Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal climbed above neighbours Tottenham and into fifth place in the Premier League with a dominant display against Stoke. It proved to be costly though as Arsenal defender Matthieu Debuchy went down under a challenge from Marko Arnautovic and was replaced by Hector Bellerin after colliding with the advertising boards behind the goal and dislocated his right shoulder. Reports says that he could be out for several weeks; this after just having come back from a 3 month layoff due to injury.
Laurent Koscielny took advantage of slack marking to head the hosts into an early lead from Sanchez’s cross. The Chile international then finished off a neat move with Tomas Rosicky to double Arsenal’s lead before half-time. Sanchez, 26, added his second goal of the game and 18th of the season from a free-kick shortly after the break. It proved a relatively routine victory for an Arsenal side and for David Ospina, who retained his place after the 2-0 FA Cup third round win over Hull. It was the 26-year-old Colombia international’s his first Premier League start, with Wojciech Szczesny dropped to the bench following reports he was caught smoking in the showers after the New Year’s Day defeat at Southampton. Stoke were given early warning of Arsenal’s intent when Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky forced goalkeeper Asmir Begovic into saves in the opening five minutes. And within 60 seconds Koscielny took advantage of Arsenal’s third corner of the match by heading in Sanchez’s delivery. Sanchez then stretched Arsenal’s lead with his 17th goal of the season – a low shot in to the bottom left-hand corner after a smart one-two with Rosicky on the edge of the area.
Stoke created little throughout the game and their first real chance came when Glenn Whelan blazed a smart free-kick from Bojan over the bar on 25 minutes. Peter Crouch also headed a tame effort wide from an Arnautovic cross. Mezut Ozil made his first apperance after a 3 month innjury layoff when he came on for striker Olivier Giroud in the 73rd minute. Theo Walcott came on a sub in the 68th minute for Oxlade-Chamberlain and could have scored a goal but his almost 1 year out of the game rustiness showed as he hit wide. Arsenal now sit in 5th place with 36 points, just one below Southampton in 4th place and 2 behind Manchester United in 3rd.