Three wins in a row and the feel good factor is back in and around the Emirates.
There were no ‘visible’ banners on display at the Emirates on Wednesday and though it took 89 minutes for the win to be secured, it was a game that showed a progression in the team’s mentality to take to the opposition with grit and graft.
With Stoke this weekend, however, there is no resting on our laurels.
Playing the Potters at the Britannia has not brought very many happy memories for the Gunners over the years, from the smash-and-smear days of Tony Pulis to the present reign of Mark Hughes, and the nature of last season’s defeat under the cloud of controversy that surrounded Jon Walters’s penalty adds just a little more to what Ryan Shawcross has said about the game. It has always been a feisty contest, and this season’s won’t prove any different.
Mark Hughes side have been more flattery than fluent this season, deservedly taking all three points at the Etihad but fumbling within a space of 5 minutes at home to Burnley. Just the one win at White Heart Lane in their last seven games betrays the 10 points they got from the first available 24 of the season but to go there with the mindset that we will be facing a lowly 13th placed team will be a massive mistake for Wenger’s team, as the aforementioned results against some of the League’s top rated teams does show. And thankfully, the manager knows this fully well.
“I think we have four draws and two losses against them [in the last seven], and not enough wins, so we have a good opportunity to add one” Wenger said in his pre-match conference, Friday morning.
“I believe it’s a tough place for everybody. They don’t lose many games at home, they are a stable team in the Premier League and they have a good record against many big teams”.
Key men to Stoke’s stability this season have been Mame Biram Diouf, Jon Walters and Victor Moses, but the unavailability of the latter two could mean Hughes’s men have little less in their attack.
That said, Borjan Krkic will pose a handful for our backline even as it remains a mystery how he was managed to be convinced to move from Champions League clubs in Barcelona, Rome and Amsterdam to Stoke-on-Trent.
Where Krkic has brought new flavour to Stoke, the other ex-Barcelona man who will be on show has nearly single-handedly borne Arsenal this season. For all of Arsene’s protestation that we are not a one-man team, Alexis has done quite a lot to put that into question, the winner against Southampton been the 6th time he’s scored for us with the game scoreless.
But, in truth, we will need not be a one-man team against Stoke as they will have the benefit of an extra usually hostile ‘man’ in their supporters. While we pride on being the kings possession, Hughes men have the history of stifling territoriality, meaning that Ramsey and Flamini will need their tanks filled to battle N’zonzi, Adam and Geoff Cameron, while Chambers should not lose sight of Arnautovic.
It’ll surely be another game to test our mettle against the so-called banana skins, and if we scale through without slipping up, be rest assured that the cannon would officially have attained full capacity.
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