Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Monday, 12 January 2015

Sanchez stars again as Arsenal beat Stoke

Clean-sheets have been a rarity for Arsenal this season, so for the Gunners to achieve back to back wins involving clean-sheets is a sign that things are finally on the up. Although starting off 2015 in the worst possible way at Southampton, we have responded with two very convincing displays against Hull, and now against Stoke yesterday afternoon. A brace from Alexis Sanchez and a goal from Laurent Koscielny sealed a 3-0 win at the Emirates. It was a very good performance, and with players returning there is every reason to be positive at the moment. There were changes from the FA Cup as expected. Debuchy and Koscielny came back in for Bellerin and Chambers whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain was re-called. Albeit Debuchy was forced off after just 13 minutes. Walcott, Ozil and Ramsey were all on the bench whilst Ospina retained his place in goal.
Alexis Sanchez now has 12 Premier League goals
After the horror show at the Britannia last month, it was vitally important for Arsenal to get off to a quick start and really get stuck into their opponents. Despite kicking towards the North Bank, rather than the clock end in the first half, the Gunners got off to a great start. Stoke were immediately pegged back as Sanchez went close early on before he provided us with the first goal of the afternoon. Laurent Koscielny's return to the side was crucial over the festive period, with our only real blip coming against Southampton and he popped up with the opener yesterday. Alexis swung the ball in and Koscielny was allowed to head home unmarked from close range. It was a simple goal, but a vital one.

From then on in the tone had been set for the rest of the match. In truth Stoke were never really in it and the match was a huge comparison to that of the one in the Potteries. Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch did their best to unnerve the likes of Giroud and Mertesacker but whilst that was happening Alexis Sanchez was busy carving the Stoke defence to shreds. He was able to add the second goal of the game after playing a lovely one-two with Rosicky who has really come into his own after being out of the side in the first half of the season. The Chilean managed to weave his way into the box before wrong footing Begovic and finding the corner at the near post, rather than going towards the far post which looked the obvious route.

It's impossible to not talk about Alexis Sanchez at the moment. He's been incredible in his first season in English football and looks to be getting better. Arsenal added a third shortly after the restart in a rather fortuitous manner. Sanchez's free-kick from the edge of the area came off Begovic, onto the post and then rolled over the line with slight help from the keeper. Nonetheless it was his 18th goal of a remarkable season.

The little Chilean wasn't the only one to put in a shift though. Oxlade-Chamberlain was his usual self and impressed hugely down the right again. His drive, energy and strength offers us something different and he went close in the first half to scoring. He meanwhile won the free-kick from which we scored from. Cazorla and Rosicky were very good too, and continued their encouraging form.

Francis Coquelin is a man who has got a lot of attention recently and has won quite a few plaudits for his efforts in that defensive midfield area. It's clear that we need someone of distinct quality in that role but the Frenchman has done a brilliant job in my opinion since returning from a loan spell with Charlton. He's been a revelation and it's clear that Wenger trusts him. Rightfully so too, he didn't put a foot wrong against Stoke.

The defence went relatively untroubled but now alongside Koscielny, Mertesacker looks to be back to his best after good displays in the FA Cup against Hull, and on Sunday against Stoke. Debuchy went off early in the first half with a dislocated shoulder - the only frustration from yesterday, but Hector Bellerin came on and showed the heavy strides he's made forward in the last few months. The defensive aspect of his game is growing game by game and he looks set to become a very good player. A clean-sheet is always encouraging and that will please David Ospina who was making his Premier League debut after featuring last week in the Cup.

Another huge positive was the return of Mesut Ozil who entered the fray to a huge applause. Ramsey being on the bench was another positive whilst Theo Walcott continues to make his comeback. The winger perhaps could have added a fourth late on but skewed a shot wide after Sanchez had played him in.

Although the win against Stoke was hugely convincing, we'll face a whole different proposition in the form of Manchester City away next weekend. It'll be real test of Arsenal's resolve but here's hoping for a better defensive display at the Etihad than last season!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Debuchy(13), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain(67), Cazorla, Sanchez, Giroud(67).
Subs: Szczesny, Bellerin(13), Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil(72), Campbell, Walcott(67). 

Stoke: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters(45), N'Zonzi(45), Whelan, Walters, Bojan(72), Arnautovic, Crouch.
Subs: Butland, Muniesa(45), Wilson, Adam, Sidwell(45), Ireland(72), Moses.

My man of the match: Alexis Sanchez.

Referee: Jonathon Moss.
Attendance: 59,956.

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