Robin Van Persie's Creativity, Wojciech Szczesny's Confidence and a Vital Point

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  Robin Van Persie of Arsenal celebrates at the end of the match during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on December 21, 2011 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Robin van Persie and Wojciech Szczesny produced excellent performances, as Arsenal claimed a valuable point in a notoriously difficult away fixture for Arsene Wenger's team. The Gunners have had their share of struggles against an often brutally cynical Stoke City side.

However, today Wenger's players deserve credit for hanging tough against City's inevitable aerial bombardment. Van Persie in particular was outstanding in more than one facet of the game.

Not surprisingly, he was the Gunners' biggest scoring threat and netted a 15th-minute equaliser with his 35th league goal of a banner campaign. Yet van Persie's best contributions came as a creative force.

The skillful and intelligent Dutchman proved that he is the team's best source of creativity since the departure of Cesc Fabregas. Van Persie dropped off with subtle movement and produced some clever and cultured through passes.

He slid a great early pass through for Yossi Benayoun, who should have given Arsenal the lead. Later, van Persie combined again with Benayoun in a moment of quality which should have resulted in a penalty.

Van Persie's quick interchanges with Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky ensured the quality and pace of Arsenal's game remained high. It feels ridiculous to suggest it, but Arsenal's best route back to trophies may involve playing van Persie in the No. 10 role next season, just behind a direct striker.

The skipper's performance was matched by confident young goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Remember the images of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski costing Arsenal points with so many blunders?

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:  Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal celebrates after Mikel Arteta of Arsenal scored their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on April 8, 2012 in London, England
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Those painful memories are why Arsenal can be so grateful for the emergence of Szczesny. The Pole was decisive all game long, a crucial requirement against Stoke's aerial prowess.

He routinely charged out of his goal to punch clear and claim high balls. Importantly, Szczesny made his mind up early and didn't back out of his decision. He is now the kind of custodian who will win, rather than cost Arsenal points.

This point puts Arsenal four ahead of fourth-placed Newcastle and seven ahead of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Redknapp's team does have two games in hand, but four more points from Arsenal should ensure third place.

As disappointed as this author was with the home defeat to Wigan Athletic, this draw is cause for equal delight. It may only be a solitary point, but make no mistake, this is an encouraging result and performance from Arsenal.