Arsenal are facing a difficult trip to Stoke City in their first away game of the season. During recent campaigns, the Gunners haven’t had fond memories when playing at the Bet365 Stadium. They managed to win there last season, but it was their first win in the fixture in six attempts. This isn’t a typical Potters’ team, as they have lost the aggressive edge that caused others to fear them. Arsene Wenger will be hopeful of a win to banish the Stoke woes once and for all.
Mark Hughes has been underwhelming in his post as Stoke manager for the last couple of seasons and it is a surprise that he remains at the club. The Premier League has undergone a tactical revolution and he has been left behind. His shortcomings have been shown time and time again by his more superior colleagues. The club signed Jese Rodriguez this week and the attacker arrives with a big reputation. It is a signing that has become typical of the club and he is going to be another that frustrates more often than he excites.
The defence has to be the main area that Arsenal have to focus on. It was their weakness during the opening weekend and Stoke will look to put them under as much pressure as possible. The Premier League debuts of Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette were encouraging, but the club needs to do more business before the window closes if they want to challenge for the title. Their lack of squad depth was evident last week and that need to remedy that.
Stoke City suffered a disappointing defeat on opening day away to Everton. It was a fixture that they were expected to lose, but their lack of attacking threat was a concern. They looked defensively solid as they often are under Hughes, which was encouraging. However, if they are to have a good season, they need to offer more in the opposition half.
The opening day of the Premier League season was great to watch as seven goals went in at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal managed to get the win, but they were far from convincing. It was the same performances that we have seen countless times before from Wenger’s side. Nothing has changed. The fighting spirit was impressive, but they need to be more dominant in matches such as this one if they are to challenge at the top of the league.
Stoke are likely to name an unchanged team. They were well organised at Everton and they will hope that the home advantage will help them offer more in attack.
Shkodran Mustafi could come back into the team, which would allow Sead Kolasinac to move to left wing-back, which will suit him more. Aaron Ramsey did enough in the last game to earn a start.
Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are the only two Stoke players that will miss the game on Saturday. Hughes will be boosted by the availability of new signing Jese Rodriguez. The Spaniard could be in line for his debut.
Alexis Sanchez won’t feature as he continues to struggle with a knock. Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker will be available, providing a timely boost to the Arsenal defence. Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin could also be involved as they continue their recoveries.
Score prediction: Stoke City 1-2 Arsenal
The Gunners don’t have a reliable defence, which means that they are not likely to keep a clean sheet on Saturday. Stoke may not have the best attack, but they should have enough to find the back of the net on at least one occasion. In years gone by, this would have been a tricky game for Arsenal, but the current Potters’ side won’t scare them. An away win is likely considering the growing gap between the two sides. The pressure on Hughes will be turned up another notch.