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Arsenal v Stoke: Football Back With an Aubameyang!

The Football is back! And with a bang as well, with Arsenal running out 3-0 winners against Paul Lambert’s Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.After what has seemed like an incredibly long break in club football (which was only a fortnight) the Premier League returned, and following a sheepish first-half, the Gunners ended the day 3 points better off thanks to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace and a returning goal for Alexandre Lacazette.Two Weeks may not be that long of time, but it’s certainly the longest break Arsenal have had in months. Between the league, European football, the run to the league cup final and even a short-lived FA Cup defence, the last time Arsenal had a break was the international fixtures in Mid-November, so it was badly needed.Arsene Wenger will have been hoping that his side would be rejuvenated following the break, and following an uninspiring first 45, he will be satisfied with his team’s dominant performance in the second half. Stoke had never won a game at the Emirates, so even with Arsenal’s recent poor league form, this was seen as a must-win game.We’ll begin with the negatives. The crowd at the Emirates was sparse – with the league looking like it will be difficult to make in impact on in the remaining games, it looks like the losses against Manchester City and Brighton before the break have not yet been forgiven. In what has become one of the most bewildering “traditions” in English football, Stoke jeered Aaron Ramsey – who had his leg horrifically broken at the Brittania in 2010 – throughout the game. Ramsey’s constant jeering from the away support didn’t prevent him from putting in a brilliant shift, though, with him being the stand-out performer in the first half. Nobody on the field covered more ground on the day, with the Welshman amassing an outstanding 11.26km across the 90 minutes, and was rightly awarded the man of the match award.The score line, in truth, was far more emphatic in the end than the performance warranted, but nonetheless, 3 points are 3 points and anything less would have been generous to Stoke.There were many positives to the day though – none more so than the return of Lacazette and the prowess of him and his counterpart Aubameyang in the latter quarter of the game.The game had what feel like an uncommon trait for an Arsenal fixture in that the Gunners were handed some generous decisions by the referee – with both the first and last goal being converted from the penalty spot.It wasn’t until the 75th minute that the deadlock was broken, with only a few chances for either side alighting interest in the game. That all changed though when Mesut Ozil, who had looked like he was having a day where he could produce something, sailed into the box, where he was taken down by defender Bruno martins Indi.The referee, Craig Pawson, immediately awarded the penalty, and up stepped Aubameyang, who made no mistake in slotting the ball into the corner of the Stoke net past goal keeper Jack Butland.The Gabonese international did well in a pressurized situation after feeding off scraps for the majority of the game. 10 minutes later, he was on the scoresheet again, this time as a result of Shkrodan Mustafi flicking on an Ozil corner, which found its way to Aubameyang just a short distance out from the goal in space, and he was never going to miss. 2-0.Just a few minutes later, Arsenal had another penalty, this time midfielder Badou Ndiaye bundling down Lacazette at the edge of the box.Lacazette, who had taken to the field to replace Danny Welbeck on the hour mark, has been shy of goals this season, and Aubameyang – who was on a hat-trick – admirably allowed the Frenchman to take the penalty.Even lacking in match fitness and confidence, Lacazette made no mistake and produced a replica of Aubameyang’s spot-kick from quarter of an hour previous.In what was a genuinely generous act from Arsenal’s record signing, Aubameyang commented after the game in response to why he allowed Lacazette to take the penalty rather than claiming a hat-trick saying, "I know Alexandre Lacazette is back and I had scored twice already so I knew it would be good for his confidence."It was a gesture that shows a strong bond between the two front men, and considering the biggest worry when it came to the signing of Aubameyang was his attitude, this was a good sign of strength among the team.That was 3-0, and that was full time. It was clear from the beginning that Arsenal had one eye on Thursday’s fixture against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League, but they still did well, finishing the game with a significant 69% of possession and were deserved winners.Lambert’s Stoke, even though they had the best of the early exchanges, did not hold firm throughout the entirety of the game, and as such, find themselves in deep relegation trouble coming into the final few games of the season, sitting in 19th position on 27 points (3 points off safety) with 6 matches remaining. The way in which the Potters folded following the first goal will not inspire confidence among their supporters. The Gunners remain in 6th position in the league with 7 games remaining. The next league games come against low-flying Southampton at the Emirates and a rejuvenated Newcastle side at St. James’s park, but it is the aforementioned Europa League fixtures sandwiched between these games that will take precedence in preparation.With the return of Lacazette meaning there will be more depth at the top of the pitch for Wenger’s side, this game against Stoke has served as a good warm-up for the welcoming of CSKA to the Emirates on Thursday.