Thank goodness Arsenal are playing at home! At home, Arsenal have a 100% record against Mark Hughes’s side. Their record away from home against the Staffordshire side on the other hand, stands at a paltry 12.5%. (Statistics via Opta).
Fresh from beating Basel in the week, Arsenal face a Stoke side that enjoy playing the Gunners, have won three of their last five matches.
The sides currently sit second, and ninth respectively. With Arsenal facing Everton the following Tuesday and Stoke City facing Southampton the next day. How does they go about saving players from injuries at this time of the season and keeping players fresh for the fixtures that come thick and fast? Of course, either side could take off players towards the end but that would rely on them being in a dominant position in the game already, one from which thy can assert authority and see the game out.
Whilst Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy and Danny Welbeck remain out through injury, Arsenal fans can be relieved to know that Hector Bellerin is back in training and will be assessed ahead of the game. Francis Coquelin also returns after being suspended for the Champions League tie.
This week, Arsene Wenger says that his team has a good team dynamic, a strong team spirit, as well as maturity. He went on to add that it’s unfortunate that other team around them have more. He also alluded to the strength of the Premier League by voicing that the league is very open and very interesting. Adding to that, he said that December is an important month for his side as there are big matches coming up. He described Stoke City as another challenge to show that they can refocus after a big midweek game in order to achieve maximum points.
It’s good to remember that Arsenal have not lost a single game since losing to Liverpool at home back in August. Whilst they can take pride in the fact, it’s important they don’t rest on laurels.
Mark Hughes has admitted that his side have struggled to get a result away at big clubs previously but says that’s what they’ve done recently, notably securing a point at Old Trafford back in October. They’ll be raring to put a dent in Arsenals title chances on Saturday. Hughes also said that it’s up to his side to limit Arsenal to minimal chances while still creating chances going the other way.
On the injury front, the good news is that Bruno Martins Indi is available for selection, as is Marko Arnautovic, despite being caught by an elbow and suffering a knock in the last gam respectively. The not so good news is that Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron are out through injury. Shawcross looks set to miss out after sustaining a calf injury and Cameron is still out with a knee problem.
Thoughts going into the match
I’d love it if Arsenal could come away from this match and the rest of the month unscathed (as in, no injuries). If an injury happens to one key player, that could see the club’s title hopes dealt a huge blow. Also, if Arsenal start this match like they did against Chelsea back in September, then I can’t see why key players can’t be substituted later on in the match. But this isn’t Chelsea, this is Stoke City and Arsenal cannot afford to take their foot off the gas for a split second, especially at this time of year.
Stoke City lost to Bournemouth at home the week before they beat Watford away. But their form, coupled with their current league standings shows that they’re not doing too badly for a club of their stature.
They have already conceded four goals in a single match three times this season. That was against Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Crystal Palace. They’ll want to make sure that doesn’t happen any more times this season.
So, can Arsenal continue their unbeaten run or will it be a second league defeat of the season?
Feature image credit: wonker