Arsenal will look to head to the top of the Premier League table when they play host to Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
The Gunners have been in scintillating form this season and have often made easy work of their opponents. Alexis Sanchez has been unearthed as a strike option, and his good run of form is continuing to keep Olivier Giroud out of the playing eleven. The Chilean has been at the heart of all things Arsenal this season, chipping in with 11 goals and 4 assists.
Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott have played their role as anchor men and have stepped in the stead of Sanchez to rack up points for Arsene Wenger’s side. The Frenchman can be awfully pleased with the way things have shaped up for him this season.
November has also been a bad time of the year for Wenger at the helm, but this time the penultimate month of 2016 has been relatively better for him. Despite a few shaky performances, Arsenal have managed to pull up their socks and now find themselves sitting in second place, three points off leaders Chelsea.
A two-goal margin victory on Saturday could see the Gunners momentarily sit atop the Premier League as the Blues play West Brom 19 hours after the conclusion of the game at the Emirates.
Standing in their way will be a resolute Stoke City side that have silenced their critics to make enormous leaps up the standings. Once rooted to the foot of the table, many questioned the Potters’ credentials to survive in England’s top flight. But manager Mark Hughes has brought things back on track and Stoke now look to consolidate on a top-half position.
Wins against Hull, Swansea, Watford and Burnley in recent weeks have seen a sudden uptick in the form of the Potters and the atmosphere at the bet365 Stadium. Picking up three points against Arsenal at the Emirates is certainly not going to be child’s play, but Hughes’ men have all the reason to be optimistic going into the game.
With Hector Bellerin still a doubt, Gabriel Paulista is likely to start as a right-back with Nacho Monreal on the opposite side. Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi will form a centre-back pairing ahead of Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal.
In midfield, Francis Coquelin and Grani Xhaka will start in the absence of Santi Cazorla. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is expected to be given the nod ahead of Granit Xhaka and will take up his stations on the left flank.
Alexis Sanchez will lead the line with support from Theo Walcott on the right and Mesut Ozil operating in the number 10 position.
For Stoke, Hugh Grant has done an exceptional job in lieu of the injured Jack Butland and may continue to keep out the Englishman post his return from injury. He will be protected by the defensive pairing of Bruno Martins Indi and Marc Muniesa ahead of him.
In midfield, Glenn Whelan and Giannelli Imbula will play as holding midfielders, with the attacking duties bestowed upon Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Marko Arnautovic. John Walters is expected to lead the line for the Potters.
- Arsenal have won each of their last 14 home games in all competitions against Stoke City, keeping eight clean sheets in the process.
- Stoke’s last away league win at Arsenal came in the first game of the 1981/82 season, with Lee Chapman scoring the only goal of the game.
- Arsenal are now on a 13-game unbeaten run in the Premier League (W9 D4 L0); their longest such run in the competition since a run of 16 games that ended in April 2011.
- Stoke City have lost only one of their last nine Premier League games (W5 D3 L1) and have won their last two matches in the competition without conceding a goal.
- The Potters have lost all eight of their visits to the Emirates in the Premier League. Only at Old Trafford have they gone longer without a win since being promoted in 2008 (nine games, W0 D1 L8).
Watch out for
The Chilean is too hot to handle at the moment and is likely to thrive on the back of his hat-trick last week in the league against West Ham. With all the buzz surrounding his future at the club, Sanchez looks to be unfazed on the field of play and is continuing to rack up stellar performances for Arsenal. He will once again be the focal point of their attack, and will be looking to add to his tally.
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City
The Gunners absolutely cannot be written off, and despite Stoke’s resillient performances of late, they may not have the firepower to stop Alexis Sanchez and co. wrecking havoc in the final third. Koscielny and Mustafi have impressed in defence, and will make it hard for the Stoke front men to find openings in front of goal. However, with Bellerin doubtful, the visitors are likely to cast their attacks down the left wing, causing all sorts of nightmares for the makeshift right-back Gabriel Paulista.
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