Stoke Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups
In the Premier League, there are some grounds that you looking forward to playing and there are others you just dread due to your horrible record there. Arsenal against Stoke at the Britannia falls into the latter category. Despite the fact that Stoke is one of the most average teams you’d ever see, their record against the big sides in the league (especially at home) is commendable. Last season, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all suffered stinging defeats in Stoke-on-Trent and the Potters have lost just one game in their last eight meetings (W1 D3 L4) against Arsenal at the Britannia.
However, Stoke’s record at home this season has been quite shabby. Losses to Burnley, Leicester and Aston Villa coupled with poor results elsewhere has seen Mark Hughes’ side languishing in 13th place and defeat to Arsenal today as well as better results from teams under team could see the outfit drop further down the table. The Gunners on the other hand, are picking up some form and with favorable results in their last three games as well as three clean sheets on the bounce, it has been a breath of fresh air. However, the lads have to remember that there’s no room for complacency.
Last season, the game was settled when Laurent Koscielny committed a blatant handball in the box, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Jon Walters stepped up and sent Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way to hand the home team all three points. Szczesny won’t be between the sticks today due to his rib injury and with David Ospina still out injured, the young Argentine goalie, Emiliano
Viviano Martinez would be given another chance to strut his stuff in Arsenal’s goal. Injuries have paved the way for the young man to get an extended run out and it’s a chance that he has grabbed with both arms. Yes, there were doubts when he came into the pitch but his performances have proved that he’s an able deputy. He recently revealed that he had set his heart elsewhere in his search for first team football but he has taken a U-turn and he wants to challenge for a place in the club.
Injuries continue to ravage the Gunners with Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles tendon still under scrutiny. Mesut Ozil is still out of contention (knee), Theo Walcott’s groin is still strained and Serge Gnabry (match fitness) is still a couple of weeks away from first team football. There will be fitness tests for Danny Welbeck and Kieran Gibbs (hamstring) but there’s hope at the end of the tunnel for Mathieu Debuchy that is expected to return to first team football action this month.
Stoke have their own injury worries as well with Ireland (illness – fitness test), Walters (knee – fitness test), Sidwell (knee), Whelan (calf), Moses (thigh), Teixiera (ankle), Huth (calf), Odemwingie (knee). I’d expect the same team that started against Southampton to play today.
In the defense, there aren’t much options but the major concern would be the fitness of Nacho Monreal, Arsenal’s unsung hero in recent weeks. With Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Calum Chambers all set to start, the Gunners would be threadbare in defense and would have only Hector Bellerin to summon in the wake of any unforeseen incident to the center backs. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini had his best game in eons and I hope this won’t change Wenger’s mind in purchasing a new DM (that’s if the decision hasn’t been made already). He was very efficient with the ball and he made good interceptions. Aaron Ramsey is currently the weak link and he hasn’t top gear yet. I expect Santi Cazorla to play as the playmaker. On the back of his lovely performance against Southampton, you’d expect Olivier Giroud to start with Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez flanking him. This essentially means that the Ox might be benched.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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