Stoke City Preview: What Goes Up Must Come Down

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The good people of Stoke do like to get dressed up for a day out

Attention returns to the thing that matters, football. Not the sideshow of a transfer window but an actual match. The visit of Stoke City to The Emirates following on from the home draw against Liverpool in midweek offers an early opportunity to implement the defensive improvements that have been worked on since that match. I mean, they have been worked on, haven’t they?

The reverse fixture at the start of the season encapsulated the early change in Arsenal, defensive change diminishing the attacking prowess. There was a balance between the two which we saw briefly as we swung past on the way to attacking obliteration. Events this season have unfurled with the only concern about the forward line is that it seems to be light in number, one more striker would offer options from the bench and in the event of injury, cover. That view was shared by the manager in the transfer window in his ultimately doomed pursuit of David Villa.

To put this afternoon’s match in perspective, Arsenal have scored more goals at home this season than the total goals in Stoke’s twelve away matches in this season’s Premier League. The home defence has made a virtue out of conceding first, the visitors attack is averaging less than a goal a game on its travels. This is an afternoon when surely Arsenal will get that part of the game right, isn’t it? And this is a fixture which favours Arsenal, some thirty years have passed since Lee Chapman scored the only goal to return maximum points to The Potteries. Indeed, Stoke will need to buck history, having only scored once in their five February trips to this part of North London.

Continuing that record might involve the debut of Nacho Monreal this afternoon, ArsΓ¨ne noting that the Spaniard would be ‘available’. It’s helluva welcome to English football. Despite attempts to become less agricultural, Tony Pullis knows his men have thrived in the physical aspect of their encounters with Arsenal since returning to the Premier League. That and in the away games, putting men behind the ball. According to the reports which accompanied his signing, Monreal is “positionally astute” and good in the air, all of which appear to be the required criteria for a left back this afternoon. It was amusing to read the wide range of analysis over his signature, ranging from this morning’s assessment that he has been bought to replace Kieran Gibbs which let’s face it is some improvement on the view that his arrival was as back-up to Andre Santos. I know the Brazilian needs some confidence boosting but that is stretching a point.

The midfield battle will be fought at 20,000 feet with air traffic control acting as the de facto referee. It will be a battle for the Arsenal players, one which the likes of Wilshere will undoubtedly enjoy. Mikel Arteta is back in training but I am not sure he will start. The physical element of the game makes it likely to me that Abou Diaby will be in the starting line-up. Whether that will be at the expense of Aaron Ramsey or vindicating suggestions that Santi Cazorla is open to guess. I guess that Monreal’s inclusion may influence that decision, Arteta and Cazorla might give more linguistic comfort to the debutant despite learning English since last Summer. However, that cannot be a key factor in team selection beyond the defence. Thomas Vermaelen is the doubt, suffering problems with his ankle according to the manager. In the event that he does not recover, Laurent Koscielny will no doubt deputise.

The line-up I would expect at kick-off is:

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen (Koscielny), Monreal; Diaby, Cazorla, Wilshere; Walcott, Giroud, Podolski

This is the first of four home games this month although only two of them are in the Premier League. Yet like the visits of Blackburn and Aston Villa, victory is expected. Lukas Podolski spoke of the need to stop conceding goals first, in essence putting the team on the backfoot from early on. Whilst recovery is an admirable attribute for a team to have when it is required with alarming regularity, the cause is an ingrained habit, a sign that lessons are not being learned. You sense that this is a squad which does not react to positives out of games immediately, they need several matches to believe that a pattern has emerged. The converse though is not true so this month offers the opportunity to build the habit of clean sheets, starting today against a team which has won one of its last 21 away Premier League matches. That’s one in more than a season’s worth of games. Surely this is an opportunity too good to miss?

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

298 thoughts on “Stoke City Preview: What Goes Up Must Come Down

  1. Okay, based on his first Game I think Monreal looks very good, I am curious how Gibbs is looking at this game… I smell very REAL MONREAL competition.

  2. stoke cant be a football club, its astonishing that they can even be in the prem

    shittest club in prem

    at least QPR try to play football

  3. nacho doesnt need a rest,hes been bought at january meaning hes fully fit and energized

    He seemlessly blended into the team

  4. A good win, if somewhat short of ideas when faced with a wall of 10 Orcs in the final third.

    The Chavs lost and Everton drew, so not bad all round. Be nice if the Spuds can drop a few points aswell.

  5. Great win, like we always do at home against these orcs. We really have their number now. Their tactics no longer stun us.

    COYG!

  6. February’s fixtures –

    Premier League
    Arsenal 1-0 Stoke Sat 2 Feb 15:00

    Premier League
    Sunderland v Arsenal Sat 9 Feb 15:00

    FA Cup – Fifth Round
    Arsenal v Blackburn Sat 16 Feb 15:00

    Champions League – Round of 16
    Arsenal v Bayern Munich Tue 19 Feb 19:45

    Premier League
    Arsenal v Aston Villa Sat 23 Feb 15:00

    A very winnable series of games. I think the Bayern match is the only one I would happily take a 0-0 draw if we cannot nick a win.

