The first game at the Britannia Stadium this season sees Stoke welcome Arsenal after both teams picked up just one point in their opening fixtures last weekend. The Gunners will no doubt be looking to improve on a 0-0 result at home to Sunderland with their new attacking line-up not able to break down Martin O’Neill’s defense.
Lukas Podolski, Santi Corzola and Oliver Giroud all featured at some stage last week but they only managed to trouble the Sunderland goalmouth with four shots on target out of 14 overall – Giroud arguably missing the best chance of the game.
Questions have been raised about Arsene Wenger’s team this season after they sold last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie to Manchester United just before the season opener, and last weekend did nothing to quiet those critics.
They may struggle once again on Sunday; Stoke – who only conceded via a penalty against Reading – managed 7 clean sheets last season at home and took points from Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium in the last campaign and will be looking to continue this highly praised home form into the new season.
Stoke could be without Arsenal old boy Jermaine Pennant who is struggling with an injury and Dean Whitehead missing who is suspended following his red card last weekend. Wilson Palacios and Rory Delap are expected to deputise for the two missing players.
Olivier Giroud is expected to start as Arsene Wenger looks to find the perfect formation for his new front men with Lukas Podolski expected to take up position on the flanks. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back amongst the ranks but Laurent Koscielny is still missing with a calf problem.
Head to head the stats don’t look too sharp for Arsenal. In the four Premier League games at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke have prevented the North London side winning on three occasions with 1 draw and 2 wins – Arsenal winning once 3-1.
Stoke will be looking to replicate past form once again whilst Arsenal look to break the cycle of their all too familiar frailties against those outside of the top six. There is plenty of history in past games between these two of red cards, horrific injuries and Arsene Wenger unhappy with so-called rough tactics. Two contrasting teams will battle for their first three points of the season – but if form and history is anything to go by, a draw or an upset will be on the cards.