Arsenal title hopes are not dead but they did take a stiff blow to the jaw thanks to a 1-0 defeat on Saturday against Stoke City. Jonathan Walters' penalty kick with just under 15 minutes left to play was the difference as Arsenal slipped further behind Chelsea in the race for the EPL title.
The match's first shot on goal came in the 30th minute. Yep, the 30th minute. Olivier Giroud was the man who finally tested one of the goalkeepers when he got off a header in the center of the box from a Bacary Sagna cross. It was a fairly easy save for Asmir Begovic, but considering how dull the match was for the majority of the first half, you have to get your highlights where you can.
Wojciech Szczesny received his first good test of the match five minutes before the halftime break. Stoke's Glenn Whelan was rude enough to interrupt the goalkeeper's game of Sudoko with a scorching effort from the edge of the Arsenal box. Whelan probably should have done better considering the absurd amount of space the Gunners left for him to run in to, but Szczesny got down quickly to block the attempt.
Stoke's Erik Pieters picked up the match's first yellow card in the 45th minute, coming in late on Giroud. It was just one of several occasions in which Giroud was left upset with Stoke players and the match referee. The Arsenal striker was twice stomped on -- Whelan in the first half and Charlie Adam in the second half -- but neither foul was caught by the officials, though a case could have been made for a red card on both occasions.
Pieter's booking was the Potters' 59th yellow card of the season, which leads the Premier League. As the players left the pitch for the break, "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus played over the Britannia Stadium speakers. Stoke. Wrecking ball. Well played.
Clearly realizing the match needed a pick me up, Peter Crouch tried to execute a bicycle kick in the 51st minute, making contact but sending the ball wide of the post. It was far from an aesthetically pleasing attempt by the Stoke striker, but it was definitely entertaining.
Crouch had a much better chance in the 53rd minute after getting free in space right in front of Szczesny. Instead of going for a diving header on Charlie Adam's free kick, Crouch tried another acrobatic effort -- which probably would have found the back of the net -- and only managed to pop the ball up, allowing Arsenal to clear the danger.
Szczesny denied Crouch in the 65th minute after the big striker sent a twirling header on frame, pushing the ball wide of the post.
In the 75th minute Stoke were given a penalty when Laurent Koscielny stuck his arm up to prevent the from going over his head inside the 18-yard-box. The referee never hesitated in pointing to the spot and Stoke took advantage as Jonathan Walters beat Szczesny to give the Potters a 1-0 lead.
Yaya Sanogo had a brilliant chance to even the match for Arsenal in stoppage time but was unable to be the hero, lifting his close range shot well over the crossbar.
In the end, it just wasn't to be as the team suffered its fifth defeat of the season and fell four points behind Chelsea in the title race.
Stoke: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Walters, Nzonzi, Whelan, Adam (Ireland 72'), Arnautovic (Etherington 88'), Crouch.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Cazorla, Rosicky (Oxlade-Chamberlain 75'), Arteta, Wilshere (Sanogo 81'), Podolski (Özil 66'), Giroud
Goals: Walters (76')