Arsenal will be looking to close in on the top four this weekend with a win over Stoke City.
The Gunners were beaten 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium at the start of December but head into Sunday’s fixture in better shape than their bottom-half opponents.
With Manchester United taking on Southampton later in the day, at least one team in the top four will drop points this weekend, giving Arsenal the opportunity to at least close the gap on the UEFA Champions League places.
The latest betting news from Football-Bookmakers.com favours a home win at the Emirates this weekend and here’s why:
5. Arsenal’s form at home
After a slow start to the season at the Emirates, Arsenal have found their form now. It’s three wins on the bounce in home fixtures which includes a 4-1 dismantling of Newcastle. They were able to beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 last time out and the scoreline would have been a much greater scoreline but for two silly mistakes – Olivier Giroud’s needless red card and Calum Chambers’ foolish concession of a penalty.
4. Stoke’s away form
Stoke City haven’t been the best travellers in Premier League history. This season is no different for the Potters who have won only one of their last four and kept just two clean sheets on the road this season.
3. Wenger’s fit defence
For the first time this season Arsène Wenger has a fully fit defence to pick from. When he’s had his first choice available they’ve played pretty well, but it’s been rare. Mathieu Debuchy is playing well at right-back and Laurent Koscielny is a solid centre-back. The hope is that Per Mertesacker will be able to deal with Peter Crouch’s aerial threat. Arsenal had a makeshift defence in their 3-2 loss at the Britannia Stadium a month ago that was so slow out of the box it ultimately cost them the game. They went into half-time 3-0 down before making a game of it in the second half up until Calum Chambers’ sending off.
2. Bojan absent
Bojan looks set to miss out again for Stoke through injury. The Spaniard caused Arsenal a lot of problems and got his name on the scoresheet. He’ll be a big loss for Mark Hughes’ side this weekend. The Welsh manager is also without a number of other attacking players – Mame Biram Diouf is off to the African Cup of Nations, whilst Peter Odemwingie and Victor Moses are both injured.
1. Alexis Sánchez, Santi Cazorla
Two players in fine form for Arsenal and capable of hurting any defence. Alexis Sánchez may play on the right or left in this match, or both. Unlikely to play up front with Olivier Giroud returning from suspension, look for the Chilean to cause Stoke’s full-backs nightmares, being both a dangerman in front of goal and a playmaker in and around the penalty area. Santi Cazorla has been in great form too since being moved back into the middle. He’s scoring goals, creating chances and working hard in that midfield. The Spaniard scored at the Britannia a month ago too. Don’t be surprised if he scores this weekend as well.