Central role suits reluctant Arshavin

Arsenal 2 Stoke City 0
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The Independent Football

The World Cup's loss could be Arsenal's gain if Andrei Arshavin can regularly produce the sort of attacking threat that gave Stoke City's defence the run-around.

Wenger has said he expects his players to push next summer's finals in South Africa to the back of their minds, which won't be a problem for Arshavin following Russia's exit.

An exquisitely taken goal was the least the 28-year-old deserved from an afternoon where he foraged alone against a pair of towering centre-backs. Could he be a temporary answer at centre forward in the absence of the injured Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner? "I don't think he was a fanatic to play centre-forward but I'm convinced he can because he has good body power, good movement and technique as well as intelligence and it worked today," said Wenger, who was celebrating his 500th league match in charge after a troubled week.

The manager was also asked about potential reinforcements in January, with his old nemesis Ruud van Nistelrooy among the names suggested. "You have my phone number, perhaps you could text me all the names you come across," he quipped.

Jokes aside, the lack of activity in the summer transfer window could haunt Wenger, who said he had never known a season like this for injuries to his attacking players. On Saturday, Eduardo was missing with a thigh injury, Theo Walcott is still hamstrung and Tomas Rosicky, not long back from an 18-month absence with knee damage, was unable to continue after the break because of a groin strain. Wenger admitted it was a "gamble that backfired" to play him for 90 minutes at Manchester City in the Carling Cup and again against Stoke.

"I want to see if we are in the same situation in January," added Wenger. "But let's not dream too much that we are going to find the world-class player. That's what is needed to strengthen our team. One who is not European Cup-tied and is available. We need a good Father Christmas."

Arsenal spurned a gift on Saturday, with Thomas Sorensen's penalty prowess denying Cesc Fabregas after Arshavin had been brought down by Rory Delap on 20 minutes. The Russian then linked neatly with Fabregas before striking the ball early to score. Stoke would not lie down but Aaron Ramsey's introduction brought about a second goal, the Welshman finishing with the outside of his right boot after a one-two with Arshavin.

Arsenal (4-5-1): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traoré (Silvestre 88); Eboué (Ramsey 54), Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri, Rosicky (Vela h-t); Arshavin. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Senderos, Vela, Merida, Wilshere.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson, Ab Faye, Huth, Collins; Lawrence (Fuller 74), Delap (Whelan 81), Diao, Etherington; Sidibe (Beattie 61), Tuncay. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Higginbotham, Cort, Pugh.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Man of the match: Arshavin.

Attendance: 60,048.