  7. Montreal is No. 1 now. Arsene doesn’t pay that kind of money for a defender to sit on the bench.

  8. Monreal is a right sided Sagna. He tired towards the end but that’s totally to be expected. I imagine he can play as CB too if it ever comes down to it.

  9. @Bob

    The great thing to see today was our positionally astute Monreal is, the back 4 looked good for the most part.

    We were wasteful in front of goal with 4 on target versus 23 attempts but I love a 1 NIL scoreline. I agree that Monreal may well replace Gibbs as the no 1. choice.

  10. Elated for the 3 points. Great energy from Arsenal both halves.

    Substitutions made the difference. Saw no reason to wait so late !

  11. consolsbob

    But what about gibbs, i mean Arsene has always been against players stopping the development of youngsters.

  12. It will be great to have Monreal and Gibbs as our choices at left back…that is a some solid depth at that position. Plus Sagna and Jenkinson on the right we are looking pretty well stocked back there now. The only position I feel we really need additional depth in now is CF. Let’s just hope Giroud stays fit!

  13. Foy and his cronies were pretty bloody dreadful to be quite honest, the game could have boiled over because he allowed The Orcs to foul all day.

  14. 3rd through 6th is looking pretty tight right now… what is it Jonny said “Tighter than a Nun’s Nasties”

  15. I would imagine Wenger can select a left back now based on opposition. Monreal will probably play against the big sides, and Gibbs will probably play in the games that we should dominate and be more attack minded. It is a good problem to have.

  16. I agree with Bob, Gibbs will get games. Now our left side is as robust as the right back position with Sagna and Jenks. This is what it means to have depth.

    Agree with those who say Gibbs and perhaps even Santos can play LW sometimes.

  17. A great day for Arsenal, a classic Arsenal scoreline combined with a loss and draw to position rivals.

    I was seriously impressed with Monreal’s debut, such things are never easy and yet he slotted in with no trouble and provided more stability than I have seen of late. That is not a knock on Gibbs, but you could see Monreal was comfortable whether the ball was on the ground or in the air and his positional sense seemed exceptional to me. It is just his first game and there will be mistakes made over time but over all very encouraging indeed.

  18. One knock on the team was the slow transitional play, but it is difficult to be to harsh when you win and keep a clean sheet.

  19. I loved that Cazorla was given a rest. Hope it will be Wilshere next time. Diaby was immense, especially in the first half.

    If we play our cards right and rotate efficiently we’ll be able to not just reduce injuries in the long and short term, but also make sure each of our MFs get enough game time to always be match ready.

    Well done Arsene

  20. WOW
    Not that I’m the kind of person who always looks for other teams results for a helping hand but what fantastic results all around the league today. Especially our game.
    now only if manure and pool lose and the super bowl is a tie( first ever)
    this will be a fantastic weekend . πŸ˜‰
    Nice debut for IGNACIO.

  21. This Fulham v. Manc game is bonkers right now…wide open, goal posts being hit on both sides…no defending whatsoever…

  22. That’s what depth and rotation provides. With the returns of Diaby and Rosicky and Arteta and Ramsey now interchangeable in the defensive role, coupled with faith in the Ox (he was good today, by the way), you can bring on Cazorla and Podolski in the second half and give the team a much needed dynamism.

    I’m really glad that with an almost full list, players are being given proper recovery time. It will pay dividends at the tail end of the season.

  23. Well, what I will say is that there were several Brass Monkeys that became eunuchs at The Emirates. And my God how those Stoke fans go and watch that shower of shit each week is beyond me.

  24. lovely stuff i love a solid performance defensivly. exactly the sort of wins which are crucial. cant rely on scoring lots every game. lets hope this turns into a good run

  25. Lol
    So true ,

    23 goals and assists in 31 game for the GUNNERS ,
    POLDI is a Jen..
    Hope begovic does not get sold to the red mancs ,

  26. Yogi, whisper it but a small part of me actually feels sorry for them. The fact that they don’t know they should be getting much more from the huge net investment from the Coates family, than a cumbersome demonstration of Charles Reeps ideas in the guise of a football match is both funny and sad.

  27. Gibbs v Monreal

    Did not see enough of Monreal to come to a conclusion between the two players.

    I thought passing from Chamberlain and Theo could have been better. Hard fought win.

  28. Their keepers saves weren’t particularly fantastic. I didn’t get what people were raving about. Ox’s first attempt was right at him. The second was eminently saveable as well. I’d be pissed if Szcesny couldn’t make a similar save.

