Even though it wasn’t a calamitous defeat, Arsene Wenger was ridiculed by his own club’s fans after Arsenal lost 3-2 against Stoke in early December. It was a dark day in his illustrious career, and he will be looking to seek revenge on the Potters who blew his side away with three first half goals.
Arsenal need to win this game after their loss at Southampton on New Year’s Day as top four once again remains the priority of the Londoners. They progressed to the next round of the FA Cup with a comfortable win against Hull City, and will be confident of securing three points against Stoke City before a difficult trip to the Etihad next week.
Stoke City meanwhile have put together a decent run of form over the Christmas period. They were unlucky to not win against Manchester United earlier this month, before coming from behind to beat Wrexham at the Britannia in the FA Cup.
Mark Hughes’ men will be looking to bag another famous away win after their triumphs at Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton so far this season. They have moved up to 11th after their recent results, and will be looking to better the 9th place finish last season which was their best league finish since 1975.
Wenger dropped Szczesny for their FA Cup win over Hull last weekend because of the Polish international’s ill-discipline though he is expected to start on Sunday.
Aaron Ramsey is a doubt to be fully fit because of a hamstring injury which has seen him sidelined for over a month though Wenger revealed that he could make return against Stoke along with Mathieu Flamini.
Olivier Giroud returns from his three match suspension after getting sent off against QPR on Boxing Day though Danny Welbeck is carrying a minor thigh problem and is unlikely to feature.
Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Sergio Gnabry and About Diaby will all be absent, though Mesut Ozil has a chance to make it to the bench following a long injury-layoff.
Mame Biram Diouf will be absent for a couple of weeks due to his participation in the African Cup of Nations with Senegal.
Stoke will hope to have Bojan Krkic back after his hamstring injury, though Victor Moses, Peter Odemwingie and Steve Sidwell will all continue to miss out through injury.
Arsenal: 4-2-3-1: Szczesny; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Sanchez, Cazorla; Giroud
Stoke City: 4-2-3-1: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Walters, Bojan, Arnautovic; Crouch
Last five meetings
06 Dec 2014 – Stoke City 3 – 2 Arsenal Premier League
01 Mar 2014 – Stoke City 1 – 0 Arsenal Premier League
22 Sep 2013 – Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke City Premier League
02 Feb 2013 – Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City Premier League
26 Aug 2012 – Stoke City 0 – 0 Arsenal Premier League
- Arsenal have lost only one of their last 27 Barclays Premier League games at the Emirates winning 18 of those.
- Arsenal haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last six games in the Premier League.
- Arsenal have won their last five home games in all competitions.
- Arsenal have collected 33 points after 20 games, their worst league start since 1994-95 when they finished 12th.
- Arsenal have started with 12 different back four combinations in the Premier League this season.
- Arsenal have won their last 12 games at home against Stoke City.
- Mark Hughes has never won a Premier League game away at Arsenal as an opposition coach, losing all 7 visits (with 5 different clubs).
- Only West Ham (14) have scored more headed goals than Arsenal (7), but only Burnley (11) have conceded more headed goals than the Gunners (9).
- Five of the last 11 meetings between the two sides in all competitions have finished with the scoreline of 3-1.
- No team has conceded set-piece goals in the Premier League than Stoke City (11).
- Stoke have won 24.9 aerial duel per game, the highest amongst all teams in the Premier League.
- Arsenal and Stoke are 3rd and 4th in the crosses per game stat, with 25 and 24 respectively.
- Arsenal have played the most through balls per game (4), the least long balls per game (45) along with the second most short passes per game (500). Philosophy.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sánchez has been involved in 47.1% of Arsenal’s goals in the Premier League this season, which is almost 1 in every two goals. He has dug out Arsenal from the most difficult of situations on a number of occasions already, and will again be one of the most dangerous threat to Stoke’s backline come Sunday. He has scored 10 goals from 18 starts and got on the scoresheet against Hull having provided the corner for Mertesacker’s goal. His shot accuracy of 67% from 3.2 shots per game is phenomenal. Also laying off six goals hasn’t hurt his reputation, which is rising exponentially.
Having made his debut in the Community Shield win on the right wing, he has played across all attacking positions with aplomb though a majority of his goals have come from the free role behind the striker. He will start behind Giroud against Stoke and look to feed off him while also benefitting from a resurgent Cazorla who will operate from the left. Completing an astounding 4.4 dribbles per game, he will have to be kept quiet if Stoke are to get anything from this game.
Stoke City: Peter Crouch
Peter Crouch has eight career goals against Arsenal, the most he has scored against any opposition along with Blackburn Rovers. The best moment of his career was undoubtedly the perfect hat trick he scored against them at Anfield almost eight years ago.
The striker was unlucky not to score against Manchester United in the last league game having provided the flick on for Ryan Shawcross’ opener. He was the tormentor-in-chief in the reverse fixture and will be a constant menace again on Sunday.
He continues to be the leading aerial duels winner in the league with 100 and the average of 5.6 per game doesn’t bode well for Arsenal. He will play an integral role with his ability to wreck havoc in the opposition penalty area during set pieces, and Stoke’s new strategy of three players standing in a line for a corner has been an innovative idea. Expect Koscielny and Mertesacker to have a hard evening dealing with 33-year-old.
It looks like a straightforward home win on paper, but it will be anything but. Stoke have more than enough in their locker to trouble Arsenal’s weak backline. Arsenal have quick and nimble-footed players but Stoke will show them out wide and attempt to deal with crosses aimed at Giroud, something they are quite comfortable with. If they can restrict Arsenal from scoring twice, they can nick a precious point at the Emirates.