Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal's fighting spirit will prove key: Wenger

Stoke City 0 - Arsenal 0

By Mark Ogden

Arsene Wenger claimed that Arsenal emerged from an "old-fashioned Stoke battle" to prove their title credentials as they reclaimed top spot in the Premier League following a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium.

Outstanding performances by goalkeepers Jack Butland and Petr Cech ensured that the game ended in a stalemate, with Cech denying Stoke forward Joselu a 90th-minute winner with his outstretched leg, but having seen his team travel to Stoke with just one victory in seven Premier League visits, Wenger insisted that Arsenal displayed the grit and determination required to emerge with a point from a stadium that has seen Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United all defeated this season.

"It was a battle. An old-fashioned Stoke battle, but the players showed they were up for it," said Wenger.

"We displayed solidarity and fighting spirit, and although we wanted to win, looking at our history here and the results of other teams here, this is a positive result.

"I cannot fault my team for their attitude, but Petr Cech was outstanding, we needed a player like him in the air when Stoke played that kind of game."

Wenger also spoke of his disgust after Stoke fans chanted 'Aaron Ramsey, he walks with a limp' - a reference to the Welsh midfielder's leg break at the Britannia Stadium in 2010.

He said: "I shut my ears and think that's the best way to deal with it. I don't know what to do about it.

"When people get together they sometimes forget their individual responsibility. Maybe when you go home and watch it on television you are less proud."

Arsenal's previous vulnerability at Stoke had seen this fixture identified as a potential problem for Wenger's team and one which would raise old questions about the club's ability to fight it out for the title, but Cech insisted that the doubts about his team-mates were banished following this performance.

"We were coming here and we could hear from everyone that we were going to lose," Cech said.

"We showed we cancompete. In the circumstances, we take the point and move on.

"In midweek against Liverpool, we were unlucky to concede the late goal and here we take the point, but we are in the position we wanted to be and now we go to the home game (against Chelsea next weekend) and we are ready to compete again."

Cech's second-half saves from Joselu and Bojan ultimately won the points for Arsenal, but the former Chelsea goalkeeper attempted to play down the importance of his contribution.

"I was pleased with all my contribution because sometimes it can be a tricky game," Cech said. "You try and keep your composure and everything you do, you try to make it perfect. You feel confident and I'm very happy that in the second-half I managed to keep everything out."

Arsenal were forced to face Stoke without their influential midfielder Mesut Ozil due to a foot injury, but Wenger hopes that the German will be fit to return against Chelsea at the Emirates at the weekend.

"Ozil had an inflammation of his foot," said Wenger.

"Yesterday he was not very well and he was already not 100 per cent at Liverpool on Wednesday. We decided to leave him out, but he should be back for next Sunday."

Stoke manager Mark Hughes, whose team have now avoided defeat at home against all of last season's top four, praised Butland for his performance, but warned against placing too much expectation on the 22-year-old.

"We are indebted to Jack for a great save form Olivier Giroud in the first-half," Hughes said.

"But it is early days for Jack, his first season in the Premier League as a No.1. He has proven what a good keeper he is.

"This is a decent result for us and shows how far we have come. We can go toe-to-toe with every team in the league."

Belfast Telegraph


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