The arrival of the beetle-headed dung-munching orcs from Stoke will be the first real test of our newly found confidence. Can Arsenal overcome these mutants and gain 3 points without a slew of injuries? Furthermore, can Arsenal get through 90+ minutes of battle with 11 players on the field – another red card for the good guys would not be a huge surprise.
Shawcross, Delap and Hoof go forward for a corner
Stoke are a different team this season having spent heavily in summer on another bunch of giants. With an average height of 1.83 they are the tallest team in the PL, and it is working for them, they lie in 7th, 2 points ahead of us. Stoke have also cleaned up their act (or more probably have become cleverer at rotational fouling) – they have yet to receive a red card and have only 16 yellows in 8 PL games; we have received 3 reds and 19 yellows.
Tactics are normal Pulis – long ball, focus on set plays, Delap’s throw-ins and a solid defence allied to the pace and power of Kenwyn Jones who really should be in better company. The signing of Crouch says it all, with his thrust Stoke have managed to score just 6 goals in 8 games. Walters is a Pulis favourite and we can expect him to cause his usual problems. Pennant has been injured but could be back to test our full backs.
A depressing stat is that since we last beat Stoke 1-0 at the Emirates we have not won 2 PL games in succession (according to OPTA), a better one is that Stoke have not beaten us at home since 1981.
Which brings us to Arsenal’s team. Let us start with a positive, Thomas Vermaelen is back and available for selection; I do not expect him to start but perhaps he will get some minutes later in the game. Problems abound at right back with both our squad RB’s injured, as such we will see Djourou continue, I wish him well. At left back Gibbs is out for a minimum 2 weeks with a stomach strain, so Santos gets the shirt. Santos has been both superb and a liability in his short AFC career, he has pace, good control, can cross and has already scored, but he was lucky to stay on the pitch in Marseilles, has been prone to pass to the opposition and his positioning has been suspect, that said, he is learning the Arsenal way and IMO will prove to be a fine signing.
We looked better at Marseilles when Ramsey came on and despite Rosicky’s good form I would start the Welshman in a game which will have strong resonance for him. To make Shawcross look even more stupid will complete Aaron’s recovery. He will score if selected.
Despite Mr Wenger’s statements, Arshavin’s recent performances have been, what’s the word? OK …. crap. A 10 minute cameo aside, AA has been our most frustrating player. I would not even put him on the bench and allow him some time to recover his vim and vigour, because I can only assume his focus has been upon getting Russia into the Euro’s.
RvP or Chamakh? Sure Robin needs a rest, but now is not the time. We need pace to break down Stoke because we will not out-muscle them, however, Stoke have a poor record when returning from Europa Cup duty so we can hope they will tire.
An inventor from Stoke? Not many but stand up Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge. Involved in the development of wireless telegraphy, he also invented electric spark ignition for combustion engines. Had a fine beard as well ….
This is a winnable game against a team who in recent years have become possibly more disliked than any team outside of Manchester and N.17. Despite being unconvincing we have been getting back on track, let us continue today.
Don’t forget the Victoria line is not working today. Stay and watch the Under-18’s strut their stuff ….