Arsenal vs. Stoke City preview
Premier League – 1st April 2018 Easter Sunday, (H)
Stoke is a kind of weird club for us. The Aaron Ramsey thing is naturally big. As is, from their standpoint “Let’s all do the Wenger!!”
I don’t dislike nor detest many clubs. The Edmonton-adjacent lillywhites feature here, as do Barca (for reasons that aren’t pertinent now but I really don’t like them).
However, Stoke for me is a club with little redeeming features. It’s not because they are “small”. Watford, Palace, Southampton, Burnley, etc. are all of a similar size, yet they have charming factors. Whether the grace of Matthew Le Tissier, selling us Ian Wright and the 1990 FA Cup Final, John Barnes/late Graham Taylor, or being the best of the rest (outside of the top six). The point here is that should we win this game, we’ll go one step closer to relegating them, and I say good.
So how can we beat this club with little positives, who SHOULD* go down:
- Play the big guns from the off
The league may not matter as much, as bar a catastrophe we’ll finish sixth. However, it’s important we get some confidence ahead of the CSKA Moscow game. So PEA, Ozil, Mkhi, Ramsey, etc. all should feature. If we need to bring them off towards the end, so be it. But it should not be a team of youngsters, like the Europa League group stage was.
It may be too soon for him to come back, but then if he is fit, possibly an experiment with two up front could work. PEA is ineligible for the Europa League game, so it could feature towards the end of the game. This is contingent on him being match-ready, which given the length of his lay-off is pretty slim. Nonetheless, it is an option for later PL games.
- Ospina over Cech
Maybe this is a minority view, but Ospina should be our number one now. Cech is a PL-era legend, and worthy of his clean sheet record. Nonetheless, he is pretty much spent now, or at least not what he was. Ospina is error-prone, but I think he is a solid keeper overall.
- Continuing strong home form
Kickoff has provided the following stats for this game:
As one can see, the odds and stats heavily weigh in our favour.
Stoke’s gameplan will most likely be to sit back and hit us on the counter. Or look to rough us up and deny us space. However, if we play the ball quickly and sharply, we can counteract any tactical plan that Paul Lambert would devise.
It’s also imperative that we’re defensively resolute. It’s clear that Stoke will be physical and look to get amongst us. They also need the points, so this may go in our favour as they cannot sit back and defend for 90 minutes.
Check out Kickoff for more game stats and other content.
Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City
Stoke will have some kind of game-plan, but I believe we’ll be too strong for them.
I believe we’re stronger at home since we know the surroundings well, naturally, and that few teams can really outplay us or dominate possession against us. Only the very best, like City, or even a Barca or Bayern, can attempt to do this and get something from it. Stoke, let’s be real, are not at that level. Moreover, our record this season against lower-table clubs at home is pretty good. Despite some poor away results, we’ve beaten Swansea, Newcastle, and Palace at home. So we have some good results to build on at the least.
*I say “should” since Stoke City have not been a boon to the Premier League, in my own view. Clubs like Leicester are of a similar size and can at least say they’ve won it, or even turned heads somewhat when Martin O’Neill was their manager years ago. Moreover, think of Wimbledon (pre-AFC/MK Dons split), or Fulham, as other “smaller” clubs which have done some positives in their PL tenures. Fulham reached the UEFA Cup final, and Wimbledon in the day beat the then dominant Liverpool at Wembley. Let’s just say I hold little empathy nor appreciation for Stoke. I don’t detest them, but they are a “meh” club to me.