Arsenal and Arsene Wenger would welcome Stoke with a sense of revenge on their minds this Sunday as Arsenal suffered a 3-2 defeat away at Britannia in early December. It was one of the few low points in Wenger’s career as he was ridiculed by his own sets of fans. Wenger would want to put things in order with a victory over Mark Hughes’ men at Emirates.
Arsenal will come in to the game having lost to Southampton on the New Year’s Day amid two mistakes by Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Arsenal have won 3, drawn 1 and lost 1 in their last 5 matches in the league. A win would be the perfect start to the new weekend in the Premier League.
Stoke will come in to the come on the back of a decent run of form. Stoke went undefeated during the festive run of fixtures. Stoke were unlucky not to win against Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Mark Hughes already has scalps of Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton to his name this season and he would look to do an unthinkable double over Arsenal. Stoke are currently 11th in the League table and are course to better their best finish ever (9th) achieved in 1975.
Arsene Wenger will have triple boost ahead of Stoke’s visit. Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Mesut Ozil (knee) are set to return for Arsenal, as is striker Olivier Giroud who returns following his suspension. Arsene Wenger will have to decide whether to start Szczesny or David Ospina in goal following Szczesny’s dodgy last week.
Probable Starting 11 – Arsenal: (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Sanchez, Cazorla; Giroud
Mark Hughes will have to decide on his starting 11 long and hard as he will have defender Marc Muniesa, midfielder Victor Moses and striker Bojan Krkic back available for selection but how far Hughes is willing to test their fitness will have to be seen.
Striker Mame Biram Diouf is away on African Nations duty while new signing Philipp Wollscheid will also be available defender was signed from Bayer Leverkuson.
Probable Starting 11 – Stoke City: (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Walters, Bojan, Arnautovic; Crouch.
Last five meetings
06 Dec 2014 – Stoke City 3 – 2 Arsenal – Premier League
01 Mar 2014 – Stoke City 1 – 0 Arsenal – Premier League
22 Sep 2013 – Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke City – Premier League
02 Feb 2013 – Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City – Premier League
26 Aug 2012 – Stoke City 0 – 0 Arsenal – Premier League
Arsene Wenger: “‘He (Ozil) is an exceptional football player. He always gives you continuity in your game. He’s a very creative player and ideally you want all your best players available. The advantage of these players – for example Giroud, Koscielny, Debuchy, Ozil – at the moment where most of the players in the league have played 26 or 27 games in their legs, they have four or five. ‘If we can get them ready and fresh and competitive, it can give us a new (impetus).”
Mark Hughes: “Victor (Moses) is back in the group and he looks okay, he looks sharp, but whether or not he is ready to start that’s something I need to mull over. But credit to Chelsea, he’s come back well in terms of the rehab they gave him. He’s bang on track. We’ll be careful because prior to his injury he was arguably our best performer.”
Peter Crouch vs Per Mertesacker
Peter Crouch has not been himself this season but still is expected to play up front for Stoke City against Arsenal with Bojan still not 100% fit and Diouf away at International duty. Crouch will be up against Mertesacker who is equally tall and strong on the ball.
Containing the tall English striker will be key for Arsenal and Mertesacker will be the man to do it. Their aerial dual will be one of the biggest attractions of the game at Emirates.
Steven N’Zonzi vs Santi Cazorla
These two have been stand out players for their respective teams. N’Zonzi has been almost a new player for Mark Hughes this season curtailing his aggressive instincts as he has been booked just once this season.
Santi Cazorla was Arsenal’s best player during December and January. Cazorla’s quick feet and intelligence has been key to Arsenal’s wins recently. With Ozil back, we will see if Cazrola and Ozil could play together.
OPTA MATCH FACTS
Arsenal have lost just one of their last 27 Barclays Premier League games at the Emirates (W18 D8 L1).
Arsenal have fielded 12 different starting back four combinations in the Premier League this season.
Mark Hughes has never won a Premier League game away at Arsenal as an opposition coach, losing all seven visits (with five different clubs).
The Gunners have won their last 12 home games in a row against Stoke City.
Arsenal have gone six games without a clean sheet in the Premier League.
Stoke have had an impressive run of form heading in to this game but with Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud back I expect Arsenal to achieve a win against Mark Hughes’ men. It will not be a straight forward win for Arsene Wenger’s men and the priority would be on a Clean Sheet as well as a win.
Predicted Score Line: 2-0 to Arsenal
Quotes Credits: skysports
Stats Credit: Opta
Image Credits: guardian, dailymail