Who saw two away wins back-to-back coming? My guess is very few people or pundits could predict that the Gunners could beat Stoke (who are always tough to beat) and Southampton on the road, especially as the Saints took points off Liverpool recently.
Talking of the Reds, they’ve taken six points from Arsenal this season, so it would be strange if they risked throwing away fourth spot by not performing at West Ham. However, football is full of twists and turns, and the Hammers can beat almost anyone on their day.
Meanwhile, Arsenal continue to defy the critics with Giroud setting the ball rolling with the opener just before half time with a tap-in converting Bellerin’s cross. The Spaniard might get back to his best playing in a right wing back position and I prefer defensive minded players playing wide when playing three at the back. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury has forced Wenger to play Bellerin and I think it makes the team stronger.
Up until the opener, it didn’t look as if it would be Arsenal’s lucky day, with Monreal heading against the post. However, Ozil seemed to kill the game off when he dinked the ball over the keeper to finish an intricate move.
Stoke staged something of a resurgence as substitute Crouch headed in at the near post to reduce the arrears. It looked like it would be the same old story, but Arsenal seem to have developed a backbone of sorts. I’m not sure how that’s happened, as Xhaka and Coquelin were far from dominant. However, the back three of Holding, Mustafi and Koscielny looked reasonably solid, while Ozil and Sanchez were in the mood.
Inevitably it was the limping Sanchez who managed to see Stoke off with a defected shot before Giroud put the final nail in the Potters’ coffin by converting Ramsey’s cross.
All in all, it was an impressive Arsenal performance, which means the Gunners have kept their distant dream of qualifying for the European Champions League alive for a bit longer at least.