With three games remaining, Arsenal will want to secure the needed points for third sooner rather than later as Chelsea look to nullify fourth spot as entrance to the Champions League. The Blues have surprisingly made it into the Champions League final against Bayern Munich and will look to win the Cup in order to secure Champions League football next season, which of course would be at the expense of the fourth place finisher this season.
Going into this tie the Gunners’ most notable absentee is Mikel Arteta, who has been ruled out for the remaining games. There is no doubt the Spaniard brings a lot to the team with his accuracy and distribution, but it is now up to Ramsey to up the ante and deliver in the final games. The Welshman had a poor performance last week marred by numerous instances of cheap turnovers in possession which left Arsenal exposed at the back on a few occasions. No doubt he will want to improve on the performance for the good of the team.
Another notable absentee is Theo Walcott who has also effectively been ruled out for Arsenal’s remaining games after pulling up with a hamstring injury against Chelsea last game-week. There is some chance that Wenger will utilize young prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the right-wing position, but it is expected Yossi Benayoun to return to the starting line-up after being ineligible to play against Chelsea last week.
Based on our last performance, unusually it is Arsenal’s attack that needs to become more crisp and fluid with defence and our first-choice back-five looking extremely solid. While at times play from the Gunners was sloppy last week, Arsenal did create great chances for Robin van Persie, but the Dutchman seems to have lost some of his goal-scoring touch. If the same is the case this match hopefully other players will be able to bear some of the goal-scoring burden.
The Gunners will be big favourites after winning four of their last five matches against Stoke, but must also be ready for the aerial and physical threat Stoke will bring to the match. No doubt Peter Crouch will utlize his height at set-pieces.
on Tomas Rosicky…
He is alright. He was sick last weekend. I think he pushed himself very hard to get on the pitch but he has recovered since and should be fit for the game.
on Abou Diaby….
He will not start. He was sick until yesterday and had a light session. He could be short again but he could be in the squad.
on Theo Walcott…
Theo is out for Saturday. He has a little chance to catch the last game but not the next two.
on Per Mertesacker…
He is doing well. He is hopeful he will make the Euros and I hope he does. He is doing all his work here and the next two weeks will be vital for him. He has started ball work and he looks quite good.
on other team news…
Basically the squad should be similar to what we have seen in the last game. But Yossi Benayounshould be back because he could not play in the last game against Chelsea.
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs
Gervinho Ramsey Rosicky Benayoun
Van Persie (c)
Arsenal to win:
William Hill are offering even odds of 10/11 for the Gunners to win away
Bet365 & Skybet are offering the best odds of 13/5
Stoke to win:
WilliamHill are offering the best odds of 7/2 for the Trotters to win at home.
allArsenal’s Special Bet:
allArsenal’s Special Bet365 pick: Correct score: Arsenal 2-1= 15/2
Four of the last five meetings between Stoke and Arsenal in all competitions have ended with a 3-1 scoreline, so expect goals. But Arsenal have failed to score many goals recently so it is unlikely to be a big scoring match.
Gunners boast Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie who has fired in 63 shots on target from inside the penalty area, two more than the entire Stoke team.