Well a game that Arsenal were already expecting to be a tough one became even more of an uphill battle when the Arsenal defence failed to deal with a cross from N’Zonzi and Peter Crouch scored after just a minute or so. With the Gunners having an awful recent record against Stoke City, the last thing we needed was to give them a fast start and the home crowd more reason to shout.
We should have been level nine minutes later when Bellerin did really well to keep the ball from going out and find Giroud in the middle, but the big Frenchman somehow managed to put his header wide. Chambers was in for Kosielny and the youngster was at fault on the goal and he continued to look shaky.
The referee did not look like he had any intention of showing any Stoke player an early card despite a few challenges that merited one. As usual the Stoke fans booed Aaron Ramsey constantly for having the nerve to not be happy with Shawcross nearly ending his career, but the best way for the Welshman to pay them back was with his football and he was still struggling to find the form of last season.
The ref then denied us a great chance when Alexis was alert enough to take a quick free kick but Mr. Taylor made us take it again. Cheers mate, it is not like you should get any advantage from a free kich after all. And he nearly cost us another goal when he gave a free kick against Gibbs for nothing and Martinez just managed to save the resulting header.
We only had ourselves to blame when they did grab a second after 35 minutes, failing to stop the cross from the right and failing to track the run of Bojan who had all the time and space in the world to score. It was just like watching the bad old Gunners from earlier in the season. So it was no surprise to see us conced a third goal and all the points just before the break, from our old enemy a corner kick.
With Chelsea losing this game was a great chance for Arsenal so Wenger must have been furious that we just failed to match Stoke’s effort and I hope he gave them a real blast at halftime.
The boss had to do something and he brought Welbeck on for the second half, with Bellerin strangely the player to go off, with Flamini going to right back. It was a bold move but did not really make much difference for most of the second half as we continued to lose out on almost every physical challenge.
When Alexis beat the Stoke defence on his own and rounded the keeper, there was a glimmer of hope that he could spark a comeback, but when his shot hit the post, that hope seemed to be gone. Podolski replaced Giroud for the last half hour but was unable to have any more influence than the Frenchman.
Martinez then flapped at Bojan’s shot and it looked like four but the linesman rulked it out and then we got one back from the spot through Cazorla after Flamini was clipped. And minutes later the improbable looked possible when Ramsey smashed home a second to get some revenge on his tormentors in the crowd.
But when the ref sent Chambers off for a second yellow, a harsh one at that considering what he had been letting go, Arsenal were up against it again. How Charlie Adam got away with just a yellow after blatantly grabbing Alexis by the throat and throwing him to the ground, I will never know, but the ref had been rubbish all day.
Despite a stirring attempt at a comeback Arsenal could not complete the job and were punished for the worst first half performance of the season, which could well have wasted all the momentum built up in recent weeks.