It was perhaps a rather underwhelming affair when compared to the spate of six-goal thrillers we were luxury to in midweek, with neither side able to find the net after ninety minutes and eventually going home with a point a piece.
Nonetheless, the match, on the whole, was relatively entertaining. Both sides created a handful of chances at goal and the game was fiercely contested throughout, with neither the Potters nor the Gunners prepared to surrender an inch.
Furthermore, Football Fancast like to think there’s something to learn from every match, whether it’s a six-five non-league classic or a rather drab one-goal World Cup final.
So with that in mind, and in case you were otherwise engaged for this afternoon’s Premier League clash, here are the FOUR things we learned from Arsenal’s scoreless draw with Stoke City.
We certainly aren’t adverse to a bit of cheeky terrace banter here at Football Fancast. In fact, the cheekier the better.
But there is a thin line between banter and foul taste and unfortunately, the Britannia Stadium faithful crossed it by a country mile during Arsenal’s visit this afternoon.
Indeed, Potters supporters were quick to get on the back of Gunners midfielder Aaron Ramsey – in fact, they booed him for pretty much the entire ninety minutes – for the rather selfish crime of having his leg shattered by a horror tackle from Ryan Shawcross back in 2010.
If anybody, it should be Ramsey holding a grudge after all this time. But for some reason, Stoke’s fans felt compelled to berate him for a career-threatening injury that saw him sidelined for the best part of a year. They even chanted “he walks with a limp” for a substantial portion of the first half.
Once again, creative chants are part of the Premier League’s charm. But the Stoke fans’ treatment of Ramsey defies all logic and morality. Very, very poor form.
It’s safe to say Arsenal have survived much better than expected in the sustained absence of Alexis Sanchez, winning seven of their last ten across all competitions since the world-class winger picked up an injury against Norwich City in November.
Today, however, the Gunners were without World Cup-winning extraordinaire Mesut Ozil and his presence was missed far more considerably as the visitors recorded just eight efforts at goal and only six key passes.
Likeminded playmaker Santi Cazorla was also missing for the visit to the Britannia, so perhaps an overall lack of creativity throughout the starting Xi was the true cause of the Gunners’ lack of cutting edge in the middle and final third.
But nonetheless, today’s scoreless draw was testament to how opinions have drastically changed regarding the two most expensive signings in Arsenal history. Before this season, Sanchez was seen as the indisputable talisman. Now, however, Ozil appears to be carrying that mantle.
Since Mark Hughes took the helm in summer 2013, Stoke City have transformed into a much more expansive side when compared to their more attritional days under Tony Pulis.
Indeed, the Potters were all about gritty football and direct attacks with Pulis in charge, whilst Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan have added a more tiki-taka element to the Potters’ efforts going forward.
But Stoke showed today that they can still revert back to their more traditional type if necessary. They boast a strong record against the Gunners – in fact, Arsenal haven’t won at the Britannia since 2010 – and knew repeating performances of prior years was the most likely source of victory ahead of today’s game.
Jonathan Walters, Glen Whelan and Ryan Shawcross – three members of Stoke’s old guard – were at the heart of a very committed performance that eventually resulted in a hard-fought clean sheet.
Perhaps it’s nothing more than what we should expect from Stoke. Nonetheless, it’s evidence Mark Hughes has created a multi-dimensional side that can win different types of game and cause problems for the Premier League’s top clubs. Those are fantastic attributes to have for a club looking to muscle in on the top six.
The two goalkeepers were the stars of the show this afternoon, with Arsenal’s Petr Cech picking up the Man of the Match award for a string of impressive saves as Stoke City began to dominate in the final stages.
Yet, considering he’s still just 22 years of age, Jack Butland’s performance between Stoke City’s sticks was equally or arguably more impressive, keeping out two efforts from one of the Premier League’s most potent strikers in Olivier Giroud and another from Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Butland came off his line well on two occasions and also commanded the box with superiority throughout – and it’s hardly the first time we’ve said that about the England international this season.
Of course, the former Birmingham City youngster still has a very long way to go. But every performance is leaving pundits more convinced that he’ll soon be competing with Joe Hart for the No.1 jersey within the Three Lions fold.