The FourFourTwo Preview: Stoke vs Arsenal
Will the Gunners shoot down the Potters, or will the Potters... er... pot the... quick, get to the lowdown.
- Man Utd 2-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 1-2 Burnley (Prem)
- Spurs 1-2 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 2-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 So’ton (Prem)
- WBA 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Dortmund (CL)
- Arsenal 1-2 Man Utd (Prem)
- Swansea 2-1 Arsenal (Prem)
Amid the usual supporter unrest, Arsenal have gone back to basics in the past week, giving credence to the old chant by beating West Bromwich Albion and Southampton 1-0, 1-0. It’s like George Graham never left, after accepting [REDACTED].
In both of those matches, Arsenal’s patience paid off. Two-thirds of their goals this season have come in the last half-hour of a tie, including no fewer than 10 of their 12 at the Emirates. It’s a sign of their persistence and tendency to wear teams down with attacking movement that they strike so late so often – and they have failed to score in only one league game – but they could afford to get a shifty on in the first half. Even though their previous four games have seen 10 goals, a sleepy Arsenal have been 0-0 at the break in all of them. Rip van Wenger, as they (don’t) say.
It’s important that they come out of the blocks quickly against Stoke. The Potters have something of a hoodoo over Arsenal at the Britannia: under Arsene Wenger, the Londoners have won there only once in eight attempts, losing four. That sole victory? February 2010, when they struck with two stoppage-time goals – stoppage time created by the horrific injury to Aaron Ramsey from Ryan Shawcross’ tackle (as it were). In contrast, their record in that time when hosting Stoke is played eight, won eight.
However, Stoke’s fearless reputation on home soil is not what it was. Mark Hughes’ men have already lost three games at their manor, to top-flight giants Burnley (their only away win), Leicester (their only away win) and Aston Villa (Aston Villa). That’s as many as they lost all last season. Fortress Britannia it ain’t.
The home side will be without the services of Glenn Whelan (calf), Steve Sidwell (knee) and Victor Moses (thigh), with Sidwell and Moses expected to be out until January. Robert Huth is almost available again, which is another way of saying he’s unavailable right now. Meanwhile, Jonathan Walters faces a late test on his knee, no cheat sheets or calculators allowed.
Arsenal are missing a few players, it’s fair to say. Mikel Arteta is still out with a calf strain and keepers Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina are both likely to miss one more match. At least Damian Martinez has looked fairly solid, keeping a clean sheet in both games he’s started.
In defence, Kieran Gibbs is a doubt, but Nacho Monreal hobbled through after picking up a knock early on against Southampton, so he should be available. Theo Walcott is nearing a return but won’t start, while long-term absentees include Mesut Ozil (knee), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle) and Jack Wilshere (gypsy curse). Serge Gnabry is missing. Abou Diaby may actually be dead.
Player to watch: Bojan (Stoke)
Bojan hasn’t had the happiest of starts to life in the Potteries, but he has shown glimpses of what made him such an exciting prospect as a teenager at Barcelona. Hughes would probably like to see less of the quiet, neat and tidy passing – he has other players to do that - and more desire to take a game by the scruff of the neck; the kind Bojan showed with his driving run and shot against the post at Anfield last weekend.
In that match he not only struck the woodwork but forced an excellent save and created a hatful of chances, as well as recovering the ball on 10 occasions (X and + signs below). The latter is very encouraging too, of course, but the Catalan must also be prepared to continue taking risks when on the ball himself.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Stoke 1-0 Arsenal (PL, Mar 14)
- Arsenal 3-1 Stoke (PL, Sep 13)
- Arsenal 1-0 Stoke (PL, Feb 13)
- Stoke 0-0 Arsenal (PL, Aug 12)
- Stoke 1-1 Arsenal (PL, Apr 12)
Things are looking up for Wenger after two wins, but as reported by every commentator, pundit, front and back page in the land, the Frenchman had to face that most savage of nightmarish ordeals: a politely-worded banner. It’s a miracle he’s alive. Hughes is also under pressure, but thankfully hasn’t yet had a politely-worded banner thrust in his direction. After three defeats on the spin, the 51-year-old has bemoaned bad luck and refereeing decisions (what’s new?) but belligerently insists that his team are on the up. Maybe, maybe not, but if Stoke falter again, Hughes may have to face the wrath of a politely-worded banner.
Facts and figures
- Mark Hughes is unbeaten in his last 6 Premier League home games as a manager versus Arsenal (W4 D2).
- Peter Crouch has scored 7 goals against Arsenal, only against Blackburn (8) has he netted more in the Premier League.
- Alexis Sanchez has now scored 3 match-winning goals in the Premier League this season; only Diego Costa (4) has more.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Nobody in this Arsenal team has ever scored at the Britannia. Expect that to change. 0-1 (Welbeck).