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Arsenal Close Gap on Man United But Lose Cesc and Walcott

Arsenal moved to within one point of leaders Manchester United last night in the Barclays Premier League after overcoming a resilient Stoke, but they did so at a price after injuries to captain Cesc Fabregas and winger Theo Walcott.

The Gunners took the lead from an unlikely source just eight minutes into the first half as Sebastian Squillaci headed them in front after a bout of sustained pressure, but following the withdrawal of Fabregas after 14 minutes they lost their way.

Devoid of their inspirational captain’s craft and vision, the home side’s attacks frequently broke down with a wayward final ball just outside the box and allowed Stoke to get men back – a task that they performed commendably in the first half.

For all Arsenal’s possession, they created little in a nervy second half and were largely nullified by an organised Stoke side, but their chances of grabbing a second goal took a further blow when Walcott was stretchered off with a twisted ankle.

Nevertheless, Arsene Wenger’s men held on to record a priceless 1-0 win which, with Manchester United away on European duty in Marseille, closed the gap at the top of the table to just one point, although their title rivals have now played a game less.

As crucial as the win may prove later in the season, the full cost of victory will not be known until it is discovered how serious the injury to Fabregas is – though reports this morning have already indicated that Walcott will at least miss the Carling Cup Final.
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