By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Football Insider looks ahead to the Saturday clash at Emirates Stadium with our Arsenal v Stoke preview that details the players to watch, form guide, best bets, stats and recalls a key moment from January.
KICK-OFF TIME: Saturday, 3pm
TV: Highlights on BBC1
IT’S A BIG GAME FOR…
Aaron Ramsey. What exactly is his role in Arsene Wenger’s team? No-one seems to be too sure at the moment, least of all the player himself. The staff believe the Welshman is at his most effective when he arrives late in the box to sniff out goalscoring opportunities and when his defensive responsibilities are minimised. Yet, Ramsey wants to be an all-action central midfielder. Wenger gave him a couple of opportunities in the centre following pre-season talks with the player but it did not really work and Santi Cazorla was restored back there to partner Francis Coquelin. Yet, it is hard to see Arsenal getting the best out of Ramsey on the right flank and his goal return has noticeably dropped.
PLAYER TO WATCH…
Jonathan Walters. Has an excellent record against Arsenal, scoring in two of the past three encounters between the two sides, and a reputation for being difficult to play against. Physical, mobile and with an eye for goal, Walters thrived under Tony Pulis’ more direct style and has been equally successful in Mark Hughes’ more sophisticated system. Left out of the team that lost 1-0 to West Brom before the international break after Hughes claimed he was distracted by talk of a transfer, will he be recalled to the starting line-up?
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Premier League: Arsenal 3 (Kosicelny, Sanchez 2) Stoke 0, January 2015
Premier League: Stoke 3 (Crouch, Krkic, Walters) Arsenal 2 (Cazorla, Ramsey), December 2014
Premier League: Stoke 1 (Walters) Arsenal 0, March 2014
Asmir Begovic made a blunder when he allowed Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick to slip between his fingers in this fixture last season.
Arsenal in 2015/16: L, W, D, W
Stoke in 2015/16: D, D, D, L
Arsenal to win – 2/7 (Bet365)
HOW WILL THEY LINE UP…
Arsenal (possible): Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.
Stoke (possible): Butland; Johnson, Cameron, Muniesa, Pieters; Whelan, Van Ginkel; Shaqiri, Walters, Arnautovic; Diouf.
EXPERT VERDICT… Arsenal to produce their first genuinely convincing performance of the season and win by a few goals.