December 10, 2016 / 6:16 PM / 8 months ago

Arsenal hit back to beat Stoke and move top

(Reuters) - - Free-scoring Arsenal replaced Chelsea as Premier League leaders with goals either side of halftime by Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil helping them recover from a slow start to beat Stoke City 3-1 on Saturday.

It took Charlie Adam's 29th-minute penalty for Stoke to spark Arsenal into life but once they shook off their early lethargy they were irresistible, taking their goal tally to 12 in eight days.

Substitute Alex Iwobi's strike late in the second half gave Arsenal the two-goal margin they required to knock Chelsea off the summit, for 24 hours at least, by virtue of having scored four more goals than their London rivals.

The Gunners, who have 34 points from 15 matches, are unbeaten in the Premier League since the opening day of the season and are heading into the hectic holiday period on a roll.

"We have scored many goals this week and had an excellent run, so let's keep the focus and keep it going on," said boss Arsene Wenger, whose side trounced West Ham United 5-1 last Saturday and Basel 4-1 away on Tuesday to win their Champions League group.

"We had a hesitant start, but when you play every few days sometimes it takes you time to get into a rhythm."

Walcott, whose goal shortly before halftime was the turning point, summed up the confidence sweeping through Arsenal.

"It is the best team I have ever been involved in," Walcott said. "Everything about this club is in a good place."

Arsenal did not have things all their own way against Stoke though, particularly in the first half when the home side were guilty of too many careless passes.

Stoke forced a flurry of early corners, from one of which Nacho Monreal's headed clearance fell to Spaniard Marc Muniesa whose sumptuous volley had to be touched over by Petr Cech.

Joe Allen wasted a good chance for Stoke, sliding a shot wide after being teed up by Marko Arnautovic while former Bayern Munich playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri was a lively presence.

Granit Xhaka's clumsy challenge on Allen shortly before the half-hour mark saw referee Lee Mason point to the penalty spot -- a decision that angered Wenger. "We got a very unlucky penalty against us because it is not even a foul in my opinion," Wenger said. "Mentally it was a blow."

Adam sent Petr Cech the wrong way but Arsenal responded in positive fashion and Walcott touched home Hector Bellerin's low cross at the near post after 42 minutes.

Five minutes after the break Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's chipped pass left Stoke keeper Lee Grant stranded and Ozil looped his header into an empty net.

Peter Crouch did force a good save from Cech before Iwobi swept in Arsenal's third with 15 minutes remaining to seal a 15th consecutive Arsenal home win over Stoke.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis

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