Arsenal overcame a sluggish start to secure all three points at the Emirates.
After a hiatus of almost three weeks, Arsenal were back in action against Stoke City for their 31st Premier League fixture of the season on Sunday. They hosted the Potters at the Emirates Stadium and churned out a 3-0 victory.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette scored the three goals to help them gain three points and retain their sixth position on the points table. Stoke City, on the other hand, are now facing relegation, perched in the 19th spot, and will need to step up their game in the remainder of their fixtures to avoid tumbling into the Championship.
Here are five talking points from the game:
#5 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace
The centre-forward now has 5 goals in 6 matches for the Gunners and is looking like a good buy for them already.
Against Stoke City, he failed to get proper service from his teammates in the first 70 minutes of the game. He made some good runs through the middle but was often left on his own.
However, as soon as he moved into a wider position, he started stretching the opposition’s defence. The arrival of Alexandre Lacazette was what made this happen and the subsequent result is likely to encourage Arsene Wenger to consider playing the two strikers together.
Aubameyang’s first goal of the night came from the penalty spot in the 75th minute of the match. It was awarded to the Gunners after Mesut Ozil was brought down in the Stoke box by Bruno Martins Indi.
Aubameyang completed his brace off a ricocheted corner in the 86th minute. It was a clinical finish from the former Borussia Dortmund player, who stretched his body beautifully to get to the swivelling ball and power it into the corner of the net yet again.
#4 Positive comeback from Alexandre Lacazette
The game changed when the Frenchman was brought on for Danny Welbeck in the second half of the game. Coming back from a knee injury that had robbed him of six weeks of playing time, Lacazette looked quick and vibrant in the middle.
He completed some terrific dribbles and linked up well with Aubameyang. He took the second penalty of the match after being brought down by Badou Ndiaye in the box and scored Arsenal’s third and final goal of the game. Aubameyang’s selfless decision to let Lacazette take the penalty will definitely infuse confidence in the latter, which will be particularly important for the team ahead of their Europa League tie against CSKA Moscow on Thursday.
#3 Relegation scare for Stoke City
The Potters are second from bottom on the league table, three points from safety. It was imperative for them to take something away from the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. However, they succumbed to a defeat, which has now significantly impacted their hopes of survival.
They did look organized and solid in the first half of the game and did not let Arsenal create any meaningful chances. However, the penalty led to their unravelling after which it was one-way traffic in favour of Arsenal.
Paul Lambert will be worried about the future of his team in the Premier League, more so after scanning through the remaining fixtures. The Potters have to play against Tottenham and Liverpool in the next two months and they cannot afford to lose either of those games.
#2 Insipid attacking display from Arsenal
Though the hosts managed to extract a 3-0 result from the contest, the game wasn’t as easy as it might seem from the score-line. The display from the Gunners, especially in the first half, was scrappy and bland.
Despite playing with a strong attack, they looked out of form and failed to take the game to the well-organized Potters. Aubameyang was left stranded upfront and Jack Wilshere, as well as Ozil, looked bereft of ideas for the first 45 minutes.
The defensive performance from Wenger’s men was strong though, with Shkodran Mustafi putting in an impressive shift. David Ospina, who filled in for the injured Petr Cech, also did his job on the day.
However, such a performance from the North London side will not work against CSKA Moscow on Thursday.
#1 Poor turnout at the Emirates once again
In what will surely concern Arsenal and their board, a fair percentage of the seats at the Emirates Stadium remained unfilled yet again. Coming into this game, the hosts had generated three wins in their last three games to regain a semblance of top form. However, the fans remain apprehensive as they continue to boycott games in an attempt to voice their discontent against the way things are functioning at the club.
Another reason for the poor turn-out on the day might also be the fact that all Premier League games are now dead rubbers for Arsenal for the rest of the season. All hopes are pinned on the Europa League now. Hence, the quarterfinal against CSKA Moscow on Thursday might be more significant for the Gooners than a game against Stoke City.