After two back to back victories things are looking up for the Gunners as they welcome Stoke City to the Emirates this Sunday. Arsenal come off an important 1-nil victory over Marseille to send them top of their Group in the Champions League, and Stoke City head to North London after a convincing 3-nil win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv at home in the Europa League.
Arsenal may have only won just five of their last 19 Premier League matches since beating Stoke 1-0 at the Emirates in February last season (W5 D7 L7), but their current form is to be feared after winning four out of their last five matches in all competitions.
The Gunners must string a series of wins together in the league though to catch up with the top clubs, the last time Arsenal won back to back wins in the EPL was against Stoke at the Emirates, can they do it this time round?
Youngster Carl Jenkinson joins Sagna, Gibbs and Vermaelen on the treatment table, further depleting the defence, however Djourou produced a more convincing cameo on Wednesday than the last time he played against Blackburn. The emphasis for the Gunners though will be on improving their attacking prowess, with Van Persie single handedly carrying them at the moment in the League and others need to step up.
Wenger has stressed that he may be forced to rest his captain this Sunday in order to avoid over playing the Dutchman that has netted 28 times in 35 matches in all competitions in 2011. Chamakh seems the most likely candidate to get the nod upfront as questions still remain over the quality of Park who Gunners fans have only seen in a Carling Cup match.
Stoke head to the Emirates after a convincing Europe League victory on Thursday night, however with only two days rest and traveling to North London will do nothing to help them. The bookies are placing Stoke to win at a huge 6/1, is that accurate odds?
So far the Potters have managed just six shots on target and one goal (from a penalty) in three visits to the Emirates Stadium, and currently have fired in fewer shots on target than anyone in the League. Their defence though is extremely solid, spearheaded by Shawcross and Huth it won’t be easy for the Gunners to score.
Set pieces have always been Arsenals weakness in recent years, and with Stokes powerful centrebacks and the likes of Peter Crouch they will be a handful. Nevertheless, the Gunners should see this one out if their defence can produce another quality performance like they did in France in the midweek.
Arsenal 2 Stoke City 0
Arsenal : WWLWW
Stoke City: WWLWD
(Premier League in red)
on Carl Jenkinson’s knee problem:
We don’t know yet but it is very unlikely he will be available for Sunday. He is having a scan and we will know some time on Friday.
on Thomas Vermaelen:
He will be back in full training on Friday. It is 10 days to two weeks for him.
on Abou Diaby:
He is getting better but is not available to play yet. He’s probably back in around two weeks – he is just a fraction behind Vermaelen.
on Kieran Gibbs’ injury to his stomach muscles:
It is nothing bad but he is one or two weeks out.
On team news from the Marseille match:
Other than Carl Jenkinson, everyone else came through well from the win in Marseille.
On whether Arsenal are turning their season around:
It is our target [to turn things around], that is what we want to achieve. On Sunday we want to especially continue the quality of our game – the result will be the consequence of that. Let’s focus on defending well again and playing our football.
It is down to our results basically. We have played eight games, we have 30 to go so we do not have to look too much at the other results.
What is important is that we have a consistent focus and then we will come back. It is just down to us.
Arsenal – Robin Van Persie – The Dutch international has been in electric form recently at home, netting braces in his past two home EPL games, and will look to continue this fine form against a tired Stoke City this Sunday if he is not rested. The striker has so far scored 23 goals in 25 Premier League games in 2011, a might fine average.
Stoke City – Peter Crouch – The tall and lanky Englishman can be a big threat to the Arsenal defence who struggle defending set pieces. A key battle will be between Crouch and Mertesacker, a fight that Crouch will want to win in his attempt to tee up his team mates.
Djourou Koscielny Mertesacker Santos
Walcott Van Persie (c) Gervinho
With Jenkinson joining Sagna on the bench, it looks likely that Djourou will start at right back after his succesful cameo against Marseille on Wednesday night.
Santos will continue at left back as Gibbs remains injured, and Ramsey will probably get the thumbs-up from Wenger to start ahead of Rosicky after the aging Czech international has played a number of games on the trot after returning from injury.
Despite Wenger hinting he may rest RVP this Sunday, the Dutchman will rest during the week for the Carling Cup tie against Bolton so he hopefully should feature against Stoke. If not Chamakh will start instead.
allArsenal’s Bets of the week: