This fixture taking place at the Britannia Stadium sees 6th placed Arsenal pit their wits against 13th placed Stoke City. Stoke haven’t enjoyed their recent Premier League match-ups, losing narrowly, and perhaps unjustly, to both Liverpool and Manchester United – both away from home. So Stoke could do with at home but Arsenal have responded well since their naive defeat at home to rivals United. Since then, Arsenal have won all their games without conceding, including a late 1-0 win against Southampton on Wednesday night. But, despite this resurgence in form, Arsenal must be wary of Stoke who are threatening the big boys this season and the Potters are also notorious bad luck charms for Arsene Wenger’s side. It should be close once again.
This match sees two of the most injury stricken squads come to blows with Stoke carrying seven injuries compared to Arsenal’s eight.
At the moment, Stoke have striker Jonathon Walters and midfielder Steve Sidwell on the sidelines through knee injuries. Defensive pair Glenn Whelan and Robert Huth are missing through minor injuries too. Winger Victor Moses is out until January with a thigh strain whilst Dionaton Teixiera is sidelined with an ankle knock. Peter Odemwingie is Stoke’s longest term absentee with a bad ACL injury keeping the Nigerian out until the end of the season.
Arsenal are missing a lot of players at the moment but Mathieu Debuchy (ankle) and Mikel Arteta (calf) should be back around the busy Christmas schedule. Key man Theo Walcott could also return soon after his groin injury recovery. Goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina should also be back within the next few days after hip and thigh injuries respectively.
Other notable absentees include Jack Wilshere (ankle surgery), Mesut Ozil (LCL Knee Ligaments) whilst Nacho Monreal (knee) could also miss out.
– Stoke have lost just one home game against Arsenal in their last eight clashes (W4, D3, L1).
– Peter Crouch has bagged seven goals against Arsenal, his second highest against any one team, including a hat trick for Liverpool at Anfield.
– Arsenal’s only away league victory at the Brittania came in February 2010. They’ve lost two and drawn two since.
– Stoke have lost their last three December fixtures – having previously going unbeaten in the previous twelve (W4, D8).
– Arsenal’s last five wins have also contained clean sheets.
Steven N’Zonzi has been one of Stoke’s most important performers since signing for the Potters in 2012. The defensive midfielder’s tough tackling and aggressive demeanour have made him one of the most powerful forces in the Premier League.
Whilst not generally blessed with goal scoring ability, N’Zonzi has been known to crop up with a goal every now and then and the Frenchman did just that in Stoke’s last league outing against Manchester United.
So far this season, N’Zonzi has been at his powerful best at the centre of a new look Stoke style of football. N’Zonzi has won 41/58 of his headed duels (70.69%) and has won 14/33 of his attempted tackles (42.42%). Perhaps more surprisingly, N’Zonzi has completed 16/30 of his attempted take-ons (53.33%) and has registered a passing accuracy of 85%.
A fine player who could be expected to go onto greater things in the near future.
Alexis Sanchez has so far been Arsenal’s player of the season – by a huge distance. The Chilean international has been in sensational form and has scored eight goals in his last eight games. Sanchez is certainly one of the league’s best despite his relative inexperience in England.
Sanchez has been Arsenal’s leading attacker and his performances have justified his £32m transfer fee. So far Sanchez has scored the second most winning goals in the league, behind Diego Costa by one who stands on four. Sanchez’s nine league goals and 33 chances created for teammates make him one of the most flexible and team orientated players in the league to go along side his natural talent and speed. Sanchez also has an impressive shooting accuracy of 74% which constantly keeps the opposition ‘keeper under pressure. Defenders are also kept under pressure by Sanchez’s high dribbling ability and the diminutive attacker has completed 38/73 attempted take ons (52.1%).
N’Zonzi will need to be at his powerful best to keep this in-form roadrunner at bay.
Stoke have competed well against both Liverpool and Manchester United in the last week – both away from home too – so I’m backing them to get at least a draw on home turf against a team they generally go well against. 1-1 for me.