Arsenal held scoreless at Stoke

August 26, 2012
By ESPN.com news services

Arsenal dominated against Stoke in an edgy clash at the Britannia Stadium but the Gunners' lack of a cutting edge saw their stuttering start to the season continue in another frustrating goalless draw.

The Gunners controlled the game in terms of possession but had limited clear-cut chances as they struggled to open their Barclays Premier League account in the absence of Robin van Persie.

New striker Olivier Giroud and Arsenal couldn't find the net Sunday against Stoke City.

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

"Offensively we still have some work to do because we missed a bit of accuracy in the final third in our movement and in our passing," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We are used to finding each other in the final third and there's something missing but I still think we should have won the game 1-0. [It is] an understanding because you have Cazorla and Podolski who one month ago, they didn't know each other, so that will come. We have some work to do on the training ground but I believe we have the potential but you can see as well that something is missing."

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.

Pulis said he was impressed with Cameron.

"We watched Geoff quite a few times and he's a good player," Pulis said. "He's been away in America for 10 days and only trained one day with us. We couldn't get him back as he had to get some clearance and we have to wait 10 days to get him back. I was out in America and he played three games there and I was very impressed with the standard."

Pulis also said he hopes to complete a deal for American midfielder Maurice Edu by Monday.

"He's another player who's playing for the national team and there's a market out there I think," Pulis said.

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 waved 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 it began to press, but like last weekend's goalless draw against Sunderland, Arsenal lacked a cutting edge.

Arsenal 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 neutralized the Arsenal threat with the sides locked at 0-0 at the break.

Arsenal got back into its stride early in the second half and continued to look more threatening but it was Stoke who was left to rue chances when it 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 signaled a goal kick.

Stoke looked to be playing farther 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.

"They're not spontaneous enough in some situations," Wenger said. "I'm very positive about my team. People will say: 'You did not score in two games' and I cannot deny that. We played against two teams who as a unit defend very well, Sunderland and Stoke, and overall I believe we can be a good surprise in this championship."

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

"You have to give credit to Stoke," Wenger said. "They defended well and have experience at the back and are a very strong team defensively. As long as we didn't score an opener they were happy with the point and you could see that. Is it a point gained or two dropped? I would say it is two dropped on the day but I would say it is a good point as it is difficult for everybody to take a point at Stoke."

Pulis was satisfied with the result after both sides struggled to find the target in what was still an entertaining game.

"I'm pleased with the point, really pleased with the point," he said. "I thought we were disappointing going forward. I thought we could do better than that. We looked unbalanced without Matty (Etherington) on the left hand side but the attitude of the players and the commitment of the players was absolutely first class.

"As a football club we must never ever become blasé about taking a point off one of the top teams in Europe."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.