Walters penalty fire down Gunners
1st March 2014 3pm
A rare Jonathan Walters goal from the penalty spot was enough for Stoke to dent Arsenal`s title hopes at the Britannia Stadium.
Jonathan Walters won a late penalty after his flick into the penalty area was handled by Laurent Koscienly which gave Mike Jones no doubt as he immediately pointed to the spot.
Walters calmly slotted home from the penalty spot, to give the Potters their 10th point against last year`s top four at home this season. The Potters had previously drawn with Manchester City and then beat Chelsea 3-2 and Manchester United 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium.
The Potters made one change to the side that lost to Manchester City last weekend as Steven N`Zonzi came in for the injured Peter Odemwingie.
Arsenal also made one change from last weekend`s 4-1 victory against Sunderland as Kieran Gibbs came in for Nacho Monreal.
Stoke started the game with the more venture, created a number of half chances after some excellent work by Marko Arnautovic especially. His excellent deep cross found Jonathan Walters open in the box, but the Irishmen could head wide, even though he was judged to have been in an offside position.
Mark Hughes` men were ready for a battle and won that continuously in the midfield with a high tackle win rate, stopping the Gunners from playing their usual free flowing passing game. The midfield trio of Glenn Whelan, Charlie Adam and Steven N`Zonzi seemed to win every first and second ball in the midfield leaving the Arsenal midfield redundant.
These events made a mockery of the staged picture in the week of the Gunners trio Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil dressed in Rugby attire stating they were 'Ready for Stoke`. The duo that started the match were largely vacant in proceedings although they both had chances to break the deadlock in the first half but Cazorla shot was easily saved by Begovic and Podolski shanked wide.
The Potters continuously had success down either flank and nearly grabbed the lead after some tenacious work from Jon Walters who won the ball off Jack Wilshere before driving towards goal and after a neat interchange with Steven N`Zonzi the ball found Peter Crouch in the area but the former England forward could only find the side netting with a half volley.
Just before the interval, Ryan Shawcross hit a phenomenal 45-yard diagonal pass to Arnautovic on the left wing, who manufactured a shooting opportunity for Glenn Whelan with his composure on the ball, the Austrian managed to roll in Whelan who struck across the ball from 20-yards which forced an excellent save from Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
The Potters were once again wasteful after the break when Peter Crouch failed to connect properly to two Geoff Cameron crosses and then a golden opportunity after a wonderful Charlie Adam cross, who may have been lucky to have been on the field of play after the Scot had stood on Oliver Giroud, as Crouch decided to go with his feet when heading the cross seemed the better option.
Stoke continued to pile on the pressure and once again came close after Geoff Cameron narrowly fired wide after a Charlie Adam corner.
These events caused concern for Arsene Wenger, who brought on record signing Mesut Ozil and youngsters Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo to try to break the deadlock but it was Stoke who managed this feat.
Shortly after regular spot kick taker Charlie Adam was substituted for Stephen Ireland, Walters brought down a long ball expertly and tried to lob Laurent Koscienly as he broke towards goal, but the French defender handily in the area.
Walters immediately grabbed the ball and after a conversation with both Whelan and Arnautovic, kept responsibility of the spot kick even though he had missed four out of his last six from the spot, but he made no mistake with this one, calmly slotting past Szczesny to send the Britannia Stadium into raptures.
Arsenal did have chances to level but Ozil fired wide and Sanogo fired horribly over with the last kick of the game to sum up an uninspiring day for the Gunners.
The win for the Potters leaves them six points away from the drop, whilst the defeat for Wenger`s men means they are now four points behind league leaders Chelsea.