Little Arshavin cuts Potters down to size

Arsenal 2 Stoke City 0

The storm clouds that had begun to gather over the Emirates were blown away by an Arsenal side inspired by the brilliant Andrey Arshavin and a victory that was more emphatic than the scoreline suggests. The two managers shook hands at the end, but for the visitors there was a collective shaking of heads.

Successive 3-0 defeats, most notably last Sunday's against Chelsea, had threatened to derail Arsenal's season but there was enough quality on show in Arsène Wenger's 500th League game in charge for the manager to enjoy his landmark day at the end of a difficult week. Arshavin's exquisite finish in the first half should have signalled a rout but the Gunners had to wait until substitute Aaron Ramsey's equally fine effort 11 minutes from the end to seal the points.

Wenger, his feud with Mark Hughes now filed away, was delighted: "After the disappointments against Sunderland and Chelsea there is some relief for the team," he said, again playing down the Carling Cup's importance after the loss at City. "If we hadn't won there may have been questions that mentally we were touched by it. So yes, it was an important win."

There were only three starters from the trip to Eastlands, but still there were concerns about Arsenal's firepower. The addition of Eduardo – missing yesterday with a muscle strain – to an injured list containing Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner, initially offered little encouragement to a subdued home support.

This left the tiny Arshavin to forage alone against Stoke's giant centre-backs, a contest that might have favoured Tony Pulis's men but the Russian proved a threat from the off.

Cesc Fabregas, sparkling in his 250th game for the club, provided him with an opening after three minutes but unusually Arshavin's first touch was heavy, allowing Thomas Sorensen to save. Sorensen also stopped Samir Nasri's close-range shot after Arshavin's reverse pass.

Stoke already knew the scale of their task here yet some erratic goalkeeping from Manuel Almunia in the early stages, not least from Rory Delap's long throws, offered some hope.

Arsenal lost their foothold briefly and then squandered an invitation to regain it when Fabregas's penalty was saved by Sorensen after 20 minutes. Delap had tripped Arshavin but the Spaniard's spot-kick was saved low to Sorensen's left.

Arshavin shot wildly from a pass by Tomas Rosicky – who picked up a groin injury – but his next effort broke the deadlock. A one-two with Fabregas saw Arshavin in possession with just Andy Wilkinson on his shoulder and before the left-back could intercept, the striker had pulled the trigger and deposited the ball into the far corner of Sorensen's net.

Arsenal should have doubled their lead when Fabregas's shot from Armand Traoré's cross struck Emmanuel Eboué, who had just moved away from the Stoke goalline.

As if their opponents' football was not posing Stoke enough problems, their offside trap was comfortably repelling most forays by the Potters, and Tuncay was caught out so many times he should have been presented with an assistant's flag. On the one rare occasion the Turk managed to stay on, Williams Gallas blocked his shot.

The Emirates demanded a second but Arshavin's effort flew up off Abdoulaye Faye's foot to hit the bar and Thomas Vermaelen's header went wide. At last, though, Ramsey eased the nerves. Not long on for Eboué, the Wales international finished superbly with the outside of his right boot from the edge of the area after a one-two with Arshavin.

"They may have started to get a bit uptight but the timing of the second goal was just right for them," said Pulis. "Arshavin was brilliant. His movement was excellent and he caused us problems all day. We were a bit in awe."

Attendance: 60,048

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Man of the match: Arshavin

Match rating: 7/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital