Arsenal maintained their top four hopes after an Alexis Sanchez-inspired performance was enough to see off Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday evening.
Olivier Giroud tapped in from Hector Bellerin’s cross to give the visitors a first-half lead before Mesut Ozil’s delicate chip over Jack Butland doubled Arsenal’s advantage shortly after the break.
The game’s main talking point came not long after when Peter Crouch appeared to handle the ball into the back of the net, but referee Mike Dean ruled that the Stoke forward has use his head.
Quick-fire goals from Alexis Sanchez – a fine solo effort – and a second for Giroud ensured that it didn’t matter and now means that it’s all eyes on Liverpool’s trip to West Ham on Sunday afternoon.
The Gunners now sit just a point behind Liverpool in fifth place but will have a game in hand against Sunderland to play on Tuesday night, whilst Stoke City remain in 13th place ahead of the final day.
Sanchez puts himself in the shop window
You just can’t keep this man out of the headlines at the moment.
Another match, another game where Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez was oozing class from the word go, spear-heading a strong away performance as the Gunners dismantled Stoke City on Saturday night.
It was his sublime defence-splitting pass early in the second-half that set Mesut Ozil on his way to double the lead, before he ended a fine solo run with an arrowed shot too all-but secure the win.
This effort took his tally to 50 goals in just over 100 appearances since signing from Barcelona, becoming just the eighth player in the history of the North London club to do so.
Not only did he reach his half-century for Arsenal, but his goal and assists also means that he’s the first player this season to reach 20 goals and ten assists – Arsenal would be nowhere without him.
Minutes after sealing the three points Sanchez was substituted with Tuesday’s visit of Sunderland clearly in mind; but with other teams circling in, it could well signal the start of his Emirates goodbye.
Moment of controversy for Crouch
In a fairly woeful afternoon for the home side, Peter Crouch’s second-half goal halved the deficit and gave the Potters some hope – but it didn’t come without an ounce of controversy.
With Stoke putting the visitors under a good spell of pressure around the hour mark, the 36-year-old forward met Marko Arnautovic’s cross with what appeared to be a leading hand, but referee Mike Dean ruled that there had been no foul play involved and allowed the goal to stand as legitimate.
At full speed it’s easy to see why the referee allowed the goal to stand, as Crouch’s hand was right next to his head, but on slowed down replays it becomes clear that there was an obvious handball.
Perhaps fortunately it did nothing to alter the result of the match – but it does beg the question again of video technology, as incidents such as this could have been sorted within just 30 seconds.
Giroud proves a point to Arsenal boss
For a man that has scored 12 Premier League goals in just ten starts this season, Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud is certainly a player that has slipped under the radar this year.
Given just his third start in the last ten matches by the Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger, Giroud scored twice in an accomplished performance as Arsenal kept themselves in the hunt for a top-four spot.
Despite the attacking options that Arsenal possess in the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Lucas Perez, nobody in the squad has the ability to simply be in the right place at the right time like the Frenchman does; both of his goals at Stoke were predatory finishes in the box.
Giroud’s brace – his second of the season – now means that he’s averaging a goal every 92 minutes, the best record out of any player in the Premier League to score more than five so far this campaign.
With home games against Sunderland and a tough final day clash with Everton still to come to determine Arsenal’s fate, the 30-year-old may well have an important say in these critical matches.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal.