A clean sweep of a crowded run of fixtures is in the offering for Arsenal, as the in-form Gunners seek another command performance at the expense of scuffling Stoke City at Britannia Stadium today (Saturday).
Arsenal, who have climbed to sixth in the table, lurk just two points behind Manchester United for the final Champions League spot. The Gunners are seeking their third league win on the bounce and fourth straight overall in this busy 11-day span after seeing off Southampton 1-0 at the Emirates on Alexis Sanchez’s goal in the 89th minute Wednesday.
Though Sanchez will be remembered as the man of the moment with his goal, the match turned on Wenger’s insertion of French forward Olivier Giroud, who made the most of his 25 minutes on the pitch and contributed to the build-up leading to the Chilean’s tally. After missing a prolonged spell due to injury, Giroud may finally be ready to form a full-time tandem with Sanchez up front.
“He worked very hard and we have a very good preparation system,” Wenger said of Giroud. “Every time the players come back we get them to a point where they are basically ready, but having said that, he played 70 minutes on Saturday and 25 (Wednesday). He was a bit jaded…”
While Giroud brought some bite to Arsenal’s attack, Wenger also singled out defender Laurent Koscielny for his strong play and stabilising the Gunners’ back line. Arsenal have posted three consecutive clean sheets across all competitions and have not conceded in 275 minutes overall since Wayne Rooney netted for Man United in Arsenal’s 2-1 home loss on Nov. 22.
“For us it was important to win because we lost our last home game and you could see that the confidence within the crowd was a bit nervous so it was important to win the game.”
Stoke City faces a daunting task in bouncing back on this quick turnaround after their 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford on Tuesday, their third consecutive defeat in league play. Steven N’Zonzi pulled the Potters level in the 39th minute, but they were denied a deserved point late in the match as Mame Biram Diouf was denied point-blank by David De Gea and had another in-close opportunity cleared off the line.
“We’re left shaking our head again as this is another stadium we’ve come to where we’ve given a great account of ourselves,” manager Mark Hughes lamented. “We’re a hair’s breadth from getting an equalizer and that’s how it goes at the moment.”
The Potters’ swoon has dropped them to 13th on the table with 15 points, just three points clear of the relegation spots. Stoke City’s home form also have done them no favours, claiming just seven of a possible 18 points and suffering losses to two of the promoted sides (Leicester City, Burnley).
Britannia, though, has not been kind to the London squad in recent years, with the Gunners out to end a four-match winless spell (0-2-2) at Stoke-on-Trent. The Potters claimed a 1-0 victory in the corresponding fixture last season as Jonathan Walters converted from the spot in the 76th minute.
That ended a five-match unbeaten streak (3-2-0) for Arsenal versus Stoke, having beaten them 3-1 in last season’s other match.
Source: ScoreMobile FC