Arsenal's disappointing season took another turn for the worse, with a deserved defeat which leaves them with nothing but third place in the Premier League for which to play. Stoke City were supposed to have the FA Cup final on their minds, but still won even more convincingly than the scoreline might suggest.

The crowd were singing about Wembley from the start, and Tony Pulis must have been tempted to rest two or three important players before the final next Saturday. Instead, favouring continuity, he opted to use the match as a rehearsal for the strongest team available.

Robin van Persie spurned an excellent early chance, shooting over at close range, but after that Stoke took command.

These two sides are chalk and cheese in approach, the home fans' preferences vocally expressed when they bellowed "boring" at Arsenal's composed passing game, then cheered loudly when Rory Delap launched one of his howitzer throw‑ins.

The clash produced its first sparks after a quarter of an hour, when the combative Jack Wilshere provoked a melee in the centre circle with an over-the-top tackle on Dean Whitehead. The first goal was the product of further indiscipline by Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin senselessly pushing over Jermaine Pennant in the corner quadrant on the right. Pennant got up and directed the free-kick to the near post where Kenwyne Jones, rushing in, bundled it over the line.

The Potters loved that, taunting their more celebrated visitors with choruses of "one-nil to the rugby team" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" – references to Arsène Wenger likening their tactics to the oval‑ball game. They upped the volume again after 39 minutes to celebrate the drive, from the edge of the D, with which Pennant made it 2-0. The ball was deflected upwards by Johan Djourou's desperate lunge, but Wojciech Szczesny should have done better than help it on its way into the net. This time the crowd's ironic taunt was: "We only score from a throw-in."

Remarkably, Stoke were tantalisingly close to scoring a third before half-time, Jonathan Walters shooting against the crossbar from near the byline on the left.

Arshavin and Aaron Ramsey, both poor, were substituted during the interval, but any improvement was negligible and Robert Huth, with a fulminating header, threatened to improve Stoke's advantage. The simmering ill feeling which was never far below the surface boiled over in the 69th minute, when Wilshere was fortunate to escape with only a booking for a bad foul to which Pennant took retaliatory exception. Stoke immediately substituted their enigmatic winger, with next Saturday in mind.

Van Persie finally pulled one back in the 81st minute, with a shot which appeared to go through Asmir Begovic, but Stoke hit back immediately, Walters beating Szczesny from eight yards.