Alexis Sanchez stars as Arsenal slay Stoke at the Emirates
Perennial top four finishers Arsenal cruised to a home win over Stoke City, with victory coming courtesy of star turn Alexis Sanchez.
The Chile international laid on an early opener for Laurent Koscielny, before netting in either half himself. Arsene Wenger, whose side were home and hosed by the 50th minute, was able to give precious game time to returning pair Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott following respective long-term injuries.
Potters boss Mark Hughes gave a debut to defensive loan signing Philipp Wollscheid, but to no avail as the visitors failed to match their hosts’ midfield composure and fluency.
So ineffective were Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic, back from injury, here that Colombia keeper David Ospina was a mere spectator on his full Arsenal league debut.
Wenger’s Gunners set the tone for this one-sided affair early with Potters stopper Asmir Begovic making two top-drawer saves from Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky inside five minutes.
The Stoke defence was breached moments later, however, when they failed to get tight to the second ball from a corner. Sanchez picked out Koscielny to head home.
Losing Mathieu Debuchy to a shoulder injury failed to knock Arsenal from their stride, with the eye-catching Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain firing just wide after attractive approach play.
Begovic was on hand again to deny Olivier Giroud superbly as Gunners guile continued to overwhelm Stoke. The hosts went further ahead after half an hour when Sanchez’s skills and one-two with Rosicky saw him finish at the near post.
Hughes reacted to being two down at the break by throwing on Steve Sidwell, but his presence in the Potters engine room failed to turn the tide. Sanchez helped himself to another soon after the restart, netting a free kick that deflected through Stoke’s wall and squirmed from Begovic’s grasp.
Francis Coquelin kept Bojan and replacement Stephen Ireland quiet, apart from the latter working Ospina in the 90th minute. Walcott, off the bench, could’ve made it 4-0 after he came on, but dragged wide when set away by man of the match Sanchez.
A bad day at the office for Hughes, but Arsenal have a tougher assignment ahead when they meet reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.