Arsenal are facing a difficult trip to Stoke City for their first away game of the season. This is a fixture that they have struggled in during recent seasons and they will be hoping to avoid another embarrassing result this weekend. The Gunners won this game last season, but they had failed to win in the previous six matches at the Bet365 Stadium. It will be a tense encounter as neither side played well during the opening weekend. The away side will go into the game as favourites, but there are no guarantees that they will manage to pick up the three points.
The Gunners have had a relatively quiet summer, considering the amount of business they were expected to conduct. Their two new signings, Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette, both impressed during against Leicester City last weekend. Their performances will have encouraged supporters, but there is still a need for further reinforcements. It was concerning that they used so many players out of position during the opening weekend and it underlined the lack of squad depth at the club. Arsene Wenger will know that they need to improve at the back, as they were too easy to break down. If they don’t improve this weekend, they could struggle to get a result.
Stoke made the headlines during the week when they signed Jese Rodriguez from PSG on loan. The Spaniard will be viewed as the replacement for Marko Arnautovic. He certainly has the flair to do well at the club, but like many signings the club have made in the past, there are doubts about his mentality. They had a disappointing loss during the opening weekend and their upcoming fixtures look tricky. Mark Hughes needs a result to relieve the pressure and he will back his side to overcome Arsenal.
- Stoke City have kept two clean sheets in their last four home fixtures against the Gunners.
- Olivier Giroud has scored seven Premier League goals as a substitute since August 2016. This is three more than any other player has managed during that time.
The Welsh international has been linked with a move away from the Potters during the past week, but the club have insisted that he isn’t for sale. He is one of the few players in the team that delivers consistency and that is why he is crucial for them. Allen is an excellent Premier League player and he has the potential to influence matches in a positive way for his team. In the centre of the park, the midfielder offers intelligent distribution, work rate and an attacking threat. At the age of 27, he will want to push on and emerge as one of the best in the league in his position. There is still a possibility that he could move to a Champions League side again if he can perform for Stoke. This will be a good test for him, as Arsenal don’t have the best central midfield. They lack a ball-winner and that will mean that the Welshman will get time on the ball. He will need to be at his creative best if his team are to get anything from the game.
There were doubts about the midfielder after a mixed first season in England, but his performance against Leicester City suggested that he is ready to fulfil his potential in a Gunners’ shirt. The change to a 3-4-2-1 formation has freed him, as he now has the license to get forward and influence the game. Xhaka was billed as a ball-winning midfielder, but that was the wrong description of what he offers. He is a classy passer of the ball, who is capable of controlling the play from deep. Last weekend, he managed to gain two assists and they were both superb to watch. The first was a perfectly-executed through ball, while the second was a good corner delivery. Arsenal need to get him further forwards, as he could provide the creativity from central areas that the side has been lacking. Only Mesut Ozil completed more key passes during the opening fixture and that highlights how important the 24-year-old can be.
Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are the only two players that will be missing for the home side. Jese Rodriguez could be in line for his Stoke City debut after signing during the week.
Alexis Sanchez remains on the treatment table as the speculation over his future rages on. Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker will both be available to boost the defensive options available to Arsene Wenger. Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin will also be in contention for a first team return.
Stoke don’t look to be an intimidating outfit anymore and they could be in trouble if they persist with Mark Hughes for too long. The Potters’ boss has failed to take them forward during recent years and it is unlikely that he will have any further success at the club. In years gone by, this would have been a daunting fixture for the Gunners, but they should have enough to take the three points. The return of Mustafi should help their defensive problems, while their attack will be too much for the home side. An away win looks likely on Saturday.