“We had a very difficult start and since we have responded very well. I feel the team is on the way upwards but we have as well to show that first of all we can improve, that we have the desire to improve as a team, and as well, that we can repeat the performances week in, week out.”
Fine words from the boss in his pre-match press conference, but as we have seen for ourselves we do not repeat week in and week out. More importantly we have to continue to show that when we are not at our most fluent we can still dig out results, and that is an area in which we seem to have made great strides this season.
This weekend sees what is probably the least attractive home fixture of the season. There is no denying, at supporter level at least, that neither us nor Stoke hold the other in high regard. They are likely to play to frustrate but they do have the players to hurt us on the break. This may be another afternoon in which we will have to dig deep to get a result.
Fortunately our form against them home is much better than it is at their place. We have won the last fourteen matches in which we have hosted them. Mark Hughes is well aware of that fact but believes the tide can turn for his in-form charges.
“In the past as a club we’ve struggled to get results at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge but we’ve been able to do that in recent times. This is the only one left standing so it would be great to get it out of the way.”
The team news for us is fairly positive. There are no new injuries, Francis Coquelin returns after suspension, and Hector Bellerin may be passed fit to return to the squad. The Spaniard’s return is welcome news although to be fair Gabriel has not let anybody down in his couple appearances in the role. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the six changes we made in Basel were reversed and the side that eventually drubbed West Ham is given another chance to show that was no fluke.
The odious Shawcross and fellow defender Cameron are ruled out, but ironically a couple of weeks after Mathieu Debuchy limped out of his latest comeback his assailant Arnautovic has been deemed fit to play. Stoke have lost just one of their last nine outings and conceded just five goals in that run. They are just two points behind sixth placed Manchester United so will be no pushovers.
The ‘holic pound
The bookmakers have a repeat of last season’s 2-0 home win as their favourite, but the scoreline hasn’t repeated in this particular fixture since 1947 and 1948 when we twice sent them packing 3-0. That scoreline holds some appeal again with Alexis and Mesut Ozil on the same wavelength at the moment. I have a little wager on that 3-0 at 9/1.
With Chelsea not playing until Sunday that scoreline would be enough to put us on top of the Premier League, if only for a day.
The Arsenal Foundation
Arsène Wenger and the players will be donating a day’s wages to The Arsenal Foundation on Saturday for a 10th consecutive year, to raise money for projects that use the power of football to inspire young people around the world.
Supporters will also have the opportunity to get involved, with a number of special fundraising activities planned. Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said:
“Our annual charity matchday is an important part of what we are as a club. We are in a privileged position where we can make a meaningful difference – both with the funds we raise and the power the Arsenal name has to inspire young people. We want to make the most of that opportunity.”
The charity match day is always a matter of pride for us as supporters and it is a day on which we too can do our bit. Please take some change for the collectors if you can afford it.
And of course wherever you are watching it, have a good one ‘holics!