Saturday, 21 September 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Stoke Previewed

After winning away to Marseille in their first Champions League group game on Wednesday night it's back to Premier League action for Arsenal on Sunday. They are currently second in the table behind Liverpool and have the prospect of a home game against Stoke to look forward to. It's a long way from where things seemed to be going after the first game of the season. 

Arsenal have had their fair share of injury problems so far but no matter who has being playing the goals have kept coming. They have scored eight goals in their four league games so far and are joint top scorers along with Manchester City. They have also scored seven times in three European games with Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud getting the bulk of the goals between them. 

The injury problems at the club seem to be slowly easing with all of the defenders now available and Mikael Arteta looking likely to be ready for selection in midfield too. The options in midfield and attack are very limited because of those injuries though and the players who started in those positions on Wednesday night will probably have to be called upon again. The team are walking a tight line with injuries but hopefully their luck can hold up at the moment and they can avoid any more.

I don't think there will be any changes from the team that beat Marseille and the players who have being waiting for a game will probably have to wait until the Capital One Cup game against West Brom on Wednesday night. The team on that night should have a very interesting look to it with quite a few fringe players getting a start along with those returning players. That's something I'll go into a little more closer to the game. 

As for the Stoke game we all know the challenge Stoke offer and I expect them to revert to type against Arsenal. Mark Hughes has apparently being trying to get them to play football since he took the reins at the club, but Stoke are quite likely to use their tried and trusted format against Arsenal. They have had some joy at home to Arsenal with that style of play, but they have never got anywhere away from home to them with it. 

The Arsenal fans are in for a bit of a treat as they will get to see €50 million new boy Mesut Ozil at home for the first time since he was signed on deadline day. He has already shown his class in the two away games he has played and he gets his first chance to do so on home soil. I'm sure he will get a magnificent reception from the home fans and hopefully he can turn on the style for them.

His ability to create goal scoring chances is unmatched in the top leagues in Europe over the last few years and players such as Theo Walcott stand to benefit greatly from his signing. Walcott could have had a hat trick against Sunderland last week, but he didn't have his shooting boots on. He did manage his first goal of the season on Wednesday night and hopefully that will open the flood gates for him.

Stoke have been very strong in defence so far this season and Arsenal might have to be patient if they want to break them down. I can't see Arsenal getting too many opportunities to break quickly as long as Stoke aren't behind in the game. The speed at which Arsenal break and the ruthlessness of those breaks seems to have improved greatly this season over last season. 

While Ozil's arrival has been a huge boost for the team there is no doubt that Aaron Ramsey is the in form Arsenal player of the moment. From his mobile role in midfield he has scored six goals in seven games as well as putting in man of the match performances in four of them. I'm not so sure if the absence of Arteta has had an influence in how he has had to play, but he is certainly playing brilliantly at the moment.

Of course it has taken him a little longer to reach his current level than it was hoped when he joined the club, but the injury he suffered over three years ago against tomorrow's opponents had a huge part to play in that. It would be fitting if he was to get the all important goal against Stoke and make a fool of Ryan Shawcross in the process. However, it's not important who scores as long as Arsenal get the goals and points they need.

It's going to be a long hard season with plenty of twists and turns but at the moment Arsenal are playing the attacking football which could give them a chance to really compete. They have the player I consider to be the best player in the league in Ozil and the team look like they can score from anywhere at any time. Besides the magnificent performances of Ramsey there has also been the very important contribution of Olivier Giroud who has score one goal in each of the four league games so far. 

The defence may not have been at it's best so far but there has been a lot of chopping and changing to it's line up. With all of the defenders now available I think they can find the solidity which was so evident in the run in last season. I was very impressed with Kieran Gibbs on Wednesday night and the defensive side of his game in particular has strengthened a lot since his last injury. A sustained run in the team without injuries is the best thing for him and Arsenal right now and if he can get that he is set to possibly become the best left back in the league.

I think Arsenal will be too strong in attack for Stoke and their speed of thought and movement will pay dividends at some stage. I think they will win by a couple of goals and Ozil could be the man to shine once Stoke aren't allowed to kick him off the park. Their natural game involves a very physical approach and that's OK once it's within the rules. The referee will need to be tough on them when they go too far and I have no doubt they will do just that.

A win against Stoke would be the ideal way to start a week where domestic matters are to the fore rather than European football. The midweek cup game is the least important competition of the season and it's one in which important players should not be risked. It's back to league action again next Saturday evening with a trip to Swansea and it's also a game Arsenal are more than capable of winning.

As long as the current run continues the confidence will keep growing and the team's chances will improve. The current club record run of 10 consecutive wins will have any team worried about playing at home to Arsenal and so they should be. Away from home there is quite often more room to play in and more opportunities to hit teams on the break and that suits Arsenal right now. Let's hope the home form can mirror that away form and the team can win just as many home games in a row.

Finally for today the squad photo for the new season was released yesterday and there's a copy of it below. There are 30 players in it but I doubt if all of them will get game time this season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.


  1. well-said. I think we'll see Ramsey continue if not build on his run of form with extra motivation. If I recall, Shawcross hasn't gone much past a text message to apologize. I don't really even blame him for the break. It was a rash tackle and you could see how upset he was at its outcome. That said, the larger context of stoke's tactics dramatically increase the risk of just that sort of thing. Good riddance to Pulis, but attitudes and habits take a while to shake. Here's hoping Ramsey and the rest give it to them true and proper!

    1. I can't see Stoke changing against Arsenal in particular as Hughes has always got his teams to get really stuck into us. Shawcross was made out to be almost the victim after breaking Ramsey's leg as he made a meal of the whole thing. Ramsey's form is the best thing that he can do to Shawcross and maybe another goal tomorrow of course.