STOKE CITY’S pursuit of a first ever Premier League point at the Emirates Stadium continues, despite an impressive away day display in north London.
Mark Hughes’ man matched Arsenal stride for stride and took a first half lead, courtesy of a Charlie Adam penalty, at a venue that had been a far from happy hunting ground for them in eight previous league visits.
But Arsenal hit back with goals on either side of half-time from Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil, before a late strike from Alex Iwobi ensured the Potters’ wait must continue.
Hughes made one change to his starting line-up with Joe Allen returning in place of Jon Walters, who failed to recover from a slight thigh injury he had picked up in training 24 hours earlier.
Marc Muniesa, fresh from scoring his first Premier League goal in last weekend’s win over Burnley, went close to doubling his tally as early as the fourth minute at the Emirates as City made a bright start.
When Arsenal only partially cleared a corner the Spaniard had the confidence to try his luck on the volley from fully 25 yards out, forcing Petr Cech to tip his effort over the bar.
Arsenal had a half chance when Adam squandered possession midway inside his own half but Alexis Sanchez fired harmlessly across the face of Lee Grant’s goal.
A forceful run down the right by Mame Diouf and a clever cut-back by Marko Arnautovic found Xherdan Shaqiri in an unmarked position in the box but the Swiss star delayed his shot which allowed Arsenal to clear.
Arsenal’s ability to carve open teams saw Theo Walcott get in behind the Stoke defence but Grant made a fine stop to keep out his shot before the ball was scrambled behind for a corner.
The Potters continued to look dangerous going forward and Allen went close to forging the breakthrough midway through the first half. Arnautovic found the Welshman with another exquisite pull-back but the midfielder fired wide of Cech’s target.
The breakthrough came moments later however, as Granit Xhaka sent Allen tumbling in the area and referee Lee Mason had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Arsene Wenger remonstrated long and hard with the fourth official but TV replays appeared to show Xhaka catch Allen with an elbow as he clattered into him. Allen required lengthy attention but stand-in skipper Adam kept his nerve and calmly sent Cech the wrong way from the spot.
A superb defensive clearance by Diouf denied Ozil an opportunity to level matters, while another lung-bursting run by Allen created an opening for Arnautovic in the area but he was unable to get his shot away.
Stoke’s hopes of going in at the break with the lead were dashed with just three minutes of the half left. Walcott was the culprit as he timed his run superbly to meet substitute Hector Bellerin’s pinpoint cross from the right and send a near post shot beyond Grant.
The on-loan City ‘keeper was beaten again four minutes into the second half as Ozil edged Arsenal in front. He got on the end of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s superb ball forward, springing the Potters’ offside trap in the process, and sent a looping header over a stranded Grant.
Falling behind failed to knock City out of their stride, though, but they squandered an opportunity to test Cech in the 69th minute; Pieters sent over a teasing cross from the left which found the head of Diouf but instead of going for goal himself he tried to tee-up Allen and Arsenal cleared.
Hughes made his first substitution with 18 minutes remaining as Peter Crouch was introduced to the action at the expense of Diouf.
It was almost an inspired change as, within seconds of joining the action, the former England man climbed highest to meet a Shaqiri corner. His header was on target by saved down low by Cech and the home side managed to scramble the ball behind for another corner.
Arsenal rubbed salt in City’s wounds just moments later as one of their subs, Iwobi, burst into the area before side-footing past Grant to give Arsenal a two-goal cushion.
Grant made another smart save to deny Walcott as the game ended in heavy rain – a fourth goal really would have been harsh on the plucky Potters, who handed a Premier League debut to teenager Julien Ngoy as he replaced Shaqiri four minutes from time.