We controlled the game for the most part, Stoke rarely threatened, one correctly disallowed goal for offside and that was about it from them. We created a lot of half chances and we also opened up their defence on several occasions, it was just a bit disappointing that our final pass or cross was not quite on the money. This was particularly the case in the first half, Gibbs got into a couple of terrific positions, the final ball was lacking, Podolski had taken up some great positions and it is one of those things that happens when players have not played together much, there is not that instinctive knowledge of where one's team mate is floating.
Podolski had out best chance in the first half, his goal bound shot was batted away by Wilkinson's arm, a clear penalty by anyone's book, unfortunately the hapless Mason waved play on, not for the last time unfortunately. Ramsey had a decent chance from the edge of the box in the second half, unfortunately he screwed his effort wide. Other than this there were quite a few long range efforts, some of these stung Begovic's gloves, but too many drifted harmlessly wide.
Cazorla was hugely impressive, Arteta disciplined as ever, if there were some weaknesses, then Diaby and Gervinho didn't really deliver enough final product. Podolski and Giroud worked so hard for the team, a lot of the latter's hold up play was outstanding. The back four were excellent, Mannone didn't put a foot wrong either. Without the ball we played so much better than we did in many away games last season, there was some good no nonsense defending and less dangerous possession football in our own defensive areas.
Overall we deserved three points one hundred times more than the opposition but it just wasn't to be, we couldn't quite crack the nut in the end. A special mention for Lee Mason who was typically weak in his performance, not only did he miss the stonewall penalty for Wilkinson's handball, but he persistently have Stoke some very soft free kicks in our half of the field, as well as letting Stoke get away with some terrible reckless tackling. This was epitomised by the yellow for Wilkinson's shocking second half lunge, the Stoke players reacted as if they knew a red was on the way, luckily for them Mason is as limp and toothless as they come, a yellow was all he could produce. It was just lucky that we didn't get any legs broken today, tackles like Wilkinson's are designed to end careers, truly appalling stuff from Pulis' Neanderthal cloggers.
Overall we must take heart from this new found defensive solidity, but we must also look at hard at our attacking options and consider bringing in some more fire power before the window shuts next week. A point away at Stoke is definitely nothing to be sneered at, it is a very very tricky place to bring anything away from. Finally a special mention for that large majority of Stoke fans who seem to think they are being funny with their Arsene Wenger obsession, actually they would do well to realise that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery', this Freudian slip on their part is rather amusing and ironic, the joke is on you Stoke fans! As for booing Aaron Ramsey for having his leg shattered by Ryan Shawcross' thuggery, that needs no comment, it just tells you a lot about the kind of human that supports Stoke City, sad really.