Arsenal vs Stoke: Monster Preview

It’s the weekend. That means football, football and lots more football… It all kicks off this weekend with Wolves vs Sunderland and all ends with Liverpool vs Norwich today, but due to the Europa exploits of Stoke, we play our game on Sunday at 1.30pm and thanks to the big Manchester derby, we’re not even on TV!

As every Gooner and every football fan is aware, we haven’t had the greatest start to a season. In fact, we have had the worst start to any season under Arsene Wenger… However, we have quietly gone about our business and now won 5 out of the last 6 games – yes, they are just stats, but wins bread confidence and hopefully the recent run of games, including our win against Marseille mid week will inspire us and help move on the level we want to be. We currently sit in 10th position on 10 points. The first target is fourth, currently occupied by Newcastle, with 16 points. 6 points in the current gap, although there are a lot of teams in and around the top and of course, it early early days.

Arsenal vs Stoke

Tomorrow sees us take on Stoke and every time I think Stoke, I think Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Shawcross – both are likely to start tomorrow. Ramsey has not been in the team recently and Rosicky has played quite well, but you have to consider that Ramsey is the long term option for our midfield and will regain his place in the team. He does offer an attacking threat when he plays further up field and is a slippery customer. It’s a good problem to have, obviously… options and more options are great, and we saw with some devastating effect what quality from the bench can achieve.

Team news ahead of tomorrow’s game see our second right back, Carl Jenkinson, out for the next two to three weeks, and considering his recent performances, it’s unlucky for the lad, as he has played well. I really do like the way he bombs forward and have been very impressed with the level of crossing and crossing speed & accuracy he delivers. Arsene hinted that Djourou and Koscielny are his two options to replace Jenkinson, but considering Djourou has played there in recent games and considering the promising partnership of Koscielny and Mertersacker, I doubt that Koscielny will be moved out. Arsene also confirmed that Vermaelen should be back soon, although I think he’ll be very short for the Chelsea game, which is of course, next weekend!

My predicted line up is:

Szcznesy

Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Squillaci, Coquelin, Frimpong, Rosicky, Arshavin, (Chamakh, Park, Benayoun or Oxlade)

Actually, I have no idea who will be on the bench…

Stoke will be no easy game either – they are a proper side who will test us at our game, at the counter attacking game and the long ball, and we’ll have to be at our aerial and tactical best against them to come out with all three point. Last season, I would have said that having Djourou in the side would add extra height and resistance the aerial bombardment. But now, after 4 months of poor form from the Swiss defender, I don’t have the same feeling as I did this time last year about him in the team.

Arsene was quick to point out the progression of Stoke. They have risen very rapidly from the Championship to the Premiership and have done very well to stay in the league and make an impression on the league. Their home form has been very good and of course, they have beaten us before – but not just us, they’ve also beaten the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and drawn with Man United too.

“Financially it means they have moved up. When you buy Crouch that means financially they have made a big effort. That means now they are in a different category of clubs, yes of course. They are a good team, especially offensively. Pennant, Etherington, Walters, Crouch, Jerome – offensively they have huge potential. They are always difficult at the back to beat because the back four is stable and doesn’t push forward too much. They go for a more direct game, that’s why it is difficult to get them out of position. But at home we have always done well against them and that is what we want to continue to do.”

The interesting thing about Stoke is that they adapt to survive, and when they first got promoted, they brought a bit of the old Wimbledon mentality to their game, long throws, overloading areas, and long balls into the box. But doing so with a game plan. But something they have developed since their promotion is the ability to play the game too, ball on the floor – and by mixing it up it has devastating affects. We’ve got to hope they have calmed down on their physical approach too… no more career threatening challenges please…

Our game has also changed considerably, and we perhaps don’t have the “adapt to survive” attitude that could be introduced, but instead we have the “keep it the same” attitude and we will come good. Our displays of football this season have seemed more laboured and not as flowing as previous seasons, but I believe this is down to a lot of change of personnel. If you change the entire squad, which is effectively what we did, it will take time to get the players playing in the same way as our previous players and style has been. Arsene believes it will come in time, and despite some decent victories, he was keen to point this out yesterday.