  29. Good result and we looked pretty solid. Gibbs will have to up his game. Nacho looks like very accomplished defender. Good to have two good players and some competition for the left back spot at last.

  30. Pulis has to be one of the worst PL managers ever!
    That was the worst I’ve seen them play for a while…
    Absolute crap considering the players they have…
    Actually made it easy for us to dominate.
    1-0? I’ll take that any day of the week…

    we march on.

  31. well..13 wins from here will take us to 80 points and a win against man utd on the way..i’d be happy with that..i really dont see any exits next year..if only we can get one magic striker and capoue/wanyama..

  32. add an fa cup and cl semis (atleast )to that and this season wouldnt have been total shit after all!

  33. sorry Arshavin23…you will be off in the summer..

    along with
    Squillaci, Bendtner, Denilson, Djourou, Chamakh, Park…
    and possibly,
    Eastmond, Watt, Galindo +/- Wellington….

    but thats another story.
    Lets enjoy the W

  34. Im still amazed over how AW managed to buy a word class defender without anyone knowing we were into him in the first place!

  35. Yep, rotation is the way to go.

    Hope Le Coq gets himself fit in time to join what would hopefully be a ‘musical chairs’ type of rotation in our midfield.

    We already rotate reasonably well in defence and with our forward, although I’m not sure how intentional that is.

  36. I suppose what Arsene said about changing his mind from game to game on whether to make signings, is true.

    If the manager can’t make up his mind who to sign, what chance do the hacks have? The poor things.

  37. True poodle
    And so many were having cows , lol
    and he kept it to the last minute so that they bloody vultures didn’t have a chance to ruin the deal,
    AW. KNOWS
    trust the man, he will see us through, I tell you.
    Newcastle did well with m.ssisoko.
    Would have been good for us,

  38. You might be right about JETHROS injury and IGEE2 coming in. We never will know. All I can say is the targets are identified and followed for the longest time and brought in when needed. All vewry stealthy and hush hush.
    We have lost enough players with other teams piggybacking on our hard scouting efforts,
    And some choose to see it as being inactive.
    Pundits have been eating humble pie from AW hand for ages.
    I won’t bet against same not happening again this year,
    πŸ™‚

  39. AMAN
    SILVA has had no chance to prove himself,
    Some others I can see are no longer in long term plans.
    what gets me is I hear certain player should be shipped out by some and then within one week of that happening the same people lamenting the loss of said. Player.
    true. Yo-yo mentality if I ever said only. Makes. Me laugh all the more.

  40. Most important now is for our back five to get on the same page and understanding to develop.
    by all counts they are fantastic internationals
    One and all and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be the top defenders in this league.
    Individually and collectively. I look forward to it and expect it soon.

  41. @Goonerkam
    Full agreement, I don’t want to see Begovic playing for the scum. It’s bad enough that he is always man of the match when the Orcs come to town but to imagine him doing that kind of stuff for the red Mancs week in, week out. No, thank you.

    And god, but I do hate Stoke. Them, and their thuggerish captain and that guy in the baseball cap and the fact they try to hide their ugly orcish features by having half their players running around with a bandage around their hideous faces. Unfortunately trying not to win any match is proving quite effective when it comes to not getting relegated for them.

  42. Just enjoyed extended highlights on Sky Football First. Strong performance, a few trademark Arsenal moves and a well-deserved win.

    And, most remarkable of all, a commentator sympathetic to Arsenal. Couldn’t believe my ears. Has there been a change of policy, or is somebody off-message?

  43. Yes MERLOT
    There is a gradual change that will be noticed more and more,
    That in my opinion is due to the wisdom of the club and AW ,
    After years of screaming
    bloody murder regarding regarding how our players were being butchered and the fa the media and the referees completely ignoring the problem we have changed tactics.
    Slowly and gradually the core of the team is being turned to home grown ENGLISH players. So much so that in a year or so the GUNNERS WILL HAVE four possibly five young players in the national team.
    The fa and the media will be praising the ARSENAL to high heavens. And the referees will have to afford us a fair shake on the pitch. No more broken limbs MERLOT. No more heartbreak. National team members will be protected since they are the hope of the nation for the future.
    Pretty sneaky won’t you say. How else do you explain this gradual change in the formation of the future ARSENAL squad.

    EVIL cheers mate . I saw begovic make save after save to keep his orc army in the game . Time after time he has shown himself to be top notch keeper in many games. He will move and hopefully it isn’t to the red part of Manchester.
    Why is it many goalkeepers have the game of their lives against us?? Any thoughts??

  44. I honestly don’t rate Begovic. Don’t see what he did that some people are raving about. Do you guys rate him more than Szcesny?

    Him going to the red mancs? What’s to fear? I suspect fergie could have had him if he wanted all this while. He wouldn’t have cost anything like De Gea did too.

  45. Sissoko looks a steal. Was on our radar too. I’m not surprised Arsene plays his cards close to his chest.

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