Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and the returning Alex Lacazette was also on target as we secured our fourth win on the bounce to beat Stoke City.
In truth, we were not at our very best but after upping the pressure in the second half we made the breakthrough when the Gabon striker held his nerve from the spot after Mesut Ozil had gone down in the area.
Aubameyang – who had now scored for his third match in succession – then pounced on a loose ball in the area to grab our second, before Alex Lacazette scored the third from the spot to wrap up an ultimately comfortable win.
During a low-key opening period, the visitors were the quickest to settle and posed an immediate threat as Xherdan Shaqiri curled a shot inches wide from the edge of the area.
Aaron Ramsey saw a shot graze the crossbar after a scramble in the area, before having a goalbound shot blocked by Eric Pieters a few minutes later.
They were the only real pockets of excitement in the first half, but there was more bite to our game after the restart, with Ramsey's sharp pass setting up a chance for Welbeck, but the forward sent a half-volley just wide.
Suddenly the game came to life and Mohamed Elneny tried his luck after meeting Bellerin’s cutback but his shot was saved, before Nacho Monreal tested Jack Butland with a firm drive on the follow-up.
Stoke remained a threat themselves, and came perilously close to taking the lead when Shaqiri’s inswinging corner hit the far post, before Aubameyang was put through on goal only to see Butland save again.
Lacazette – on for his first appearance for close to two months – added energy up front and saw a close-range shot blocked, while Calum Chambers also went close.
But finally we broke the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining when Aubameyang coolly slotted home from the penalty spot – much to the relief of the Emirates crowd.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ozil both tested Butland in quick succession as we entered the final 10 minutes, before Auabmeyang reacted quickest in the box to fire home from eight yards.
Bellerin was then hauled down in the box in the final minute, and it was Lacazette’s turn this time to take the penalty and he made no mistake to seal a fine second-half display.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We return to Europa League action on Thursday when we host CSKA Moscow in the first leg of our quarter-final clash with the Russians.
We have only met them twice before, in the group stage of the 2006/07 Champions League when we lost 1-0 in Russia then drawing 0-0 at Emirates Stadium.
Jack Wilshere took the armband against Stoke in the absence of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, and was at the heart of the action.
Here are some of his key moments:
22 – Bellerin crosses in low from the right, it bounces up off Wilshere’s leg and causes a scramble with Ramsey running on to it but his first-time shot grazes the crossbar
28 – Wilshere spins away from his marker on the edge of the area and drives in on goal and passes to Ramsey, whose shot is blocked Pieters
66 – Wilshere drops the shoulder to buy himself some space 20 yards out and lets fly with a shot but he doesn’t get clean contact on it and Butland gets down to make the save
76 – Wilshere is replaced by Henrikh Mkhitaryan
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