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Published: 19:02 | 17/1/16

Gunners draw at Britannia

Point takes Arsenal back to top

Stoke City and Arsenal produced a scoreless Premier League draw at the Britannia Stadium.

A share of the spoils was enough for the Gunners to return to the top of table, moving ahead of Leicester City on goal difference, with Manchester City a point behind the leading pair.

At a ground where Arsene Wenger’s sides have traditionally struggled, the Londoners were unable to ease into their usual rhythm, perhaps partly because of the absence of playmaker Mesut Ozil due to what the club described as a “slight foot injury”.

By top-flight standards, the game was a relatively disjointed affair, despite Mark Hughes having dragged the hosts away from the rough-and-tumble reputation established under the guidance of Tony Pulis.

Stoke edged the early exchanges, going closest when Ibrahim Afellay drove a 20-yard effort wide, but Jack Butland had to advance smartly to superbly deny Olivier Giroud from a Joel Campbell pass that left the home defence for dead.

A brace of strikes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also threatened the target, although the hosts were at least as dangerous as the visitors during the opening period as a whole.

Both sides fashioned dangerous situations during an extremely lively opening to the second half. At the Stoke end, Butland made a fine stop to keep out a Giroud header from Aaron Ramsey’s corner, while the Frenchman had a decent penalty appeal against Phillipp Wollscheid turned down, before a superb double save from Petr Cech disappointed Joselu and, from the rebound, Bojan.

Cech also dealt very well with a subsequent Joselu strike, which was deflected en route, as the clash became increasingly open and frantically contested, with Stoke fairing better than their opponents.

The home side pushed for a late goal, as Ramsey nodded a Jon Walters header off the goal-line, with Cech saving the follow-up effort from Joselu.

In the end, the Gunners seemed to be relatively satisfied with the winning of a point at a ground that has seldom been kind to them during recent years.

With Arsenal returning to the league table’s summit, Stoke remain seventh, five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

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