Arsenal host Stoke City in North London following a mixed January. With the transfer window now closed, hopefully everybody can focus on the football again.
Arsenal’s need for 3 points is big, but Stoke will be looking to arrest a slide that has seen them tumble to the outskirts of the relegation battle.
Arsene Wenger is weighing up whether to throw new signing Nacho Monreal straight into the starting line up against Stoke, ‘Nacho Monreal] is available for the Stoke game. I have not made a decision yet. We bought Monreal as a left-back but he can play as well as a left-sided midfielder. We bought him as well because we believe he can integrate into our style of play and adapt very quickly to that. He has the characteristics to play our game because he is very mobile, has a good left foot and is very good in combination play. That is vital in our style of play.’
Meanwhile, Stoke assistant Dave Kemp felt Stoke had done mixed business in January, ‘We’ve brought in two excellent young players (Jack Butland and Brek Shea) but they are both for the future. To be honest, the squad is unbalanced. We’ve been aware of that since the summer. We tried to correct it in the last window and didn’t manage it, and the plan was to get through to this window and address it and unfortunately we haven’t.’
Arsenal Team News:
Kieran Gibbs could be out for as much as two months with a thigh injury, Arsene Wenger will decide between Andre Santos and Nacho Monreal at left back.
Thomas Vermaelen (ankle) is a doubt, but Mikel Arteta (ankle) could return. Francis Coquelin (hamstring), Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) and Gervinho (international duty) are still out.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone; Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, A.Santos, Arteta, Diaby, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, S.Cazorla, Chamberlain, Podolski, Arshavin, Walcott, Giroud.
Player to watch: Whoever plays left back
Whether it be off form Andre Santos or new boy Nacho Monreal, Peter Crouch is likely to peel off onto Arsenal’s left back and give him a tough time.
It’s either going to be a baptism of fire for Monreal or a chance for Santos to stand up and demonstrate some form.
Stoke City Team News:
Stoke have no new injuries. Rory Delap and Matthew Upson left the club on deadline day. New signing Jack Butland has been loaned back to Birmingham, whilst Brek Shea awaits his visa and is recovering from a foot operation in any case.
Marc Wilson is recovering from a broken leg and lacks match fitness.
Stoke City (from): Begovic, Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Ness, Lund, Cameron, N’Zonzi, Whitehead, Whelan, Adam, Jones, Shotton, Palacios, Etherington, Walters, Jerome, Crouch, Owen, Kightly.
Player to watch: Peter Crouch
The beanpole striker has a good record against Arsenal. Per Mertesacker can match him in inches but not in aerial prowess. Crouch’s knockdowns to Jonathan Walters will be a feature of Stoke’s attacking play.
Match Facts & Stats
There have been just six yellow cards in the four matches betweeen these sides at the Emirates Stadium
Stoke have conceded 15 goals in their past five league games – they had let in just 14 in their previous 19 matches.
Arsenal have won all of their last ten home games against Stoke City.
Arsenal has scored 32 goals in 12 league games at the Emirates Stadium this season and is joint highest home scorers with Manchester United.
However, the Gunners have only won two of their last six games at home, and have only registered one victory in the Premier League in five.
The referee will be Chris Foy, who tends to like Stoke if memory serves. Either that or he hates Tottenham.
I expect Arsenal to win this, though not at a canter. Stoke will be physical, defensive, robust and all those other adjectives that are basically a posh way of saying, ‘They’ll stick ten behind the ball and boot it up to Crouchy.’
But they do that well. 2-0 Arsenal. Giroud and Sagna.
Arsenal are away at Sunderland next Saturday. Stoke play at home to Reading.