In a very negative atmosphere at the Emirates, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice in the closing stages as Arsenal laboured to a 3-0 win over relegation-bound Stoke City for their first back-to-back wins since November.
Arsenal had been quite slow and lethargic in possession and not had much penetration in the opening period but in contrast, Stoke were
delighted to have headed for the tunnel at halftime with a goalless scoreline.
After the break, Arsenal showed a real attacking threat that was rewarded with a penalty following Bruno Martins Indi's foul on Mesut Ozil in the area. Aubameyang
stepped up and slipped it to Jack Butland's left and into the bottom corner. Aubameyang
made it 2-0 after being allowed so much space at the back post. The former Borussia Dortmund man still showed his quality to watch the ball onto his foot and release a half-volley into the back of the net.
A heavy push in the back of the returning Alexandre Lacazette in Stoke's area by Badou Ndiaye left referee Craig Pawson with no other decision than to point to the spot.
Aubameyang passed up the opportunity to grab a hat-trick, leaving Lacazette
to place it in the exact same position as he did with the opener earlier in the half.SETTING THE SCENE
Arsene Wenger opted to start David Ospina in goal after Petr Cech suffered a minor groin injury ahead of the match.
Jack Wilshere was available after recovering from a minor knee injury which he sustained while on international duty and the Englishman started alongside Mohamed Elneny and Aaron Ramsey in midfield.
Alexandre Lacazette had also returned following a knee problem which has kept him out of first-team
action for the Gunners since mid-February but he started on the bench at the Emirates.
Stoke, meanwhile, brought Mame Biram Diouf back after his shoulder injury and Erik Pieters was also named in defence.
Pieters was dropped from Paul Lambert’s squad for the side’s defeat to Everton after breaking a curfew. Charlie Adam started a three-match ban and Eric Choupo-Moting had been ruled out of the clash with Arsenal after sustaining an injury.HOW IT HAPPENED
During a low-key opening period, the visitors were the quickest to settle and posed an immediate threat as Xherdan Shaqiri curled a shot
inches wide from the edge of the area.
Aaron Ramsey saw a shot graze the crossbar after a scramble in the area, before having a goalbound shot blocked by Eric Pieters a few minutes later.
Those moments were the only real pockets of excitement in the first half, but there was more bite to Arsenal's game after the restart, with Ramsey's sharp pass setting up a chance for Welbeck who sent a half-volley just wide.
Suddenly the game came alive and Mohamed Elneny tried his luck after meeting Bellerin’s cutback but his shot was saved before Nacho Monreal tested Jack Butland with a firm drive on the follow-up.
Stoke remained a threat themselves and came perilously close to taking the lead when Shaqiri’s inswinging corner hit the far post before Aubameyang was put through on goal only to see Butland save again.
Lacazette, on for his first appearance for close to two months added energy up front and saw a close-range shot blocked, while Calum Chambers also went close.
But finally, Wenger's men broke the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining when Aubameyang coolly slotted home from the penalty spot much to the relief of the Emirates crowd after Ozil was brought down in the Potters' area.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ozil both tested Butland in quick succession as Arsenal entered the final 10 minutes before Auabmeyang reacted quickest in the box to fire home from eight yards.
Lacazette was then hauled down in the box in the final minute, and it was the Frenchman's turn this time to take the penalty and he made no mistake to seal a fine second-half display.