide on the left in a three-pronged attack that saw Giroud deployed through the middle and Gervinho play on the right, had a decent sight of goal in the eighth minute but Andy Wilkinson, who was falling over at the time, blocked with his arm. A penalty would have been harsh. The only other notable Arsenal opportunity in the first half came when Santi Cazorla, who started brightly but faded, unleashed a 25-yard shot that Asmir Begovic turned around the post.
Stoke were strangely subdued, their threat in the first half confined to the odd counterattack and the long throw-ins hurled into the area by Geoff Cameron, the USA international who has stepped into Rory Delap’s boots in more ways than one.
They did, however, have claims for a penalty in the 58th minute, when Kieran Gibbs tangled rather untidily with Jermaine Pennant. Lee Mason, the referee, was not not impressed, much to Pennant’s frustration. – Guardian (UK) Football