Petr Cech and Mesut Ozil crucial to Arsenal's title bid

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In previous years, Arsenal would have come away with nothing yesterday.

Though dropping two points is disappointing, especially considering Manchester City's 4-0 thumping of Crystal Palace, a draw against Stoke City on a cold January evening at the Britannia is no mean feat.

As well as suggesting this Arsenal side are more resilient than their predecessors, yesterday's result clearly demonstrated how vital both Petr Cech and the absent Mesut Ozil, have become to Arsene Wenger's side.


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Cech could make all the difference

Though, in Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal have had one of the Premier League's best centre-backs since his move in 2010, it is no exaggeration to say that Cech has transformed the Gunners' defence.

Hailed as "outstanding" by Wenger, Cech's performance yesterday emphasised just how important a quality goalkeeper can be. The former Chelsea player's handling was superb, whilst his double save in the second-half from Joselu and then Bojan kept both Arsenal in the game and his eighth clean sheet of the season intact - only Joe Hart with ten has more. 

Whereas Arsenal's previous defeats at the Britannia have been characterised by Lukas Fabianski's flapping and Manuel Almunia's helpless expression, as Rory Delap launched repeated throw-ins into the Gunners' box, Cech was composure personified yesterday and this sense of calm will be crucial as we reach the business end of the season. 

Ozil's magic touch was sorely missed

In the German playmaker's absence, due to a slight foot injury, Ozil's importance to Arsenal's season was significantly reinforced. 

For all Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell - despite his neat pass to release Olivier Giroud in the first half, only for the striker to be denied by a strong save from Jack Butland - and Theo Walcott's endeavour, Wenger's side desperately missed Ozil's touch of class.

The former Real Madrid player has been central to Arsenal's forward play this season and with his 16 league assists in just 20 games, could well have proved the difference.

Sanchez still to come

As well as being relieved to have seen his side come through yesterday's "battle" at the Britannia, Wenger will be particularly encouraged that his side have retained their strong form, without Alexis Sanchez.

The star forward has been absent since Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Norwich on November 29, however, the Gunners remain top of the table buoyed by recent results, such as their 2-1 defeat of title rivals Manchester City.

In unison, Sanchez and Ozil will strike fear into opposition defences with the Chilean's direct style and eye for goal, the perfect compliment to Ozil's playmaking ability.

Both players should feature this Sunday when the Gunners host Guus Hiddink's recently rejuvenated Chelsea. 

Do you think Arsenal can finally win the Premier League title this season? Have your say in the comment box below!

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Thierry Henry
Premier League
Petr Cech

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