London, Oct 23: Robin van Persie came off the bench to score a quickfire double as rejuvenated Arsenal beat Stoke 3-1 on Sunday to grab its fourth straight home victory in the Premier League.
The Netherlands striker put the hosts in front for the second time in the match in the 73rd minute—seven minutes after coming on as a substitute—and made the game safe in the 82nd with his seventh league goal of the season.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he started with Van Persie on the bench because the striker had “muscular tightness.”
“I was not even sure he would be on the team sheet but we checked him this morning and he was medically all right to be on the bench,” Wenger said.
“Before you leave him out, you think always 15 times, ‘Do I really do it?”'
Ivory Coast forward Gervinho gave Arsenal the lead in the 27th, only for Peter Crouch to equalize from close range seven minutes later for Stoke.
Arsenal's latest win at the Emirates moved the team into seventh place in the table, confirming its return to form after a shaky start to the season.
And the result once again showed how important Van Persie is to Arsenal's cause.
Having started the wins over Sunderland in the Premier League and Marseille in the Champions League over the past week, Wenger was mindful of over-exerting his one true world-class player but was forced to call on him.
“The second half was basically all us, especially after the first 15 minutes, and then the problem was to score goals,” Wenger said. “Van Persie can do that better than many people, and he did it when he came on.”
Marouane Chamakh was chosen to lead the forward line in Van Persie's absence and the Morocco striker almost made the most of his rare start by giving the hosts an early lead, heading just wide from a good position following a corner by Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal dominated the early stages, with Arteta and Aaron Ramsey both seeing efforts go just wide before Gervinho eventually broke the deadlock.
Ramsey was the provider as he floated a pass across to Gervinho, who controlled with his chest and shot past Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from 12 yards (meters).
The visitors equalized within seven minutes with their first real opportunity of the game, Jon Walters nodding back a free kick from Glenn Whelan for Crouch to apply the close-range finish.
With Arsenal appearing to struggle, Wenger threw Van Persie on and the substitution paid off instantly.
Gervinho crossed from the right flank for Van Persie to turn in at the near post and the pair combined again to finish off Stoke, which has lost all three of its matches after competing in the Europa League this season.
“Van Persie has come on and changed the game,” Stoke manager Tony Pulis said. “We looked comfortable until he came on.”