Petr Cech helps Arsenal to stalemate at Stoke
Arsenal picked up a second away draw inside a week as they drew 0-0 at Stoke. They owed the result to goalkeeper Petr Cech, who made a number of key saves to help the Gunners keep a valuable clean sheet.
They did have chances of their own to score -- Olivier Giroud was twice denied by Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland at the other end. However, without creative midfielders Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal struggled for their customary fluency in possession.
Nevertheless, this point takes them top of the Premier League once again. Arsenal will now hope to welcome some key players back before the visit of Chelsea next weekend.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Petr Cech, 8 -- The summer signing has now kept a remarkable 27 clean sheets in his last 47 league appearances. The veteran stopper made a crucial double-save from the Spanish pair of Joselu and Bojan, before diverting a late Jonathan Walters shot away with his outstretched boot. Without Cech, Arsenal would have lost this game.
DF Hector Bellerin, 6 -- Got up and down the line in typical fashion, but struggled to find a final ball of the quality to match his endeavour. With Stoke favouring a direct approach, he was also occasionally found wanting in the air.
DF Per Mertesacker, 6 -- Both centre-backs were guilty of misplacing some passes as Arsenal struggled to find a way through a midfield packed with bodies but lacking in quality. However, Mertesacker did make a number of important clearances to help Cech protect the goal.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 6 -- A mixed game from Koscielny, who was athletic as ever but a little erratic in possession. Perhaps he was guilty of trying too hard to force the issue with the ball at his feet.
DF Nacho Monreal, 7 -- It's staggering quite how far Monreal has come from the timid defender who arrived at Arsenal a few years ago. At Stoke, he stood strong against an aerial attack, even finding time to go forward when required.
MF Mathieu Flamini, 6 -- The Frenchman did the defensive aspect of his job well enough, making a number of important interceptions and crunching challenges. However, Arsenal struggled to control the midfield. Had Flamini been more effective on the ball, they might have stood a better chance of dominating Stoke.
MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 5 -- Deploying an out-of-form player as the team's deep-lying playmaker was certainly a risky strategy, and it's difficult to argue that it came off for manager Arsene Wenger. Oxlade-Chamberlain tried to make things happen, but was let down by his passing.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 6 -- At the ground where he suffered a horrific broken leg, Ramsey was subject to some inexplicably cruel chants from the Stoke fans. Perhaps it hindered his performance, as he was unable to exert his customary influence on the game.
FW Theo Walcott, 5 -- When Walcott was withdrawn as a substitute, his expression suggested pure bafflement. On the sideline, Wenger might have had a similar look on his face watching Walcott's disinterested performance. Playing wide from the left, the England international struggled to get into the game, and on the rare occasions he was involved, his decision-making was poor.
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FW Joel Campbell, 7 -- The Costa Rican continues to be one of the most important creative players in this Arsenal side. At Stoke, his passing was one again delectable -- one first-half through-ball in particular ought to have seen Giroud put Arsenal ahead, but Butland prevented the goal.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- Although Butland will inevitably take a lot of credit for denying Giroud in a one-on-one situation, the France international will surely feel he ought to have done better. However, he did everything right when meeting a corner at the start of the second half, heading low toward the corner, only for Butland to produce another excellent stop.
FW Alex Iwobi, NR -- Replaced Walcott in the 71st minute and showed some tidy touches. It's clear that Wenger has significant faith in the Nigerian youngster.
MF Calum Chambers, NR -- Came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 91st minute but barely had time to touch the ball before the full-time whistle. His most notable contribution was giving away a free-kick in a relatively dangerous position.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.