Both offenses came out of the gate aggressively. In the 9th minute, Peter Crouch scored a fine header off a cross to take the lead. Robin Van Persie quickly countered minutes later with an instinctive set up off a cross from Thomas Rosicky that evened it up 1-1. Van Persie very rarely misses from two feet out.
It was a tricky match for both clubs that had a lot of rough contact at midfield; contact that seemed to go unnoticed by the officials. The match was frenetic with slick passing from Arsenal, but nothing to show for it. At the start of the second half, Van Persie attempted a header early; however it was well defended by Stoke.
Stoke was more aggressive on offense in the second half and at times it seemed Arsenal was just playing with the ball, not setting anything up. They had casualness about them that Stoke exploited at times. Thomas Vermaelen had a nice look to the goal, put a nice touch on the ball, but it sailed over the goal post. Arsenal lost many possessions at the cost of merely not being focused.
Stoke's midfielder Dean Whitehead dominated any Gunner that tried to tangle with him. He would break free to a clear field, but fortunately, for Arsenal's sake, no Stoke player would be pressing at that point. I was impressed by how Arsenal's midfield played so aggressive on the transition. Stoke just kept pegging back any sort of offensive strike by Arsenal.
In the second half, Arsenal had the ball at their end several times, but they couldn't find Van Persie to save their lives. The officials kept there yellow cards in their pockets when there were some very questionable calls. Alex Song did get a yellow at midfield when Stoke was driving. Stoke couldn't do anything with a corner kick.
After a foul, Van Persie got a perfect free kick, although it met a strong wall. Arsenal's passing game toward the end was very limited. Arsenal had a hard time opening up Stoke City. The Gunners just couldn't pull the trigger when they needed to. They did play strong defense.
It was a thrilling day in the Premier League. Wigan beat Newcastle 4-0. Wigan had an incredible performance to help keep Newcastle at bay for Arsenal. The Gunners are now four points ahead of Newcastle, but the latter could be overtaken by Tottenham if they were to beat Blackburn at home. Arsenal has Norwich next weekend.
Note: I've been an Arsenal fan for nearly a decade. My cousin got me interested in the club at an early age.