Both teams recorded draws on their opening games of the season and both will have been disappointed to have done so. Arsenal because they would have expected to beat Sunderland and Stoke, because they led Reading until an injury time penalty.
There’s not a lot of love lost between the two managers or the two sets of fans. It’s always guaranteed to be a hostile atmosphere at the Potteries for Arsenal, though they might be hoping for a sunny day to try and quell Stoke’s relentless pressing and harrying game plan.
With trips to Liverpool and Manchester City coming up and Chelsea to negotiate before the end of September, Arsenal will be depserate for three points on Staffordshire.
Arsene Wenger praised Stoke’s style and said he expected a tough game’When we win, I enjoy it, when we lose, I don’t enjoy it. We dealt quite well with the problems they gave us in the last game, we had a 1-1 and dominated. I always enjoy it when my team plays well.
‘It is a bit of a fight for who dictates his style, if we manage to do that, I enjoy it, if we do not manage to do that, I don’t enjoy it at all because then you really suffer at Stoke. It’s a question of being strong enough to dictate your style.
‘You know you need some qualities when you go to Stoke which are different. You need to be good in the air, of course.
‘They changed their style last year when they played more on the ground because of being in Europe. I think it will go on like that.’
Meanwhile Tony Pulis was bullish about his side’s prospects for the visit of Arsenal, ”I was more concerned at playing a promoted side – they are very dangerous when it’s all fresh and new and their supporters are right with them,’ Pulis said.
‘Arsenal are obviously difficult. They have great players and we know it will be hard. It’s one of the great fixtures for us. They are one of the top clubs in the world but our fans are always at their best when we are underdogs and that’s what we are in this game.
‘We mustn’t get complacent. We have to ignore the nonsense from people who build you up and then shoot you down. We’ve had four great seasons in the Premier League, with four major cup quarter-finals and a final.
‘Nobody could have dreamed that we would achieve what we have in such a short period. Now we have to start again and prove we are good enough to stay in the Premier League.
‘We must remain grounded and focused on what is a massive challenge for us again.’
Stoke City Team News:
Dean Whitehead will serve a one match ban following his sending off against Reading last week. He could be replaced by either of Stoke’s new signings, American Geoff Cameron, or loan signing from Tottenham Tom Huddlestone. Ex Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant is available after a thigh injury.
Stoke (from): Begovic, Sorensen, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron, Upson, Higginbotham, Wilkinson, Shotton, Wilson, Whelan, Etherington, Pennant, Delap, Palacios, Jones, Jerome, Crouch, Walters, Sidibe, Ness, Kightly.
Player to watch: Peter Crouch
Matthew Etherington is always a tricky customer for toke, but most of the Potters’ play will go through Crouch, who they will look to hit long and early, with Jon Walters running forwards from midfield to support. Arsenal don’t often cope well with Crouch, expect to see him pull off the centre halves onto the full backs when crosses come into the area.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal have Alex Oxlade Chamberlain back from a calf problem, but Laurent Koscielny hasn’t proved his fitness in time after a thigh injury. Wojciech Szczesny is expected to be fit despite a shoulder problem. Lukasz Fabianski returns from a back problem as well.
Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and mmanuel Frimpong are all out for the medium term.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Diaby, Cazorla, Walcott, Arteta, Podolski, Gervinho, Fabianski, Arshavin, Ramsey, Giroud, Santos, Djourou, Coquelin.
Player to watch: Santi Cazorla
The dimunutive Spaniard impressed with his spatial awareness, close control and passing on his Arsenal debut last week. He created five of Arsenal’s seven chances and had one of their three shots on target. But he is still finding out what the Premier League is about and baptisms don’t come much more firey than Stoke away.
Match Facts & Stats
Since their return to the top flight, there have been five meetings in all competitions between Stoke and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium with the Potters winning three to the Gunners` one.
Peter Crouch has scored seven Premier League goals against Arsenal; only versus Blackburn (eight) has he been more prolific. He has scored in both games for Stoke against Arsenal.
In 2011/12, Stoke scored the highest percentage of goals from set pieces in the Premier League (58 per cent), while Arsenal scored the lowest percentage from setpieces (14 per cent).
Six of the nine goals Stoke have scored against Arsenal have come from set pieces.
Referee will be Lee Mason. I’m sure come 3.30pm Sunday afternoon I will hate him.
Both teams are still finding their stride for the season. I’m going for another 1-1 draw. Gervinho for the Gunners, Walters for Stoke.
Arsenal are away at Liverpool next Sunday at 1.30pm.