STOKE CITY’S 32-year-long wait for victory away at Arsenal was prolonged in front of the live television cameras on Sunday afternoon as the hosts recorded a 3-1 victory to move to the summit of the Barclays Premier League.
Geoff Cameron’s first top-flight goal midway through the first half chalked out Aaron Ramsey’s fourth minute opener, however, headers from defenders Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna secured Arsene Wenger’s side a third 3-1 success of the season.
Mark Hughes made just one change to the side that performed so admirably against Manchester City eight days earlier, with Marko Arnautovic handed his first start since completing a deadline day move from Werder Bremen.
The Austrian international replaced Matthew Etherington on the left hand side of a front three, with Hughes keeping faith with the other ten players that started the previous two games against City and West Ham United.
The side’s hopes of registering a first ever Premier League point at the Emirates Stadium suffered a catastrophic blow just five minutes into the game though as Ramsey rounded off a memorable week by rifling home the opener.
Having netted a brace in the Gunners’ 3-1 victory at the Stadium of Light eight days earlier and hitting the back of the net in the midweek Champions League win in Marseille, the midfielder maintained his rich vein of form with his seventh of the campaign.
The Wales international reacted quickest inside the 18-yard box after Asmir Begovic had palmed Mesut Ozil’s curling free-kick straight into his path, and he calmly dispatched the ball into the bottom of the net.
An expected onslaught failed to follow however, and gradually Stoke began to flex their muscle and look more like the side that had recorded seven points from the three previous top-flight games.
Arnautovic was showing flashes of brilliance on the left hand side of a front three, whilst Steven Nzonzi was dictating play through the middle almost at ease; despite the presence of the £42 million man, Ozil.
For all of the Potters eye-friendly football it wasn’t until the midway point of the half that they created their first real sight of goal – thankfully though, one which brought with it a deserved leveller.
Nzonzi floated a delightful ball across the Gunners backline, Arnautovic controlled his volley with stunning effect - only for the ball to agonisingly cannon back off the post. Cue Cameron, who strolled up to the 18-yard box and exquisitely placed the ball beyond the outstretched Wojciech Szczesny to send the travelling 1400 or so Stokies into delirium.
The American’s first ever Premier League strike had unsettled the hosts, and they could count themselves fortunate not to have fallen behind 60 seconds later when Shawcross’ long ball forward freed Jones through on goal; only for the Trinidadians touch to let him down.
Home debutant Serge Gnabry, who was only included in the starting eleven five minutes before kick-off at the expense of the withdrawn Theo Walcott, fired high and wide at the other end following good work from Ozil, whilst Oliver Giroud planted a similar effort into the stand behind the goal.
The Potters’ backline were having to withstand some heavy pressure as the opening 45 minutes drew towards a conclusion, but just as they looked to have shut up shop, a slightly fortuitous Mertesacker header restored their advantage.
Within five minutes of the re-start Arsenal could have added to their tally with Jack Wilshire brining the very best out of Begovic with a rasping effort from 20-yards following a lacklustre ball across field from Charlie Adam.
Hughes introduced Stephen Ireland from the bench in a bid to rejuvenate his side, and it appeared to have had the desired affect as Stoke showed greater composure in their ball retention, swiftly moving through the field and causing the hosts numerous problems.
Marc Wilson, looking a real threat in the middle of the pitch, surged forward and unleashed a stunning drive towards goal, only for Szczesny to react with an equally as impressive save to tip the ball around the post.
From the resulting corner Shawcross glanced a header just wide, when he arguably should have really hit the target and tested the Polish stopper.
As the visitors looked to be getting a real foothold in the game, and threatening to claw themselves back into the encounter for a second time, disaster struck when Sagna leaped and glanced a header over Begovic and into the far corner of the net to all but seal victory.
Stoke continued to press forward though with Arnoutovic testing Szczesny with a 30-yard thunderbolt, whilst a certain Shawcross goal was denied by Mertesacker, who brilliantly blocked the Stoke skippers close range effort.