Gunners held in Brit stalemate

Arsenal are still to score this season after being held to a 0-0 draw at Stoke, despite enjoying the better of an edgy Premier League clash.

Last Updated: 26/08/12 at 15:31 Post Comment   

Cazorla: Sandwiched between Cameron and Whelan

Cazorla: Sandwiched between Cameron and Whelan

The Gunners' lack of a cutting edge saw their stuttering start to the season continue in another frustrating stalemate on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's men bossed the game in terms of possession but had limited clear-cut chances as they struggled to open their league account in the absence of Robin van Persie.

Stoke saw a penalty shout turned down at the Britannia Stadium as Arsenal's three-pronged attack of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho failed to make a breakthrough.

Wenger made two changes, dropping Theo Walcott to the bench to hand a first start to Frenchman Giroud with goalkeeper Vito Mannone replacing the injured Wojciech Szczesny.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis made two changes, handing a debut to American summer signing Geoff Cameron with Dean Whitehead suspended while Jermaine Pennant returned to the side after recovering from a thigh injury.

There was a distinct edge as the game got under way with Arsenal booed by the home fans and Wenger singled out as both sides looked to settle in an intimidating atmosphere.

The animosity dates back to an incident two and a half years ago when Aaron Ramsey's leg was badly broken in a tackle from Stoke's Ryan Shawcross, and the mood was evident as both sides went in search of their first league win of the season.

Cameron, who played against Mexico for the United States last week, started brightly with a testing long throw in the style of substitute Rory Delap before he released a good ball down the right hand side as the hosts dominated the early exchanges.

The Potters then had an early goal chalked off as Jonathan Walters strayed offside but good linking play with strike-partner Peter Crouch gave the home fans something to cheer in the opening exchanges.

Arsenal then began to enjoy the majority of possession in midfield and displayed warning signs as they began to press, but like last weekend's goalless draw against Sunderland, they lacked a cutting edge.

They missed two good chances in the opening 20 minutes as Podolski was unable to overpower a stumbling Andy Wilkinson to open his account before Kieran Gibbs' ball to the far post went begging, just inches away from the German striker.

Santi Cazorla began to pull the strings in midfield for the Gunners after he struck a poor free-kick into the bottom of the wall, but the game continued to ebb and flow with Stoke looking to steal an advantage on the counter-attack.

Walters was a threat on the right and he almost teed up Michael Kightly for the opener but Arsenal goalkeeper Mannone made a comfortable save from 20 yards.

Arsenal then began to dominate with Cazorla weaving passes as Podolski pushed on, before the former Malaga midfielder forced a fantastic diving save from Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic with a 25-yard effort.

Cazorla and Giroud then linked up well and threatened the Stoke goal but some calm defending by Shawcross neutralised the Arsenal threat with the sides locked at 0-0 at the break.

Arsenal got back into their stride early in the second half and continued to look more threatening but it was Stoke who were left to rue their chances when they had a penalty turned down in the 58th minute.

Gibbs fouled Pennant as he raced down the right with the Stoke winger going down on the edge of the box, but referee Lee Mason waved away calls for a penalty and signalled a goal kick.

Stoke looked to be playing further up the pitch in a bid to take the attack to Arsenal but it opened them up at the other end, with Wilkinson flying into a challenge on Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen on the edge of the box.

The Stoke wall denied Arteta's free-kick as Arsenal's free-flowing game was stunted by the home side, mirrored from the set piece as unmarked striker Giroud miscued a volley from Cazorla's corner from the middle of the box.

Wenger was left with his head in his hands when Arteta's 20-yard shot flew wide before Abou Diaby had too much time to think and stumbled over a close-range effort.

Arsenal went close again as the clock ticked down with Giroud's long-range effort skimming the top of the cross bar, but the Gunners were left frustrated as they could only take a point back to the Emirates after another disappointing result.

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