“[Our football] doesn’t trouble me too much at the moment. But you will see that, with confidence, this team will be very creative. I do not want to convince that we play in a fantastically eye-catching way at the moment but I believe as well the critics have gone a bit overboard. We have played exceptionally well in the past and they are used to that kind of game. Now, because we have bad results, people have just put in their mind that we have a bad team. However if you analyse deeper our games and, if you watch them again, then although we have some improvements still to make it is not as bad as people say. We had to become a bit more stable defensively. After you concede eight goals it’s always a shock for a team. But we have gone through a stage where we had first to settle down again and be more stable defensively. When we get our confidence back we can be more eye-catching than we are at the moment.”

Personally, eye-catching or not, the 3 points next tomorrow are the most vital.

Bring it on….!!

  • afc4life

    Great post, well worth waiting for…!

    Gervinho was good when he came on – our best attacking quartet is probably Gervinho, Van Persie, Ramsey & Oxlade…

    But tomorrow is a BIG BIG Test for us, and I really hope we win. I also think City will beat United, have no idea why, but I think they are mega up for it.

  • ferry

    Does anyone else here think that press conferences are just pointless. The managers are never going to say what they really think. They will obviously defend their players. I’ve brought this up as I have red Wenger’s comments on Arshavin. He said that I quote “You would not be surprised that I disagree with that [criticism of Arshavin],” said the Frenchman. “That is opinion. I think he has been great for us and he will still be great in the coming months. “He is a great player and you have to give him credit for that. He stands up for his performances. I personally respect him highly and I think he’s a great player. He’s done nothing, since he scored 4 against Liverpool he has done absolutely nothing! Wenger must know this but cant slate him to the press!

  • ferry

    We need to look at our goalscoring.. Our recent shot attempts on goal has been appalling!! We need goals the only one sniffing for them is RVP!

  • ferry

    My sincere expectation is that the upcoming AGM will prove to be pivotal in Arsenal history. What should we hope for? That Usmanov pitches up and together with AST they cross-examine silly Hilly, Ivan the Terrible and Silent Stan (if he bothers to turn up) on how they plan to turn Arsenal into contenders again. No more vague stuff about ‘the club is sound financially’ or ‘other clubs envy us’ etc, etc because it will no longer be the case if the Club falls out of the top flight. And no more smokescreens about ‘money being available for major signings but the manager chose not to spend it’. And, above all, it should be made clear that fans who pay the highest ticket prices in the land are entitled to success and demand that their money be devoted solely to that end.

  • afc4life

    @ ferry:
    I think RvP is isolated up front, he would flourish with a partner – something Bergkamp has been talking about with some conviction!

  • arsefan101

    Emmmmmanuel Eboue………. Emmmmmanuel Eboue……….

  • ferry

    Same old Arsenal, can’t defend! come on lads, get back and win this.

  • gerry

    61% possession to Stoke’s 39%, 3 goals to their 1, 5 shots on target to their 2, greater amount of territory in their area, and 10 corners to their 1… and yet, BBC thinks that our win over Stoke is harsh on them, and they were good value for a point. We had quality on the bench in RvP and brought him on to change tact and inject something different to the game – shouldn’t the manager and the club get credit for that, and for battling through to what was a convincing win in the end? Isn’t RvP one of the players at OUR disposal? When we went down to 10 men at home against Livepool, and they introduced Mereiles and Suarez who took us apart and won 2-0, did they mention that we put up a good fight until the sending off and their introduction? Did they heck! Sometimes the reports in the media just make me laugh… just not worth reading! The bias is sickening!

  • robin

    The timing for the banner was not right – whilst you and your AKB kind use this to convince yourself that this was a great victory and Wenger can do no wrong, I know that this is a hollow home victory which masks our deeper underlying problems, and all the old problems are still there.

    Its just that we played a Sunderland team that was and is in big trouble, and FYI the team did bottle it – the way the sky high confidence completely evaporated when they equalised has been seen in most games since February, and if it wasn’t for the fact that Sunderland didnt start with centre-forwards, combined with a sublime performance from RvP and Chesney, we would have most certainly dropped points.

    We dont have to go back far to find another hollow victory – against Swansea where after going 1-0 up in lucky circumstances, we spent the last 15mins defending by the skin of our teeth. One would think we were hanging on against Barca!

    As far as the banner – there will most certainly be another more appropriate time when we drop points when we really shouldnt.