On December 10th, Arsenal welcome Stoke City to Emirates Stadium. After their decisive 5-1 win over West Ham last weekend, Arsenal moved into second on the back of their 13 match unbeaten streak in the league. Since their loss at home to Liverpool, the Gunners have not lost, winning nine matches and drawing four. Their strong run of form got them through their November curse and has them in title contention into December.
Stoke City had an awful start to the season with no wins in their first seven league matches, while they conceded four goals on three separate occasions during that stretch. Since then, Stoke have shown good form and pushed themselves back up to midtable, where most thought they’d finish the year.
Arsenal have not suffered any new injuries accoridng to Arsene Wenger, but they are still dealing with the ones they already had. Hector Bellerin had a late fitness test, so his status will be determined closer to kick off. Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are getting back from their long term injuries, but are still a few weeks away from returning, according to Wenger. Santi Cazorla and Mathieu Debuchy are also both out with no certain return dates.
Stoke have even more injuries to deal with than Arsenal. They could get some of their strength back this week though. Both Marko Arnautovic and Ryan Shawcross could be fit for this fixture. Bruno Martins Indi is a doubt. They will be without Jack Butland, Geoff Cameron, Phil Bardsley, Steven Ireland, and Ibrahim Affellay as they are all out with long term injuries.
Since winning none of their first seven matches, Stoke have won five of their last seven. However, in that stretch Stoke have yet to play a team higher than 10th in that run, and that was against Bournemouth, their one loss in this run. Three of their wins in this run came against the three teams in the relegation zone and another against 15th placed Burnley, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do against a better team.
Surprisingly enough Arsenal have struggled a bit at home this year. They have dropped points in three of their seven matches at home, including their only loss of the season and a poor 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough. If they want to win the Premier League, the Gunners will have to sort out their home form. If there is any team to do that against Stoke is one of the best, as Arsenal have never dropped a single point against Stoke at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
Arsenal have two superstars in Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. At this moment in time, Sanchez is the one in the limelight. The Chilean scored his first hat-trick of the season last week against West Ham and that took his tally to 11 goals for the season, tied for the most in the league with Diego Costa. He is in the form of his life, scoring or assisting in seemingly every match. If he is on his game, it will be hard for Stoke to stop Arsenal.
Stoke City: Xherdan Shaqiri
Stoke are likely going to need to score one or two very good goals against Arsenal if they are going to win. If anyone is going to do that for Stoke it is Shaqiri. In his last six matches, the 25 year old has got at least three shots off. He has the ability to score from crazy low percentage shots, as he showed in their 2-0 win over Hull City. Stoke’s best chance to win this match is to score one or two low percentage chances, and Shaqiri is probably the best bet to do that.
This is a game Arsenal have to win if they want to compete for the title. They have to win these kinds of games at home and, while Stoke have been on a good run, they’ve yet to play well against a good team this season.
Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal