Stoke earn Arsenal draw in drab encounter
26th August 2012 1.30pm
Attendance: 27, 072
Stoke City held Arsenal to their second successive goalless draw of the season in front of the Sky television cameras in a drab affair at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke made two changes from their opening day draw at Reading with fit again Jermaine Pennant coming in over his former team to replace the injured Matthew Etherington, whilst new United States of America international signing Geoff Cameron was handed his debut as he replaced the suspended Dean Whitehead in the middle of the park.
Arsenal also made two changes from their opening day draw against Sunderland as Oliver Giroud was given his full debut ahead of Theo Walcott and Vito Mannone deputised in goal in place of the injured Wojciech Szczęsny.
Stoke started the brightest with Michael Kightly, who was making his home debut finding space on the left wing and easily beat Carl Jenkinson before putting a dangerous ball into the box which was hurriedly cleared by the Arsenal defence, but the ball fell to left back Marc Wilson who floated a ball directly back into the box, which was won in the air by Peter Crouch, who nodded the ball into the path of Irishmen Jonathan Walters, who prodded the ball into the roof of the net.
Walters wheeled away in celebration, but was only short lived as he saw the linesman had rightly flagged him offside.
Arsenal grabbed the initiative in the game after this early scare as they began to control possession and new signing Santi Cazorla looked sharp and impressive.
Even though Arsenal dominated possession, they failed to create more than a handful of clear cut chances, and looked to possess little cutting edge.
The Gunners were unlucky to not take the lead though as Gervinho linked up nicely with Giroud and the ball found German Lukas Podolski who hit a crisp shot at goal but the stumbling Andy Wilkinson blocked the ball. It seemed as Wilkinson blocked the ball with his arm as he fell, but there were limited appeals by the Arsenal players. Stoke and Wilkinson can count their selves lucky.
Podolski looked to move up a gear from then and picked the ball up in the midfield and set on an energetic and direct run towards the Stoke penalty area but was cynically fouled by his German counterpart Huth, who was rightly booked for the foul.
Cazorla took the resulting free kick but blasted into the wall and then screwed the ball wide from the rebound.
Stoke managed to finally test Arsenal`s third choose keeper. Huth won the ball on the edge of his own area and with a nice bit of footwork created space to send Jonathan Walters on a surging counter attacking run who got to the by-line but his cross was blocked, but the forward didn`t panic and found Kightly who turned on the ball smartly and hit a 20 yard shot at Mannone, but the Italian held the ball comfortably.
Just before half time, Arsenal nearly broke the deadlock as the ever impressive Cazorla drove through the middle and let rip with a tremendous 30 yard drive which had Bosnian Begovic flying to his left to tip the effort around the post.
After the half time break Stoke came flying out the blocks as Jermaine Pennant nicked in front of the hesitating Kieran Gibbs and drove towards the box, but went down under the pressure of the recovering left back. Cries from the winger and the Britannia Stadium faithful were turned away by referee Lee Mason, a decision which was correct as there was little contact made by Gibbs.
At the other end of the pitch, Stoke were lucky to have all eleven players left on the pitch as Andy Wilkinson clattered into Podolski with a full blooded challenge from behind. The defender was lucky only to be given a yellow card.
Cameron Jerome was introduced in the place of Pennant as Walters moved to the right wing as Jerome moved up front.
Second half saw few chances for either side as the game was broken up by substitutions.
Arsenal did look the most likely to grab the opening goal of the game and went close from a Cazorla corner which saw Giroud peel off to the edge of the box and hit an acrobatic volley into the ground and towards the goal but in the end drifted wide. The Frenchman should have done better. You can`t help but feel the pressure of replacing 30 goal man Robin van Persie is too much a task for the former Montpellier player.
A flurry of substitutions occurred from both sides as Wilson Palacios and Ryan Shotton replaced Crouch and Whelan for Stoke and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott replacing Cazorla, Gervinho and Podolski for Arsenal.
In a rare Stoke attack, Jonathan Walters found himself in space in the penalty area after a gorgeous pass from the outside of Michael Kightly`s foot into the channel, but the work horse could only poke a tame effort at the on rushing Mannone.
Stoke maintained to push forward to try and grab a winner, but when Wilson Palacios was disposed by Chamberlain it nearly cost them a point, as the England winger found Giroud who looked up and tried an audacious lob from 25 yards which had Stoke stopper Begovic scrambling backwards and the Potter`s number one was grateful to see the ball glide over the bar.
Giroud may have had a better option in the middle in the form of Aaron Ramsey who was in a good position and the decision of the Frenchmen infuriated his counterpart and manager Wenger who wanted him to square the ball.
Stoke starting XI
Arsenal starting XI
''We've played two difficult games, a newly-promoted team away from home was always a tough game and one of the top teams at our place and we're still unbeaten.'