After a hard fought victory in the Champions League in midweek, we now return to the Premier League where Arsenal are set to lock horns with the always physical Stoke City. Both teams go into the tie on the back of good form, but Arsenal will be considered clear favourites after securing a run of ten straight victories away from home and six straight wins in all competitions.
Thankfully, there have been no new injuries to report of following the Gunners hard fought win against Marseille. The only team news to really reveal is that Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta has returned to full training. It is finally good to see a player returning from injury and I have no doubt Wenger will utilise Arteta off the bench if Arsenal are cruising towards the latter stages of match. Rotation will certainly be needed in Arsenal’s jam-packed schedule.
While Arteta’s return is a welcome one, it is likely he won’t start the match meaning that the starting line-up is likely to remain the same as the one used in midweek. While on paper Wilshere is positioned out on the wing, expect him to interchange with Ozil and Ramsey and drift inside much like Cazorla does. The Arsenal midfield has been quite dynamic owing to Arsenal’s lack of out-and-out wingers and has been a relatively strong point in recent matches.
On the other side of the coin, Stoke City will no doubt be happy with the start they have made to the Premier League. Selling Rory Delap in the summer has outlined the approach Mark Hughes wants to take with the Potters and it has already been made evident with Stoke completing more passes this game then any other season under former manager Tony Pulis.
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While Stoke were beaten by Liverpool on the opening day of the season, due to Mignolet saving a penalty, they have managed to wrap up a good win against West Ham and also managed a draw against Premier League heavyweights Manchester City last game-week suggesting the new approach under Hughes is paying dividends. They certainly cannot be underestimated.
Owing to Stokes good run of form, I am inclined to think that this will be quite a close match. Arsenal certainly go into the match clear favourites owing to their own great run of form, but they cannot be complacent otherwise there could be a chance the events that unfolded against Aston Villa might repeat themselves. Again, expect the likes of Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud to be instrumental to the outcome of the match.
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker (c) Gibbs
Arsenal 2 Stoke 1