Arsenal and Aaron Ramsey’s imperious run of form continued as the Welshman scored the opening goal in the Gunners’ 3-1 win over Stoke City to move, temporarily at least, top of the Premier League. All three goals came from set-pieces by home debutant Mesut Ozil. The first was put in by close range by Ramsey after just five minutes to get his seventh goal of the season after Ozil’s free-kick was only parried out. The home side’s progress was temporarily halted when Geoff Cameron slotted in, but headers from Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna either side of half-time ensured Arsenal walked away with the three points.
The win makes it seven consecutive wins in all competitions for Arsenal since an opening day defeat to Aston Villa had the Emirates crowd in uproar at the direction in which they believed the club was moving. It all seems a very long time ago now. Record signing Ozil has added a new creative dimension, while Ramsey is a player reborn this season and showing why he was so highly rated before the career-threatening injury suffered against Stoke in February 2010.
There was mixed news on the injury front for Arsene Wenger on Sunday. Theo Walcott was ruled out before the match with a pelvic injury and Arsenal’s thin squad was shown up by 18-year-old Serge Gnabry having to step into the side. There was a most welcome return then for Mikel Arteta, who made his first appearance of the season when coming off the bench with 10 minutes remaining.
By that point, Arsenal’s victory was secured. Stoke will have been disappointed with the concession of all three goals, but perhaps especially the opener. Asmir Begovic, normally so impressive in the Stoke goal, was unable to hold onto Ozil’s fairly tame free-kick and could only parry it out to the edge of the six-yard box where Ramsey displayed his current scoring instincts to slot home.
Arsenal’s defense, though, was exposed as Stoke got back on level terms in the 26th minute. Recent signing Marko Arnautovic almost had a goal to remember on his full debut with a controlled volley that struck the post. But from the rebound, United States international Cameron showed a clinical touch to side-foot the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
Stoke’s parity would only last 10 minutes. From a corner on the right, Mertesacker was going away from goal 10 yards out and produced a fine header that looped into the far corner, with Begovic expecting the ball to be diverted by Laurent Koscielny in front of goal. The touch didn’t come from the Frenchman and Arsenal were back in front.
Still Stoke failed to heed the warning from set-pieces. This time from an Ozil free-kick on the left, Sagna rose highest and looped a similar header to beat Begovic at his far post once more.
Whether under Tony Pulis, or with the slightly more refined tactics under Mark Hughes, Stoke have now lost on all six Premier League visits to the Emirates. On this occasion, Arsenal weren’t at their best, but they again showed a required winning mentality. And for the time being they are top of the pile, although their north London neighbors Tottenham could go above them later on Sunday.