Following the international break, Arsenal are finally back in action this weekend.
Arsène Wenger’s side will be looking for a first home win of the season as they entertain Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. The season hasn’t started as the Gunners would have hoped, with just one point from home games against West Ham United and Liverpool leaving Arsenal five points behind fast starters Manchester City.
Now Stoke visit with an appalling Emirates Stadium record, surely they’re the perfect opponent to help get things going?
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Arsène Wenger backed his players to start finding the net with more regularity. Four Premier League games have brought just three Arsenal goals, and only one by an Arsenal player.
“We have created the chances and that’s what we want to continue to do,” Wenger said in Thursday morning’s press conference.
“We can score goals and I am not worried about that. We have Alexis, we have Giroud and we have Walcott. It is a massive opportunity for them of course.”
Wenger backs his strikers and defended the club for not signing a striker over the course of the summer.
The other major talking point was that Saturday’s game will see Arsenal donate £1 from every ticket sold to Save the Children‘s Child Refugee Crisis Appeal, a fantastic cause and reminder that, ultimately, football is just a game.
We all know of Danny Welbeck’s surgery by now, while Tomas Rosicky remains sidelined and Jack Wilshere – who was supposedly close to a return – has suffered a setback.
On a more positive note nobody returned from international duty with any problems and Per Mertesacker has recovered from the illness that kept him out of games against Liverpool and Newcastle. Gabriel performed very well in the German’s absence so Wenger will have a difficult decision to make.
The other decision is up front: will Olivier Giroud be reinstated to lead the line?
We can expect Aaron Ramsey to start from the flank again with Mesut Özil available.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
Stoke City have lost all seven games they have played at the Emirates Stadium, conceding 19 times and scoring just 3 goals. A rough defensive approach hasn’t really worked, but Arsène Wenger has acknowledged the fact that they’re changing.
“They have improved their technical quality,” the Arsenal boss remarked in his press conference. “They have Afellay, Bojan, Shaqiri, Diouf up front and Charlie Adam in midfield. They have a lot of technical players that can give you problems.”
Since Tony Pulis’ side arrived in the Premier League in 2008 they have changed their style, bringing in more technical players and attempting to get the ball down on the deck. Still, Mark Hughes has suggested that a defensive counter-attacking approach will be adopted on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors are without Ibrahim Afellay and Charlie Adam, both of whom are suspended, while pantomime villain and captain Ryan Shawcross is injured. Striker Mame Biram Diouf is a doubt so Joselu could make his first Premier League start.
Possible XI: Butland; Johnson, Cameron, Muniesa, Pieters; Shaqiri, Ireland, Whelan, van Ginkel, Arnautović; Diouf (Joselu).
You can’t expect to win anything if you aren’t dominant at home. Arsenal have won just one of their last six home games in the Premier League, and that just won’t do. Last season we only lost at home twice, and just once the year before that. That’s the sort of record we have to be aiming for again.
We haven’t looked particularly dangerous in the five games we haven’t won of those six, and the one win came against an on-the-beach West Bromwich Albion. An early goal is needed against Stoke to placate the fans and encourage the players. Maybe then we won’t look so laboured and our football will flow accordingly.