Arsenal vs Stoke preview: Gunners hoping to maintain their excellent home record against Potters

Arsenal vs Stoke preview: Gunners hoping to maintain their excellent home record against Potters

Arsenal take on Stoke City this weekend, as the visitors go in search of their first ever points at the Emirates Stadium.

Matt Dawson

Arsenal - Stoke is a match which has developed an intriguing rivalry over recent years. It may be one that is calming down a little, but ever since the tackle that broke Aaron Ramsey's leg back in 2010 when the Gunners won 3-1 away from home, there has been a sense of anger between both sets of fans.

The Stoke fans are perhaps still frustrated that so much criticism has been shoved in the face of Ryan Shawcross, whilst it is easy to see why Arsenal supporters are the way they are.

That incident is well in the past though, and hopefully both club's supporters will be able to look beyond that this Saturday in the latest match between the two sides, as we begin to enter a hectic Christmas and New Year period for Premier League teams.

Arsenal rediscovering form

After the Gunners' tricky November period, they are well and truly back in business after two devastating performances in the space of a couple of games. Stoke will have every reason to be wary then this weekend as they face one of the best Arsenal sides in recent seasons.

A clinical 5-1 win over West Ham last weekend was followed up by a 4-1 drubbing of Basel in midweek as Arsene Wenger's men secured their place at the top of their Champions League group. It's a sign of a team that have confidence and can smell blood. If they put in those types of performances away from home then we could perhaps expect another similar one when they return to the Emirates on Saturday.

Stoke have usually been a bogey team for the Gunners away from home, but at the Emirates they've found life tougher. Therefore another resounding performance could be on the cards, a result which would go a long way to carrying some momentum into this busy December period for Arsenal. 

Alexis Sanchez is in tremendous form and after Olivier Giroud looked as though he may well be able to force himself back into the starting XI, the Chilean went and scored one of the best hat-tricks you'll see last weekend. If any questions still needed to be answered about his ability to play as a striker, they were answered in the best of ways against West Ham. 

The Arsenal players are seeming to be hitting form just at the right time. Mesut Ozil went a little quiet in November but returned with a goal and an assist against the Hammers, before setting up Alex Iwobi, who scored in the win over Basel.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in a more consistent display too last weekend, and after Lucas Perez's hat-trick on Tuesday night there could be an intriguing selection dilemma for Wenger.  

Stoke hoping to build

Stoke have lost just two of their last ten Premier League games, winning and keeping clean-sheets in their previous two matches against Watford and Burnley. They were games that the Potters will be looking to build upon then going into an intriguing period for them.

However a match against Arsenal is probably one they wished they didn't have at the moment with the Emirates being the only ground they haven't picked up a single point at since their promotion in 2008.

Mark Hughes has got Stoke to a respectable ninth place so far this season, a position we've come to expect from them in the last couple of seasons, so they do have the capabilities to make things tough for Arsenal despite their record in North London.

The likes of Wilfried Bony, Bojan and Joe Allen didn't start the win over Burnley so it shows that there is depth at Stoke this season, and they have plenty of options they could opt to go for this weekend. Whether any of them are re-called remains to be seen though.

Team news

Arsenal could have Hector Bellerin back after injury, which would be a huge boost as he is set to have recovered quicker than first thought. Francis Coquelin will definitely return after being suspended for the Champions League tie in the week.

Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker are still out injured but are close to returning in the next few weeks. Santi Cazorla meanwhile has just had surgery on an injury that will keep him out for the next three months.

It will be interesting to see what kind of line-up Wenger goes with, with the attacking players in particular, all in good form. Petr Cech will come back in for David Ospina who played against Basel, whilst Nacho Monreal will probably replace Kieran Gibbs despite the latter having a very good game in midweek.

Granit Xhaka's performances of late have seemed to have gained the trust of Wenger, and he is likely to start again in what could be a feisty affair. Shkodran Mustafi will also come back in for Rob Holding after the German was rested last time out.

As for the visitors Stoke, Shawcross will miss the trip after sitting out their last two games with a calf injury. Therefore he won't have to deal with the often hostile Arsenal crowd when he is in town. Geoff Cameron is meanwhile still out and remains a few weeks away from returning.

Defender Bruno Martins Indi is fit which will be a big positive. That's despite him suffering a blow to the cheek bone in their win over Burnley. Marko Arnautovic is also clear to play after suffering a heavy tackle in the same game.