Dec 5th, 2014 by 'holic
Again we arrive at the hardest preview of the year to write, especially for one who asks for respectful debate. There is a quality that is sadly lacking between two clubs who appear to occupy the poles of almost any comparison. Once again a difficult afternoon potentially lies in wait.
Arsene has done his best to lessen the tension beforehand.
“It’s a football game, it’s not a hate game. You want to focus on playing football. I believe it’s a tough place for everybody. They don’t lose many games at home, they are a stable team in the Premier League and they have a good record against many big teams.”
It doesn’t help that the team news seems so up in the air with Nacho Monreal, Tomas Rosicky, and Yaya Sanogo taking a place in the already overcrowded treatment room, and late decisions to be made on Wojciech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs.
Should the latter two make it then the back four will pick itself, as they will join Calum Chambers and the Big Flipping Skipper. The boss must be tempted to stick with Emiliano Martinez behind them after three clean sheets in a row.
Ahead of them there is a case to be made for Olivier Giroud to come into the side, as much for his aerial ability in relation to defending set pieces as his obvious qualities at the other end. Could it be that Aaron Ramsey will make way in order to try and quieten the home ‘support’ early?
Stoke also have to give late tests to Huth, Whelan and Walters. The latter’s partnership with Crouch causes under performing opponents problems, and this season they have the unexpected bonus of Bojan to provide for them. Doubtless he and Alexis will be comparing their current employers to Barca at some stage.
There has been a seamless transition of manager at Stoke from Tony Pulis to Mark Hughes and a perceptibly subtle change of style, but the basics will remain, best summed up as they don’t like it up ‘em. Hughes said beforehand,
‘We know if we do the right things and are competitive, we can cause Arsenal problems.We want to be positive, get at their back four and not let them get into any rhythm. Every club I have been at, the key is to break up that rhythmic passing they’ve got to effect what they want to do and then obviously you get a benefit from that.”
The ‘holic Pound
I am making the dangerous and probably crucial assumption that Koscielny and Gibbs will be fit to start and on that basis I see Arsenal getting a result at the Britannia for only the second time in nine attempts. Paddy Power offer 6/1 against a third successive ‘one nil to the Arsenal’ and that has some appeal, but I am going to stick with an old favourite and am taking the Gunners to win 1-2 at 15/2 with the same firm.
To those making the journey to Orc country I wish you a safe, noisy (in our end), and enjoyable afternoon. To the rest of us let’s hope streams are plentiful, and of good quality. Have a great one ‘holics.