Stoke City vs Arsenal
Sunday, 17 January, 16:15 BST
After an exhausting rainy day at Anfield, Arsenal take to Britannia Stadium, where their personnel have often wilted under the pressure of the Stoke City audience, not to mention Ryan Shawcross. Following the appointment of Mark Hughes, however, the Potters have espoused a different brand of football that may spare the diminutive midfielders Arsenal boast.
Defeating Stoke City will put the disappointing fashion in which they conceded the Joe Allen goal to bed, but failing to do so will reignite the title hopes of even teams like Manchester United. In a season that has not seen any clear-cut title favourites, Arsenal will still be in the title race even if they return to London empty-handed, but a win is certain to ease the pressure off their shoulders a bit.
The Arsenal boss revealed after the Liverpool game that his talisman Alexis Sanchez would likely not feature on Sunday afternoon but added that he would still make the squad. Tomas Rosicky returns after a six-month absence but his manager divulged on Friday morning that he would play youth games before making a first-team appearance. However, long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck will only continue to recuperate.
Mohamed Elneny will likely be handed Arsenal debut this weekend after being registered swiftly after the Liverpool draw. Joel Campbell will keep his place in the starting lineup in the wake of his brilliant display that included two assists, with Mathieu Flamini and one of the centrebacks, who started at Liverpool, dropping to the bench for the new Egyptian signing and Gabriel Paulista.
Arsenal tend to struggle at Stoke, and their last two visits ended in the home team’s favour, with the Gunners managing only two goals in response to their four. Arsene Wenger has been the winning manager just once in eight outings, and his 1-3 win over the then Tony Pulis side dates back to early 2010. However, the Ashburton Grove outfit have the better overall record since the turn of the century with 10 wins and two draws in 17 games across all competitions.
Arsenal and Stoke both have three wins in their last five Premier League games, with either team vanquishing equally strong teams in the course. The visitors buried Manchester City last month while the hosts have a slightly better record, beating Manchester United and Everton in quick succession.
Both teams scored three goals on Wednesday night, but Petr Cech conceded two more than Jack Butland, who only let Jonny Howson beat him. However, the Czech Republic international could be forgiven as he faced the mightier opponents. Neither team have the edge over the other in this regard.
Arsenal bombarded the penalty box in their 2-0 victory at Emirates Stadium earlier this season. Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were on the score-sheet as Jack Butland avoided a humiliation for Stoke with a string of wondrous saves. However, the Potters had not won a single game back then but now sit comfortably in seventh place ahead of Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea.
Stoke City vs Arsenal Possible Lineups
Stoke City: Butland; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Whelan, Afellay; Walters, Arnautovic, Bojan; Joselu
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott; Giroud
Expect this game to be one of those close-fought end-to-end games. Gameweek 21 featured red cards, comebacks, stunners, penalties and three goals from Manchester United, and the next would not deprive us of such excitements.