Saturday night would see Arsenal going to a place where they have not been all that successful of late. Playing Stoke City at the Britannia stadium has brought them only 1 win in their last 8 games, lending total credence to Andy Gray’s immortal words about being able to win on a cold night at Stoke.
Team News and Tactics
Stoke City have always had an upper hand over Arsenal ever since they got promoted in 2008. While there is no bitter historical rivalry between the two teams, Arsenal particularly hate playing against them, with both teams espousing completely different styles of play. While Arsenal like to play beautiful, one touch football, Stoke are all about practicality and are not above using rough tactics to disorient their opponents.
In fact, Ryan Shawcross’ horrendous tackle on Aaron Ramsey always sticks out as a sore thumb whenever the two clubs are mentioned, and that will be the undertone once again this weekend as well.
Stoke may not exactly be playing the “kick your opponent” game plan that they were so used to doing under Tony Pulis, but they still retain a hardness that could prove to be the difference against the gunners. However, their home form, which is normally one of the best, has been bad this season. The team have been more comfortable in their travels. It would be interesting to see if they can rekindle their home atmosphere.
Predicted Line Up: Begovic, Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Cameron, Nzonzi, Ireland, Bojan, Assaidi, Diouf
After a very disappointing set of results in both the Premier League and the Champions League, Arsenal seem to have found a bit of form, with 3 wins in 3 games. More importantly, the gunners have managed to keep 3 clean sheets in a row, which seemed almost impossible not too far back in the season.
The return of Laurent Koscielny has certainly helped them gain some defensive solidity, with Per Mertesacker instantly looking a lot better beside Koscielny than he was while playing with Monreal. Speaking of whom, Monreal picked up an injury very early in the Southampton game, and though he soldiered on, he is out for this game and for a couple more at least. With Kieran Gibbs still not completely fit, it will be interesting to see who would play at Left back for the gunners. Arsenal would certainly be hoping for a 4th straight win, and a victory against Stoke can certainly give a lot more confidence too.
Predicted Line Up: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Welbeck.
Stoke will certainly look to defend more than attack, while Arsenal will be looking to break down the opposition defence. It will be a question of whether Arsenal can maintain their defensive shape, and how efficient they will be in front of goal. If either one happens, they should be able to pick up the win.
Predicted Score: Stoke City 1-2 Arsenal