Arsenal returned from the international break to face Stoke City. Stoke City are on the verge of relegation, and Arsenal will look to make it worse as they seek revenge on the 1-0 defeat earlier in the season.
The team today saw 7 changes since the last Premier League game, the most this season by Arsenal. Koscielny, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, and Xhaka were all starting on the bench ahead of the Europa League tie against CSKA on Thursday, as the sights are set on winning the tournament to get back to the Champions League.
In other team news, Wilshere wore the armband today with Koscielny on the bench. Petr Cech suffered a minor groin injury in training which saw Ospina get the nod for his first PL start in 364 days. The injury shouldn’t keep Cech out of the team for long though.
If you did not have a chance to see the game, you didn’t miss anything worth in the first 45 minutes. Stoke controlled possession and Arsenal seemed like they were still in the locker room. Both teams struggled to make any chances, most of the half was filled with sideways passing and errant dribbling. Even Arsenal’s Twitter admitted the team looked flat.
We've not been anywhere near our best so far - but we've just had the biggest chance of the game...@aaronramsey pounces on a loose ball but his shot clips the bar on its way over#AFCvSCFC 0-0 ⚪️ (23) pic.twitter.com/exLvpe0G4M— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 1, 2018
Ramsey and Mustafi looked brilliant this entire game, and were the bright spots in any otherwise lifeless half. The Welshman controlled the midfield and caused Stoke some stress in the middle third, while Mustafi was bailing Arsenal out with his tackling and defensive positioning.
In reference to the Arsenal tweet above about the best chance of the game: There was a small chance after chaos in the box led to a ball being bounced to Ramsey about 6 yards from the goal. Ramsey went for the chip, which was really his only option. It was damn close to a beautiful goal, but the woodwork kept the game at 0-0. See below:
At the 60 minute mark, 22 men who were occupying the field decided to start playing a real football match. Legs started to wear and Stoke started to play deeper in their own half. Lacazette came on for Welbeck, who was dreadful [again] today. I don’t think it is any coincidence that once the Frenchman came on, that things began to get better and better for Arsenal.
Ozil came alive as well at the hour mark. On the 70th minute he did that thing he always does, where he sends a pass from a not-very-threatening position and creates a scoring chance with that elite vision of his. Sadly, Aubameyang couldn’t put away the ball as Butland did great to keep it out. But just look at this sumptuous ball.
Aubameyang's missed chance before the goal. Brilliant pass from Özil pic.twitter.com/Px3aRYoezL— Terje (@ArsenalTerje) April 1, 2018
The best chance for Stoke came on an almost Olimpico from Shaqiri on a corner. Ospina was beaten and all he could do was watch as the post kept the game at 0-0.
Then Arsenal finally made the breakthrough. Controversy marred the 78th minute, when Ozil was taken down in the box for a penalty. It appears Martins Indi made a good challenge as Ozil kicked the ground, but the angle the referee was at made it look like Ozil got hacked by the Dutchman. Pierre stepped up to the spot and sent Butland the wrong way. 1-0 Arsenal.
Aubameyang gives Arsenal the lead from the spot. 1-0 pic.twitter.com/2RQhVVQvle— Terje (@TerjeGIFs) April 1, 2018
That looked as though it would be all that Arsenal needed, but this team had the desire to keep at attacking. 7 minutes after his first goal, Aubameyang got his brace. A ricochet off a corner put the ball perfectly for Pierre, and he did what he does best. A nice driven shot to the bottom corner never had a doubt, and Pierre made it 5 goals and 1 assist in 6 games since his arrival. That is the best 6 game goal record for a new arrival in Arsenal’s history. What was that about a slow start again?
Aubameyang with a lovely finish to score his second goal of the day pic.twitter.com/yhMxZzeseF— Terje (@TerjeGIFs) April 1, 2018
Then a second penalty put the nail in the coffin. An 89th minute foul on Lacazette took about 10-15 seconds before the referee eventually pointed to the spot. It was Pierre’s opportunity to be Arsenal’s 21st player to get a hat-trick in the Premier League. However, he chose the spotlight to shine on Lacazette, who returned for the first time in over a month due to injury. Lacazette lined up and put the ball in the same place as Pierre. Arsenal went up 3-0 and got a much needed win ahead of a big game on Thursday at CSKA.
Lacazette makes it 3-0 Arsenal from the spot pic.twitter.com/JOHxEDHX7Z— Terje (@TerjeGIFs) April 1, 2018
This match was important in the race for 6th in the Premier League, but we all know that the two ties against CSKA will determine our fate for next season’s Champions League.