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Arsene Wenger made sure Tony Pulis was the recipient of a lingering handshake. It was left to Arshavin to stoke the embers. The little Russian turned it on. Scoring one and creating countless other chances including Aaron Ramsey's second half goal.
Quite a number of milestones in this one. It was Wenger's 500th Premier League appearance and a winning one as Arsenal manager and the 250th match for Cesc Fabregas as a Gunner. The Emirates hosted its 100th match.
For this match Arshavin was deployed as the centerforward as Fabregas, Rosicky, and Nasri played him through. However, Arshavin's role as a goal creator for others means that he moved back deeper to pick the seams making him elusive. He was the hidden number 9. And Stoke had problems all day trying to stop him.
Arsenal should have won at least 4-0 with Fabregas missing out on two. The Spaniard's penalty kick was saved by Sorensen after Arshavin was brought down in the box by Rory Delap.
In the second instance Eboue denied the Arsenal captain. Traore's cross was met by Abdoulaye Faye with Faye scoring an almost own goal but the ball struck the goalpost only to rebound Fabregas way. His first time shot was goal bound when it struck a lingering Eboue on the Stoke goal line and the ball deflected harmlessly out of of play.
However, Arshavin would not be denied in a clever one two with Fabregas, scoring from an acute angle. He should have had two more but Sorensen was able to close the gap on one occasion and in the other deflect the shot off the crossbar.
In the press conference afterwards, Wenger talked about the change:
On Arshavin playing centrally...
"When it works, they like it. I don't think he was a fanatic to play centre forward but I am convinced because he has good body power and movement and good technique. He has intelligent movement and it worked today. He could have had two or three goals and overall he did very well."
He also ruled out a move for Edin Dzeko, one of the Bundesliga's hottest players who has scored 40 goals in 73 appearances for Wolfsburg. Although Wenger is a big admirer of the Bosnian striker, he will be hugely expensive and even if affordable, would not come on board simply as a replacement for RVP.
Alexander Song was out as was Eduardo and Diaby. But they should be fit for next week's match. However, Tomas Rosicky will be missing picking up a a groin strain which will keep him out for a few weeks. Eboue and William Gallas also picked up niggling hamstring injuries but Wenger is hopeful that they will be back next week.
With Chelsea losing to Man City, the gap has narrowed a bit. Winning the game in hand could narrow the gap further and voila, we could be once again in the hunt for a Premiership title.