Stoke City

The Emirates Stadium, North London

23 Oct, 2011; 1800 hrs IST



On the back of a series of good results, the Gunners have built some much-needed confidence before they head into the Christmas period where the fixture congestion makes life difficult for top teams. Arsenal are looking to make Emirates Stadium some sort of fortress and are trying to build their season around good home form. Their brand of football with more possession and looking for the perfect goal is still in place with Monsieur Wenger never letting the philosophy of the game at Arsenal getting lost. Over the last few years, the team has gone through massive changes with a record number of signings happening this season along with a lot of departures at North London.

On the other side, one thing that hasna��t changed in all these years, is the way Stoke City play football or so they claim to do. Tony Pulis has forged a unit of exceptionally tough individuals who are good at what they do a�� which from a purist sense, may not be the a�?righta�? way of playing football. But, if winning football games was directly proportional to a�?how beautifully you play the gamea�?, Stoke City wouldna��t be three places ahead of Arsenal in the Premiership table. As the old clichA� goes, the league table never lies! Stoke City travel to North London to unsettle a few nerves hanging there at Arsenal, can Arsenal’s new-found belief hold on to Stoke’s ‘dead-ball’ threat, only time will tell.

Team News and Tactical Brief


Arsenal has managed to win five of their last six games in all competitions, which looks to be a very decent run compared to their success rate in the past 6 months or so. The manager has managed to bind together a team who are collectively capable of defending well, irrespective of theA�occasionalA�scary moments. The attacking front is over-dependent on the captain and the team’s best player, so there is a very realistic target of the rest of the unit to take off some pressure from van Persie.

Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Gervinho have all shown glimpses of what they are capable of doing, but none of them have preformed on a consistent basis to claim their fixed positions in the side. Meanwhile, Thomas Rosicky has had two exceptional games and is almost certain to start ahead of Aaron Ramsey, who scored a vital winner in midweek. Ahead of the Back Four, Alex Song and Mikel Arteta will continue doing their customary duty, while the Cameroonian has been exceptional with is tackling and protecting of the defenders, the summer-inclusion Spaniard has been a “machine” for the side, sans some expected creative sparks.

The defensive side of things have hit a high with the pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny looking as solid as ever, the Frenchman beingA�Arsene’s best player of the visit to Marseille, while the German is finding his feet in English football, quite admirably. The Right Full Back slot will be filled with Djourou in the absence of both Sagna and Jenkinson, the latter suffering in his last outing. With Kieran Gibbs out, Brazilian ‘tough man’ Santos will be patrolling the left-wing with his usual calm and casual manner.

The manager has a few decisions to make as far as picking the team goes, with the last game played just four days back. He will try to make the rotation bare minimum to develop a perfect chemistry before the big game at Stamford Bridge a week from this one.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1):A�Szczesny(GK); Djourou, Mertesacker, Kosicelny, Santos; Song, Arteta; Rosicky, Gervinho, Theo; van Persie

Stoke City

After playing an European fixture on Thursday, the home team has just three days to recover before they travel to Arsenal, somehow, a team they enjoy playing, countering their strategy with precision. A confidence-boosting win at Europe against Maccabi at home means Pulis’ men travel with belief.

Like Arsenal, they are top of their group in Europe and in the league, are ahead of Arsenal in the pecking order. Though they seems to be immense at home, their travelling returns in form of points have been very poor. Only an away win at West Brom is what they have to show this season on the road.

Former Arsenal man Jermaine Pennant, who played some part in that historic Invincibles side, was out with an injury in the European tie, so his involvement looks doubtful. Experienced Center Back Jonathan Woodgate was not part of the European squad either, he might see some game time, but only from the bench, his fitness is still not 100%. The manager rested Peter Crouch in midweek, and the lanky striker, who has had decent success against Arsenal in Liverpool colors, will fancy his chances against the Gunners. Ricardo Fuller and Higginbotham are still out with injuries.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-4-2):A�Begovic(GK); Wilkinson, Shawcross, Upson, Huth; Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington; Walters, Crouch

Key Facts

  1. Robin van Persie has scored 23 goals in this year so far.
  2. Arsenal play their 100th Premier League game at the Emirates.
  3. Stoke has never drawn a Premier League game away from home against a North London side. [via Opta Stat]
  4. Stoke has not won at Arsenal in 31 years.

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For

Robin van Persie


Leading from the front


Robin van Persie, the Arsenal captain, just can’t stop scoring at the moment. The manager credits his injury-free run as the reason behind the rich vein of form that the Dutchman is in. For Arsenal to win any silverware this season, van Persie, understandably will play a huge role. The Stoke City defense needs to be on high alert and not let the lethal left foot of van Persie takes its chances.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City

Arsenal are in a decent run to force a victory at home against a top-class Stoke side, keeping a very good defensive shape on their own and hurting Stoke on a counter. The Arsenal wingers need to play an important role in the game, covering their Full Backs as much as possible and not let the home team take advantage of crosses from either wings.

TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past

A�1970-71 FA Cup Semi-FinalA�

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2 Responses to “Arsenal v Stoke City – Preview: Gunners Look To Make Emirates A Fortress”

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  1. Steve says:

    one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is Stoke’s style? You obviously missed the game last May when Stoke out played us. Stoke have developed and the premier league table and their Europa League table (Besiktas and Kiev) prove that. Its time to stop this ‘purist’ ‘we play football the right way’ nonsense, no one else has a problem with Stoke and it just makes us look quite sad. As Stoke’s home and away form are completely different i can see a comfortable win but anyone who dismisses Stoke as ‘rugby playing thugs’ can end up looking very stupid.