Arsene Wenger and his men will be looking to maintain their perfect start to the campaign when they face Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
After the exhilarating win against Leicester City on the opening weekend, Arsene Wenger and his men travel to one of the most difficult stadiums to play at in the Premier League.
Arsenal did a rare double over the Potters last season, and will draw tremendous confidence from it, particularly the 4-1 win at the Bet365 stadium in May. While the Gunners are coming into the match on the back of an opening day win, Stoke City fell 1-0 to a Wayne Rooney-inspired Everton on the las week.
However, Mark Hughes’ men can be a tough nut to crack, particularly at home. The Potters can draw further inspiration from playing in front the biggest crowd at the Britannia since the 1980’s, following extension work to the stadium over the course of the summer.
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Former Real Madrid starlet Jese Rodriguez has been recruited on a season-long loan from PSG, and the 24-year old is expected to be in the mix against Arsenal. Similarly, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting could get his first start for Stoke City.
Stoke will probably go with three at the back again, as they did against Everton, with Kurt Zouma and Bruno Martins Indi on either side of Ryan Shawcross. Mame Biram Diouf and Erik Pieters will help out in defense, while also pushing forward during attack, delivering crosses into the box – something that particularly discomforts the Arsenal back-line.
At the centre of the park, the Potters will rely on the experience of Darren Fletcher and former Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen to support the lone striker Saido Berahino.
Berahino might cut a frustrated figure up front for most part of the game, as chances could come few and far between for the home side. However, Stoke City will have done their homework on Arsenal’s defensive frailties, and they will not shy away from exploiting them.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-3): Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Martins Indi; Diouf, Allen, Fletcher, Pieters; Shaqiri, Krkic, Berahino
Per Mertesacker has been deemed fit ahead of Saturday’s showdown, and the 33-year old is available for selection. However, Laurent Koscielny will not be available as he serves his final game of suspension. Alexis Sanchez has an abdominal strain, and is expected to be fit for the Gunners’ next game, but the Chilean will have to sit this one out.
Arsenal, with their display against Leicester City, showed that they are always a threat going forward. With frightening pace on either wing in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin, and the craft and guile of Granit Zhaka and Mesut Ozil, the Gunners look a dangerous attacking team.
However, this will be their first real test of the season, as breaking Stoke City’s resistance at the Bet365 stadium is as difficult a task as any in the Premier League. Although Arsenal are expected to play the possession football that they always do, Arsene Wenger has options on the bench which enable him to play direct if need be.
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey made powerful impacts against Leicester City, and Wenger will be looking to throw on both these players again should his team struggle to unlock Stoke’s defense.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-2-1): Cech; Holding, Mustafi, Kolasinic; Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Ozil, Welbeck; Lacazette.
- Stoke City now have five Champions League winners in their squad, more than any other Premier League club.
- Stoke City conceded one or less goals in 63% of their games last season.
- Alexandre Lacazette scored with just his second touch on his debut last week, the first touch being kick-off.
- Should Arsenal win against Stoke, it will be the first time they will register six points in the first two games since 2009-10.
- Mark Hughes has lost 13 Premier league matches against Arsene Wenger as manager of Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City.
1. Over 3.5 Cards @ 1.61
2. Over 10.5 Corners @ 1.72
3. Arsenal to win @ 1.83
1. Mesut Ozil to score anytime @ 4.33
Player to Watch: Alexandre Lacazette
The £50 million summer recruit from Lyon got off to a flying start to his Arsenal career, scoring in just the second minute against Leicester City with a brilliant header. The Frenchman showed his class with some sublime touches and awareness.
When Olivier Giroud came on in the second half, Lacazette displayed his versatility as he shifted to the left and delivered dangerous crosses into the box. At Stoke, he will again be spearheading the Arsenal attack.
This time though, he will be hoping that Granit Xhaka zips through balls towards him from midfield and allows him to run the channels, as Stoke are a tough team to break down. Arsenal will be hoping that Lacazette shines again and helps them register back-to-back wins in the Premier League.
Prediction: Stoke City 0-1 Arsenal
Going to the Bet365 Stadium is never easy. But with the guile, pace and creativity in the Arsenal attack, the Gunners have a great chance of extending their winning streak against Stoke. It could well be a scrappy game, but we expect an Arsenal win albeit by a narrow margin.