Arsenal vs Stoke City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 23, 2011

Stoke City are visiting us today ahead of the Carling Cup final and a win will take us closer to a point of Manchester United at the top in the Premier League.

It seems like ages ago when this fixture was postponed back in December, with the prospect of facing Barcelona getting more attention at that time. We have now come a long way from that. Snow and bad weather saved Stoke at that time, today however they are in line for a lesson in football. 

It isn’t difficult to predict how Stoke will approach this game. From the very onset they will be looking to unsettle us. They will use the long balls, free kicks and long throws to their advantage and their forwards will use any mean necessary to gain advantage over us in our danger area.  Their midfielders and defenders, no doubt, will use the ‘committed’ approach of the English game to their full benefit. So, expect a lot of fouls and very less cards for them and if I am not wrong the opposite for us.

Our game plan, as Wenger very rightly pointed out, will be to keep possession and control the game. If we play the game to our speed, Stoke will have no chance of getting into it. The midfield will have to play a very big role in this and with most of our regulars set to start, it shouldn’t be difficult.

We will have to score goals and with no Van Persie, whosoever starts in his place will have to be really creative and clinical in front of goal. Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott will have to lead by example.  

As for the starting eleven, Szczesny will return in goal along with Clichy at left back and Djourou at centre back. With Koscielny injured, Squillaci will keep his place and Sagna will remain on the right flank.

In the middle, Fabregas and Wilshere will return and Song will keep his place.

Upfront, I would have started with Walcott in the middle if it wasn’t Stoke, as we will require someone with strength up there today. With Chamakh under-performing, Bendtner is the most suitable option and I hope that today he performs well as he will be playing at his favored position. Nasri and Walcott will be on either side of him. 

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri.

This game can get difficult if Stoke score the first goal because they are much disciplined at the back. The first half, therefore, will be very important and the more quickly we get the game in control, the easier it will be.

As always, we need a win to keep the pressure on Man United. It will be a tight game but I expect nothing short of three points.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the match and have a great day.


Arsene Wenger on Aaron Ramsey’s return and Ignasi Miquel’s potential

February 23, 2011

Aaron Ramsey is going to return to Arsenal after his loan spell at Cardiff City expires this Saturday.

Speaking to the official website, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Aaron Ramsey will return to Arsenal and will be available for the replay against Leyton Orient on Wednesday. The manger said that the reports on his progress from Cardiff are good and added he will be utilised when he returns to the club.

Aaron Ramsey, on Tuesday, scored a goal for Cardiff against Leicester City as he played the full ninety minutes.  He is set to feature for Cardiff on Saturday again before he says his farewell to a month-long loan spell.  

Arsene Wenger, on Ramsey’s return, said:

“He is on loan until Saturday. After that he comes back. He could be available for the second game against Leyton Orient on Wednesday.

I have had good reports from Cardiff and I intend to use him. He could not play last Saturday because he had a little hip problem and we demanded that he rest. I think he will play this Saturday again and then we will see if he comes through that game well. After that he is available for Arsenal.”

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has praised Ignasi Miquel by saying that he has the potential to be a top-level player.

Ignasi Miquel made a promising start to his Arsenal career when he made his first team debut on Sunday against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup 5th round clash.

On his performance, the manager told the official website that how he has a lot to learn before he will be able to play in the top Leagues as he added the most important thing is that he has shown the talent to play at the highest level.

On Tuesday, Arsene said:

“He is not yet ready [for Premier League or Champions League] but he did enough to show that he will play in the Premier League and the Champions League. I feel that is the most important thing.

He has some aspects of his game that he has to work on, a bit more committed in the challenges, better in the air. But overall he has shown that he has the potential to play in there.”


Arsene Wenger’s injury news ahead of Stoke City

February 23, 2011

Arsenal is going to be without Van Persie and Koscielny as we face Stoke City at home today.

While speaking to Arsenal TV Online on Tuesday, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Koscielny, Van Persie and Diaby are not available against Stoke while everyone else is fit.

Koscielny has a minor back problem, Van Persie is having a hamstring problem while Diaby, although suspended, has a calf injury.

However, Arsene added that the injuries to Van Persie and Koscielny are short term and they have a chance to be available for the Carling Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Djourou, on the other hand has recovered from his back injury as Wenger confirmed he will start today.

Today Arsenal play their 3rd game in as many competitions in just seven days as the Carling Cup final draws ever closer.

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, said:

 “We don’t have Van Persie, Diaby and Koscielny available. Everybody else is fit. Diaby is suspended. Van Persie has a hamstring problem and Koscielny a back problem. Both are short term and they have a chance for the game on Sunday.

Johan Djourou is better and will play”