The Premiership came back with a bang last week, and Arsenal’s win over Leicester showed the good and bad of the League.
A hatful of goals and some diabolical defending – mostly from our own motley crew – meant we were left biting our nails for the whole match, with late goals sealing the points.
While we can castigate our side over our naivety regarding Leicester’s ‘highly original’ gameplan, we must remember a couple of things.
Firstly, the defence that lined up was a patchwork quilt of a backline, with our three first choice central defenders out through a combination of injury and suspension.
Secondly, the defending may be partially blamed on Arsene Wenger, but he can also take credit for the inspired substitutions which grabbed us the points. Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud snaffled us the points from a losing position, but will they be part of the team?
If Giroud gets a spot, that would mean either Alexandre Lacazette being benched or we change formation. Wenger isn’t a big fan of changing a winning team, and rightfully so. Lacazette also scored last week, and the new French striker should get the chance to pit himself against the quintessential English defence in Stoke.
Aaron Ramsey though, should have a better chance of coming back into the side, at the expense of Mohamed Elneny. It wasn’t a case of the Egyptian having a bad game, but more that Ramsey and Xhaka look like the first choice pairing and Wenger will want to play them together as much as possible to forge a stronger bond between the pair.
Alexis Sanchez’s story looks like it will never end, with his Instagram antics being extrapolated in a vain bid to find out where his future lies. His immediate future is not in the side though, as his abdominal strain will keep him out again. Wenger stated in his Presser though, that he should be OK for next week against Liverpool at Anfield.
Mesut Ozil was not effective against Leicester, and looked way off the pace. Every game will give him a step nearer to where he needs to be, so expect the German to play. In regards to our defence, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi should be fit to play against Stoke, so a firmer rearguard is on the horizon, although Koscielny is still suspended.
Stoke have some players to hurt us, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan able to play at the highest level, but consistency evades them.
However, on their day they are a handful and we must be watchful. It is their defence though, that looks strongest.
With Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea and Ryan Shawcross an excellent aerial defender, the Potters are equipped to not only stave off set-pieces, but also pose a threat from their own.
They also have in their ranks Jese on loan from PSG, so their attack may be hard to predict. Will Peter Crouch bombard us? Or will the Spanish new boy be given a shot?
We have a record at the Britannia that must be improved. Two wins from ten games shows a weakness when visiting the Potteries, and Mark Hughes will be keen to extend this. A win for the Gunners though, could show that this season is where our backbone has become evident and where it needs to be to be considered a title contender.
We may all be consumed with ins and outs at The Emirates, but let us not lose sight of the real reason we obsess over signings – and that is to win games. We have a game, an important one. Let us forget about the infernal window and support the team.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Welbeck, Ozil, Lacazette.
Predicted Scoreline – Stoke 0-2 Arsenal