Can the Gunners out-muscle the Potters?
Match Preview: Stoke vs. Arsenal - Premier League - 19.08.2017
The last time The Gunners visited the Bet365 Stadium, as it is now known, a comfortable 1-4 result in the May sunshine was the outcome, a double from Olivier Giroud and one a piece for Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil. So, where do we find both teams ahead of this weekend’s Saturday evening clash having had differing summer’s in terms of squad shuffling.
From an Arsenal perspective the summer started well and has slowly but surely began to erode in terms of getting players in and improving the squad. The opening day 4-3 victory over Craig Shakespeare’s Leicester City served up a thrilling game but a worrying amount of defensive uncertainty amongst the natives. Yes the attacking power was still very much in evidence, new boy Alexandre Lacazette netting early on debut and fellow new addition Saed Kolasinac also impressing at times, but the frailties in particular from crosses and wide play will serve up a timely reminder to Arsène Wenger that a team of Stoke’s size and power could target and exploit these weaknesses come kick-off time.
Now, I know there will be those reading this that will immediately say “Well Stoke are a different team to that era of elbows, studs up and physicality” but I would argue under the stewardship of Mark Hughes, himself a rough and tumble striker in his day and a squad still packed with the likes of Shawcross, Pieters, Cameron, Fletcher and the always odious Charlie Adam, I would suggest the physical approach is exactly the style Hughes is likely to employ when Arsenal roll in to town. New signings Eric Choupo-Moting and Jese Rodriguez represent a genuine threat from an attacking point of view, Choupo-Moting at 6’3 and with a burst of pace for a big man represents a nuisance factor more than a genuine goal threat, but much like Peter Crouch previously, if left unguarded he can cause havoc, Jese in the meantime arrives in England off the back of a nightmare spell at Paris Saint Germain, having previously been the golden boy of Real Madrid his big money move simply didn’t work out in the French capital, a mixture of injuries, lack of playing time and not settling saw him end the season on loan at Las Palmas; that said his pace, close control and explosive finishing ability could present a problem to Arsenal’s back three, especially if the fullbacks push high as is their way.
The truth be told its very hard to predict what sort of Stoke City will turn up on any given day at present, the previously mentioned Mark Hughes was feeling the heat at the back end of last season with many locals even calling for his head due to not only poor results, but poor performances to boot. The feeling in The Potteries is Hughes tenure is on shaky ground and his transfer business this summer hasn’t exactly gone far to convincing people he is able to progress the club forwards.
So what of The Arsenal, what can we expect from Wenger’s men, well, it seems attack is likely to be the best form of defence, if last season’s victory away from home was anything to go by it shows when Arsenal play the football we know they are capable of its hard for any team to live with them. Granted this weekend there will once again be no Alexis Sanchez, but with an on song Mesut Özil feeding Alex Lacazette, coupled with the hard working industry and likely starter Danny Welbeck I feel The Gunners have the weaponry to pick the holes in the Stoke back line necessary to grab the 3 points.
Despite the attacking options at Arsène’s disposal I happen to think the attacking nature of the full backs coupled with the discipline needed from the ‘holding 2 man midfield’ could also prove vital in Arsenal’s efforts, capitalising on Stoke’s ageing back line and turning them to face their own goal could see large pockets of space open up, space that needs to be taken advantage of and punished.
Last 3 Meetings
- Stoke 1-4 Arsenal (13.05.2017)
- Arsenal 3-1 Stoke (10.12.2016)
- Stoke 0-0 Arsenal (07.01.2016)
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last five Premier League meetings with Stoke (W4, D1), conceding just two goals in the process.
- Stoke's 4-1 defeat against Arsenal in May last season ended their six-match unbeaten home run in this fixture (W3, D3).
- The Gunners could win successive top-flight games at Stoke for the first time since 1969.
- Stoke could lose their opening two Premier League games for the first time since 2010.
- The Potters were winless in their first seven league games last season, and their first six in 2015-16.
- They failed to beat any of the top-six sides last season, earning just three points out of a possible 36.
- Peter Crouch has scored nine Premier League goals against Arsenal, more than against any other club.
- Saido Berahino has gone 27 Premier League appearances without a goal since he scored for West Brom in a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace in February 2016.
- Arsenal could win their opening two games of a Premier League season for the first time in eight years.
- The Gunners could win seven consecutive league fixtures for the first time since an eight-match streak from February to April 2015.
- They are unbeaten in their opening away fixture in each of the last eight seasons (W3, D5).
- Alexandre Lacazette is vying to become the first player to score in his first two Premier League appearances for Arsenal.
- Granit Xhaka's two assists against Leicester City on the opening day equalled his tally in 32 games last season.
Courtesy of BBC Sport
Alexis Sanchez (muscle strain) and Laurent Koscielny (suspended).
Predicted Starting XI
Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Monreal, Oxlade-Camberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Welbeck, Iwobi, Lacazette
Aaron Ramsey – Midfield running, dictating the speed of play, ability to break the lines, genuine goal threat.
Stoke City 1-3 Arsenal
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