Deuces are currently wild for the Gunners, as the club hopes to continue its last gasp attempt at a top four finish. Next up is a trip to Stoke, maybe the most dreaded away trip for most teams every year. Will the Gunners’ dreams keep going or will the Potters again rain on Arsenal’s parade?
“Anybody Who Goes There is in Trouble”
Earlier this week we talked about streaks and not surprisingly it has been a while since Arsenal have won at the Stoke. It’s been since 2010 to be exact, according to 11v11.com. In fact, Arsenal have only won twice away at the Potters since 1990. While Stoke have not been in the top flight every year since then, it’s an astounding record, considering that Arsenal have a much better record at home against Stoke.
Arsene Wenger was quite honest this week on the challenges of going to Stoke.
“Overall, I must say as well that they have had good teams,” he’s quoted on the Arsenal website.
“Stoke are now regular participants in the Premier League for years, and that means that anybody who goes there is in trouble.
“We have to show character again. We know we have to play to win the games, so let’s keep the focus on the way we want to play and on our team spirit.”
If anyone thought that Tony Pulis leaving Stoke would lessen the managerial strife between the two sides, in comes Mark Hughes. Sparky is unbeaten in his last eight against our manager (albeit with three different clubs) and Wenger has eight losses against Hughes in 26 matches, the worst record against all other managers except Sir Alex. Of course the two dislike each other and often make that clear in interviews. It’s safe to say that you can ignore the Premier League table because this will be one of the trickiest away fixtures of the season.
Bellerin’s Chance to Shine
The Ox has experienced a renaissance as a wing-back and may have found himself a perfect position in the current Arsenal set-up. Of course, as an Arsenal player, this means he has a hamstring issue and likely will miss today’s match. Next man in is Hector Bellerin, who has almost become a forgotten man.
Remember when we were all angsty because Barcelona were wooing him to come back to the peninsula? They still may be but Bellerin’s season has not quite turned out the way we all hoped. Ever since his head injury suffered against Chelsea, Bellerin has seen a dip in form and more injuries. Currently, he’s the second choice on the outside but remains a work in progress. As mentioned above, Stoke is a tough place to shine, but it is a good chance for him to shake off some rust and terrorize the Stoke fullbacks.
Predicted Arsenal Starting XI
I can see Coquelin starting over a banged-up Xhaka but if Wenger repeats the same back three as Wednesday’s match, I’d be worried. I am also concerned that the glut of matches this month will force
rotation, which will throw off Arsenal’s momentum. All that plus playing at Stoke make me feel very uneasy about this match. Despite that, I’ll be an optimist and say Arsenal grab a 1-0 victory.