Stoke City vs Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: March 1, 2014 3:00 PM GMT
After a lengthy break Arsenal travel to the Britannia to face our polar opposites Stoke City. In recent seasons the Gunners have struggled against the physical and direct strategy of the Potters while there has always been bad blood between the sides after Ryan Shawcross horrifically broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg almost four years ago in 2010.
While this season Stoke have shrugged off some of their route one football due to the departure of Rory Delap and Mark Hughes taking the reigns of the team, they still revel in physicality committing more fouls than any other team in the league (360) and also picking up the most cards so far this campaign (58 yellows & 3 reds). I do not expect the Potters to buck that trend in this match so Arsenal should be prepared for a physical encounter.
In terms of team selection, for the reason pointed out above I would like to see Flamini dispatched as the enforcer in midfield. His extra tenacity will be invaluable and is why, for me, he is the better selection over Arteta. Other talking points revolve around left-back and also attacking midfield. For the former, Gibbs and Monreal have been confirmed to be doubtful meaning Sagna may have to cover on the left owing to Vermaelen only recently returning from injury. That could give Jenkinson a rare start on the right.
In the number 10 position, despite the great performance of Tomas Rosicky against Sunderland, it is expected that German Mesut Ozil will return to the starting line-up after being given an extended break by Arsene Wenger. Ozil has come under some criticism in recent weeks and does look in need of a confidence boost, particularly with the tough schedule on the horizon. His likely inclusion is unfortunate for the Czech, but there is a possibility we could still see him out on the right.
Going into the match, Arsenal can draw confidence from the fact they have been very effective away from home. The Gunners have amassed 26 points away from home this season with only Tottenham picking up more points on the road (29). As is usual with Stoke, the Gunners have to be focused on set pieces with Peter Crouch the likely danger-man. The Englishman has scored seven Premier League goals against Arsenal in his career
Despite Arsenal not having the best of luck at the Britannia stadium this season I am still picking them to get maximum points this time around. The Gunners have been ruthlessly efficient against the lesser teams this season picking up maximum points in 13 out of 15 matches against teams in the bottom half of the table. Hopefully we see a refreshed Ozil play a big part in an Arsenal win. COYG!!
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Arsenal: Walcott (knee), Ramsey (thigh), Kallstrom (back), Arteta (suspended), Monreal (foot), Gibbs (hamstring)
Stoke City: Assaidi (knee)
Arsenal – WLWDL
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16 Feb 2014 Arsenal FC 2 – Liverpool 1 FA
12 Feb 2014 Arsenal FC 0 – Manchester United 0 EPL
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Stoke City – LDDWL
22 Feb 2014 Manchester City 1 – Stoke City 0 EPL
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1 Feb 2014 Stoke City 2 – Manchester United 1 EPL
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Jenkinson Mertesacker Koscielny Sagna
Stoke City 0 Arsenal 2