On March the first, Arsenal will travel to the Britannia to take on Stoke City. Arsenal will hope to build on their win last weekend versus Sunderland, while Stoke will try to recover from the heart-breaking defeat to Manchester City. After the disappointing result against Bayern Munich, Arsenal were able to bounce back with a very convincing performance. Stoke have gone winless in their last three games following their famous victory over Manchester United. Both teams desperately need points which should make for a very interesting tie.
Both teams will be missing some key players through injury.
Stoke will be without on loan winger Oussama Assaidi through a knee injury. Although they’re due for a fitness boost with Robert Huth looking likely to return.
Arsenal have quite a few injuries to deal with. The Gunners will be without Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott who are out with season-ending injuries. They will also be without Aaron Ramsey and Kim Kallstrom who are due back closer to the middle of March. Arsenal also have a slew of players who are due to return from injury against Stoke, with those players being Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, and Kieran Gibbs.
Stoke have not won against Arsenal in any of their last five meetings. However, they have only lost two games at home, in the league, this season. Stoke have only scored multiple goals in a game against Arsenal once in their last 10 meetings. In this match up last season, neither team scored from open play in either of the match ups with the only goal coming from a Lukas Podolski free kick at the Emirates.
For Stoke to get something from this game they will need to stay solid at the back and Ryan Shawcross will be a key for that. Shawcross has played every minute of the Premier League season for Stoke this season and is their defensive leader. He has made more blocks and more clearances than any other Stoke player and is their rock in the center of defence. As Stoke’s captain, Shawcross is the leader not only of their defence but of their whole team and he will need to keep the team switched on to protect themselves from Arsenal’s attacking prowess. Shawcross will also be motivated to perform as he is not well liked by the travelling Arsenal fans for a past challenge on Aaron Ramsey. Shawcross and the rest of the defence will be key for Stoke getting anything out of the game.
Arsenal’s main man of late has been youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and he will need to perform once again vs Stoke. Oxlade-Chamberlain has come back from his long term injury very well and has filled the hole the injured Theo Walcott left. He has been on fire in the month of February, scoring three goals, getting an assist, and winning a penalty. Oxlade-Chamberlain has allowed the Arsenal attack to vary – he adds pace and directness to the team, something they have lacked since the injury to Theo Walcott. The Ox has been key in the month of February and will hope to continue his rise with another influential performance against Stoke.
Stoke have been a bit of a bogey team for Arsenal in the past. A trip to the Britannia is always difficult even for fellow title contenders like Chelsea and Manchester City, who combined for only one point at the Britannia. That said, Arsenal have been very good at beating the teams they are supposed to beat. Arsenal have dropped only five points to the bottom 11 teams in the league. This will be a tough game but I see Arsenal getting through it with all three points.