AT EMIRATES STADIUM
ARSENAL 3 STOKE CITY 0
ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger insists the need for defensive reinforcements in the January transfer window is pivotal after full-back Mathieu Debuchy dislocated his shoulder during yesterday’s comprehensive defeat of Stoke.
The Gunners were at their fluent best and a far cry from the side that meekly surrendered at Southampton on New Year’s Day, as an early Laurent Koscielny header and Alexis Sanchez double reinvigorated their Champions League pursuit.
Wenger had to contend without Kieran Gibbs due to an ankle problem and Calum Chambers through sickness, absentees which have triggered the Frenchman’s need to strengthen his armoury this month.
“The only negative today is that we lost another defender, an experienced defender with a dislocated shoulder and that of course gives us a problem,” said Wenger, whose side leap ahead of Tottenham into fifth, one point behind Manchester United.
“I was in the market anyway but what is for sure, Monreal can play centre-back and Debuchy can play centre-back, but if Gibbs is not here Monreal cannot play centre-back and if Debuchy is not here he cannot play centre-back.
“This is a position where at the moment we are short of experience.”
Wenger, meanwhile, handed David Ospina his Premier League debut ahead of regular No1 Wojciech Szczesny but was adamant the Polish stopper being caught smoking in the wake of their St Mary’s Stadium defeat was not the principal reason for his demotion.
“No, honestly, no,” he said. “I don’t want to talk too much about that because the more I talk the less I inform. Szczesny is our No1 and is competing with Ospina and [Damian] Martinez. It was a decision for today.”
Five weeks ago Wenger was jeered by a section of his own supporters as he boarded a train at Stoke station following Arsenal’s latest failing in the Potteries but the Gunners boast a perfect Premier League record against their rivals at home.
And odds of Stoke success were lengthened by Koscielny’s sixth minute strike when the defender returned Sanchez’s corner to the Chilean before meeting his inswinging cross to powerfully head past a helpless Asmir Begovic.
The Arsenal tide continued to flow and Sanchez doubled the lead in the 33rd minute as the talismanic forward exchanged passes with Tomas Rosicky before gliding into the Stoke box, evading Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross and clipping past Begovic.
Maximum points were secured moments after the re-start when Sanchez’s free-kick pierced a flimsy Stoke wall and squirmed beyond the grasp of Begovic, taking his tally for the season to 18, as Mesut Ozil made his first appearance since October when the German World Cup winner suffered knee ligament damage.