Stoke 0-0 Arsenal: Goalkeepers star but Gunners go top
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 18/01/16 8:16am
Arsenal failed to beat Stoke away from home for the sixth straight game but a 0-0 draw took them top of the Premier League.
It was a game where both goalkeepers shone as Jack Butland denied Olivier Giroud with two smart saves either side of the break before Petr Cech stood strong in the second period, including thwarting Bojan with a double save.
Stoke rallied in the closing stages and Aaron Ramsey cleared off the line from Jonathan Walters.
Mark Hughes' men have now lost just one of their eight league games at the Britannia Stadium against Arsenal, who jump above Leicester City in the table but only on goal difference.
Arsenal entered the Stoke cauldron without Mesut Ozil, who was ruled out with a minor foot injury, while Alexis Sanchez was only 95 per cent fit according to Arsene Wenger and also wasn't risked.
There was a place in the squad for new signing Mohamed Elneny, who remained on the bench throughout.
The home fans were in boisterous mood as they booed every touch by an Arsenal player in the early stages and the visitors struggled to get into their passing rhythm.
Stoke were organised and resolute but were cut open on 21 minutes by the Gunners.
Joel Campbell spotted Giroud's run in behind the Stoke back four and played the perfect ball into his path.
The French striker's first touch was perfect as he shifted the ball onto his left foot but Butland was smartly off his line and blocked the ball with a starfish-like dive at the feet of Giroud.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Wenger's chosen replacement for Ozil - curled an effort at Butland's goal on 29 minutes from 20 yards but the shot stopper tipped the ball over the crossbar.
Butland remained the busier of the two goalkeepers in the early stages of the second period.
Ramsey whipped in a brilliant corner from the right which found Giroud eight yards from goal. His header was a powerful one that was heading for the bottom corner until Butland's hand diverted the ball away.
Cech had been a bystander for 58 minutes of action, but duty soon called as Stoke upped the tempo.
Bojan found space 20 yards from goal and spanked an effort that was set to hit the back of the net but Cech launched himself to his right to claw the ball away. Bojan reacted quickest to the rebound but the goalkeeper was up quick and forced the shot away at his near post.
Joselu was the next Stoke attacker to be denied by Cech as he turned a deflected effort away on 65 minutes.
The Gunners enjoyed 57 per cent possession in the second period, but rarely looked capable of breaking through the Stoke backline led impeccably by Ryan Shawcross.
Campbell curled an effort wide from a tight angle with nine minutes left but it was the hosts that came closest to nicking all three points.
Glenn Whelen's corner was flicked on at the near post by Walters and with Cech beaten, it was up to Ramsey to save the day and head clear on the goal line. The ball broke to Joselu about 10 yards out but Cech was quick to react and block the effort away with his legs.
It was another vital intervention from a goalkeeper who is proving to be one of the signings of the season.
Stoke: Butland (8), Shawcross (8), Pieters (7), Wollscheid (7), Johnson (7), Walters (7), Arnautovic (6), Afellay (6), Whelan (7), Bojan (6), Joselu (6)
Subs used: Adam (6), Van Ginkel (6), Diouf (7)
Arsenal: Cech (8), Bellerin (7), Mertesacker (7), Koscielny (7), Monreal (7), Ramsey (6), Flamini (7), Campbell (7), Oxlade-Chamberlin (6), Walcott (6), Giroud (5)
Subs used: Iwobi (6), Chambers (6)
Man of the match: Petr Cech