We boosted our hopes of securing a top-four place with a fine performance at Stoke on Saturday as we cruised to a comfortable win in the Potteries.
This was a hugely impressive display; professional, incisive and ruthless against opponents who have caused us no end of trouble at this ground in years gone by.
Stoke got their way back into the game via the hand of Peter Crouch and suddenly it was game on – and the hoem crowd certainly knew it.
It was no more than we deserved – and beyond the confidence boost this result will provide, it also helps up the pressure on Liverpool in the race for a top-four place.
Our fate may not be in our hands, but we are doing everything we can to secure Champions League football for yet another season.
CHANGES AT THE BACK
With the team on a run of four wins in five Premier League matches prior to kick off, Arsène Wenger was understandably keen to keep changes to a minimum.
However, he was forced into reworking a backline that had kept three cleans sheets in four, and had two successive shutouts for the first time since the turn of the year.
A CONFIDENT START
We may not have had much luck at Stoke down the years, but there were no signs of any early nerves as we dominated the opening exchanges.
GUNNERS ON TOP
Where in previous years, the Potters have been able to knock us out of our stride, there was no sign of it during a first half that we continued to dominate.
Then, just before the break, we clicked into gear – and were rewarded for a professional, dominant first-half performance with the opening goal.
It came as Coquelin received midway through the Stoke half, and played an incisive ball on for the overlapping Bellerin, who raced into the box. The Spain international looked up, kept his cool and rolled the ball across goal and Giroud couldn’t miss – slotting home from a few yards out.
It silenced the home crowd, usually so raucous, and offered further encouragement for Wenger’s side who were in total control heading into the interval.
OZIL DOUBLES THE LEAD
Having been second best during the first half, a big response from the home side was expected after the restart, but we remained on the front foot.
It was a really controlled, calm performance and we did not have long to wait to double our lead – and it was a beauty.
The German took the ball at pace behind the Stoke defender, glanced up and nonchalantly slipped the ball over the sprawling Butland and into the far corner.
What a strike – and right in front of the jubilant travelling Arsenal fans to boot.
STOKE GET BACK INTO IT
It flew at Diouf five yards out, and it seemed easier to score than miss – but the forward’s header somehow squirmed wide, via a slight deflection.
But finally the hosts did break through – albeit in hugely controversial circumstances – as Arnautovic broke down the left once more and whipped in a cross that Crouch sent in via his hand.
The Arsenal players were incensed that it had been allowed to stand, but stand it did – and it made for a tense finish to this game.
ALEXIS WRAPS IT UP
With the home fans now at full volume, and the hosts suddenly energised and looking much more like the Stoke we have come to expect, we were right up against it.
It would have been easy to be cowed by the situation, but we stood tall and mounted our response.
GIROUD GETS HIS SECOND
Moments later, the Wales international was played in on goal again but was forced wide to the right of the area by Martins Indi.
Ramsey may have been heading away from goal, but he did brilliantly to fire the ball across the face of goal to Giroud tio slam in our fourth from close range.
Finally we were laying the ghosts of Stoke defeats of the past to rest – and in fine style. Four goals on the road is impressive enough, but when it comes at a ground that you have traditionally struggled at, it is even more noteworthy.
We would not add to our tally, but this win not only maintains our momentum with our fifth win in six Premier League games but also ups the pressure on Liverpool in the race for a top-four place.
Sunderland await us next. Bring it on.