Preview: Stoke v Arsenal
This weekend see’s Stoke host Arsenal at the Bet 365 Stadium for the final home game of the season. Kick-off will be at 5:30pm due to the game being televised. Arsenal did Stoke a favour in their mid-week fixture, by beating Southampton 2-0 at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Oliver Giroud helped the Gunners move closer to a top five finish, ahead of Manchester United. With Arsenal having one extra fixture to play in the league, against Sunderland, this could prove helpful as a mid-week game at this stage of the competition could lead to one or two important players being rested for future games.
Arsenal are currently in good form having won four out of the last five games, these include United and the current League Champions. Only losing to Spurs in recent weeks shows Arsenal’s intent to finish strong, an ideal situation for Wenger and his beloved contract extension. The visitors have performed well away from the Emirates this season. Averaging 1.5 points per away game this season and winning 44% of the away fixtures too.
Comparing this to our home stats makes for a worrying weekend. Stoke have averaged 1.5 points at home this season. That equals Arsenal’s away record. The win rate is more of a shocker. 39% of home games this season has resulted in a win for the Midlands outfit. Only 39%!
The Potters head into this game off the back of a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth last weekend. Having gone ahead twice, many are disappointed not to win, especially with the Cherries only being one point ahead of us in the table. Only winning once in the last nine games means Stoke is seriously underperforming and there’s now not a chance to rectify the situation.
Hughes said at the press conference ahead of Saturday’s game, “The last couple of performances have been good, we haven’t had maximum points from those games but we’ve played well and we’re in good nick confidence wise so we can look forward to it.” I’m not sure which team he’s been managing but it’s certainly a disproportionately different view from a large segment of fans. He expects a tough game with Arsenal as they look to finish the season with a piece of silverware and a Champions League spot. “But given what’s on offer for them and for us then they should be going into the weekend in a good frame of mind and looking to win the game”.
On the injury-front, Chamberlain and Carzola are still out for the long-term, but central defender, Koscielny, is expected to return following a minor knock. As for Stoke, other than the well-documented Ireland injury, Afellay will still be sidelined with his knee injury. There are no other injuries noted when this article was written.
A win at the weekend will but us on 44 points, and if results go our way, we’ll be back into 9th position. Southampton and Leicester still have one game in hand over us but both teams have a difficult end to the season. Not to forget we will play Southampton at St. Mary’s on the final day of the season. What a game that could turn out to be!
Written by Benito Fisher
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