Wenger's men suffer setback after 0-1 loss to Stoke; Chelsea win 3-1
Stoke-On-Trent: Arsenal's Premier League title challenge suffered a major setback as they crashed to a shock 1-0 defeat at Stoke following Jon Walters' late penalty on Saturday.
Jack Wilshere of Arsenal and his teammates look dejected after conceding the opening goal against Stoke City on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
Having missed four of his previous six penalties, Republic of Ireland international Walters showed nerves of steel to slot home with 14 minutes remaining after Laurent Koscielny was adjudged to have handled inside the area.
Leaders' Chelsea's 3-1 victory at Fulham meant the Gunners now trail Jose Mourinho's team by four points as they made the worst possible start to a month manager Arsene Wenger had claimed in the build-up would define their season. Arsenal have now won just once in their last eight trips to the Britannia.
Stadium and, although this was the first time they had come up against Mark Hughes in the home dugout, the game retained the same feisty edge it became famed for when his predecessor Tony Pulis was in charge.
Gunners striker Olivier Giroud was less than impressed after twice appearing to be trod on — first by Glenn Whelan and then Charlie Adam — yet both incidents went unpunished by referee Mike Jones.
Wenger's side could have few complaints with the outcome, however, after serving up a sub-standard display which left big question marks hanging over their seemingly faltering title bid.
Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil returned to the Gunners' squad after recovering from a dead leg, however the Germany international had to settle for a place on the bench and made little impact when introduced in the second half.
The win continued Stoke's excellent record at home against the big sides as they made the Gunners their latest scalp, having previously beaten Manchester United and Chelsea and drawn with Manchester City.
There is now a six-point cushion between them and the relegation zone.
'Sorry for headbutt'
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has apologised for his shocking headbutt on Hull's David Meyler, claiming the ugly incident "was a heat of the moment thing" during his side's 4-1 win on Saturday.
Pardew appeared to take umbrage when Meyler pushed him to recover the ball as the hosts tried to get back into the game at 3-1 down during the second-half and the manager offered no protest when referee Kevin Friend sent him off.
"It was a heat of the moment thing. I massively regret it," Pardew said.