Arsenal have moved to within a point of 4th-placed Liverpool in the race for top four with a 4-1 against Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium.

The Gunners had failed to win away to the Potters in the last five seasons, but two first-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil set Arsène Wenger’s men on their way to a much-needed victory.

A controversial Peter Crouch goal promised a frantic end to the encounter, but Arsenal’s third through Sanchez would take the fizzle out of an end-to-end game before Giroud closed off the win late on.

It was the London outfit who had started best, as Nacho Monreal neared the opener with a header at the back-post before hitting the frame of the goal in the 17th minute.

Alexis Sanchez tried his luck past the half-hour mark, picking up a spare ball deep into Stoke’s half and driving at the Stoke defence before firing a shot into the side-netting.

Arsenal would find the back of the net minutes before the interval, as Bellerín breezed towards the byline and squared a cross for Giroud to tap in Arsenal’s first goal of the evening in the 43rd minute.

The Gunners reasserted their dominance in the second period and took full advantage of Özil’s calculated run in behind Stoke’s defence in the 55th minute, spotted by Sanchez, before the German playmaker was able to dink the ball over Butland to make it 2-0.

Arsenal’s second was almost cancelled out just three minutes later, however, as Arnautovic’s cross was headed back across goal by Mame Biram Diouf from close range, with Čech beaten in sight of the Senegalese striker’s effort.

The Potters would eventually pull a goal back, with Arnautovic again at the centre of the move, but the goal would be turned in by an unnoticed handball from Peter Crouch at the near-post.

But Alexis would later be on hand to decimate the hosts’ hopes of a comeback, firing low from the edge of the box and finding the back of the net courtesy of a minor Ryan Shawcross deflection in the 74th minute, making it 3-1.

Late substitute Aaron Ramsey would come close to adding to the Gunners’ three goals, pulling a save out of Butland upon his entrance into the game, but the Welshman would go on to assist Giroud shortly after with a low cross, subsequently bundled in on the slide by the Arsenal number 12.

Geoff Cameron threatened late on for Stoke with a volley saved by Čech, but 4-1 to the North Londoners would be how it’d end.

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Laurent Koscielny (7); Héctor Bellerín (8), Granit Xhaka (8), Francis Coquelin (7), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (8), Olivier Giroud (7), Alexis Sanchez (8)

Subs: Aaron Ramsey (6), Theo Walcott (5), Danny Welbeck (5)

Written by Patrick Ribeiro

Freelance journalist. @P_SRibeiro

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