05 December 2014

Stoke Preview: Can the Gunners get the smash-and-grab?

For a Gooner, it can be hard to find a club that offers a stronger contrast—or inspires deeper rage than Stoke. Even more so than Tottenham or Man U or Chelsea, this fixture symbolizes deep contrasts that appeal to some of our deepest, most atavistic impulses. Whether that's rational or not, well, that defies the rational mind. For a deeper meditation on that, have a read of this post. For a more-direct, strategic breakdown, by all means, read on below...

I won’t dredge up the toxic history, for I’m sure we all know it, but a few quick names are worth a mention: Ramsey. Walcott. Sagna. Adebayor. It’s all the same, only a few names have changed. Going into Britannia Stadium is never pleasant, as we’ve only won there in once in eight visits, ironically, thanks to goals scored in the stoppage-time “awarded” for Ramsey’s broken leg. Whether that stands as justice done s another question for another day. Somehow I suspect that certain karmic debts loom unpaid.

However, under Hughes, Stoke have shown a bit more tactical variety, but somewhat to the detriment of their defensive tendencies. No longer is Britannia the dark stronghold it has been; the Potters have already lost three times in six matches at home—to Aston Villa, Leicester, and Burnley. On the other hand, for what it’s worth, they’ve flattened high-flying Newcastle, West Ham, and Swansea. On the other, other hand, Stoke come into this match having lost three matches in a row whereas Arsenal come in having won three in a row.

On a more-strategic level, Stoke have three players who are one yellow-card away from serving a one-game suspension (in case anyone over there tracks such niceties): Shawcross, Wilson, and Diouf. This might be enough to encourage better manners from them although it would be unwise to wager on it. At the injury-end, Stoke might be harder-hit than we are (savor the irony—or is it karma?). Out of service will be Odemwingie, Whelan, Huth, Moses, and Sidwell, with Walters facing a late fitness test. Whoever takes to the pitch for the Potters, we know full-well what to expect. Hughes has conjured up some stunning results for Arsenal—the first manager to defeat us with four different clubs: Man City (pre-Mansour), QPR, Blackburn, and Stoke. Still, if we can get three points and other results go our way, we might just climb to as high as third place while knocking Stoke down towards the relegation-zone.

LAST 3:
  • Stoke 1-0 Arsenal (01.03.2014)
  • Arsenal 3-1 Stoke (22.09.2013)
  • Arsenal 1-0 Stoke (02.02.2013)

FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first clashed in 1904—a 2-1 win to Woolwich Arsenal.
  • Arsenal have only won once in eight trips to Brittania under Wenger.
  • Alexis has scored three match-winning goals in the Prem.

INJURIES
  • Debuchy, Ospina, Diaby, Arteta, Wilshere, Walcott, and Özil will miss out, and Gibbs and Szczesny face late fitness tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Martinez; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Flamini, Ramsey; Alexis, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chambelain; Giroud.
FINAL PREDICTION
  • Stoke 0-2 Arsenal. Goals from Giroud and Cazorla.