Arsenal vs Stoke: Match Preview.

There are few clubs in the world that can claim the title of ‘bogey’ team for Arsene Wenger in world football. Barcelona, Bayern Munich, yes. Manchester United? Maybe. But after more than 1000 games, he can have much satisfaction over most teams he’s pit his wits against over the course of his career.

Except Stoke City Football Club.

The events of the evening 6th of December would have left a more persisting taste of anguish on his buds but he is a man who moves on quickly and those abuses could be the spur that gives him extra motivation to get the goodies in this one. However, he sees his team lying in 6th place and anything but a victory will only click the refresh button for the pressure and vitriol.

A Stronger Squad, as Ozil Returns

And after three months on the sidelines, Ozil has picked the same fixture in which he made his Arsenal home debut to make a return to the team. Alexis Sanchez has been on the type of form that makes you forget just how good the mercurial German can be – and make no mistake, Ozil is yet to play his best at Arsenal. What’s more, he can now get on with forming the long expected partnership with Theo Walcott. There were virtually no runners in our team last season but with Alexis, Welbeck and Theo available, the Ozil of Madrid will now truly arrive at the Emirates. This fixture saw him claim his first two Arsenal assist last season, if you remove the one that led to Ramsey’s goal, and I won’t bet against him adding another today, whether he starts or not.

12 games Unspotted

Maybe it’s the sight you can have of the street from the Potters ground that scares our lads when we go there, but it’s pretty much been straightforward for us when the tie has been at the Emirates. A win on will see us hit 13 out of 13 at home to Stoke – but you know what they say about the Number 13?

Will the Number 13 play?

Whatever Szczesny drew up as his wishes for the New Year, he must have been forced to shred those notes now. Much has been made of his disastrous game at Southampton and the consequent smokegate. He’s had to cough up more than a third-of his weekly wage to repair for the damages and it is now speculated that Ospina should be given the chance to stake a claim following his first Arsenal clean sheet – in his third game – against Hull. Wenger thinks the issue has been resolved, with the player admitting guilt and apologizing, and as the naughty Giroud is expected to start today after serving a three-match suspension for his own senseless act without further sanctions from the manager, you get the feeling the clemency will extend to Szczesny.

January is that month when the team’s defensive frailties have to be addressed on the transfer market and there is hardly another game to put that fact into perspective, having conceded 3 in 45 minutes at the Britannia. The pressure will be to win, and a handsome win will be all the more required.

It won’t be easy, but it is the minimum we can demand.

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