The Premier League resumes this weekend after it was punctuated by the third round of the FA Cup last weekend. Arsenal would be looking to reignite their top four hopes after it’s stumbled in the defeat to Southampton on New Year’s Day. Stoke City are the visitor’s to the Emirates on Sunday. Mark Hughes’ side stirred up some emotive and visceral reactions from several Arsenal faithful after they raced to a 3-0 half time lead when both sides met at the Britannia in December in what ended as a 3-2 defeat.
Arsenal though, have the ample opportunity to avenge that defeat of one month ago. The team news going into the match is positive after Arsene Wenger stated in his presser on Friday that both Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil had returned to training. The German playmaker will be part of the squad while the Welsh midfielder will be assessed. Mathieu Flamini is also part of the squad that will take on the Potters.
Arsene Wenger left out some key players in the win over Hull City in the FA Cup, Joel Campbell, Theo Walcott and Hector Bellerin where given run outs, while David Ospina was in goal last week. However, the manager is expected to revert to his preferred starting eleven with Oliver Giroud back from a three match suspension, although David Ospina is expected to continue in goal, but Ramsey and Ozil are likely to start from the bench.
As a result, we are likely to see a line up of:
David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Alexis Sanchez, Oliver Giroud
Substitutes: Wojciech Szczesny, Nacho Monreal, Calum Chambers, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin.
Arsenal are just three points off four spot in the league table in sixth position, and four points of Manchester United who are third. As the Mancunians meet with fourth place Southampton at Old Trafford, it is an opportunity for Arsene Wenger’s side to close the gap on both teams as the race for Champions League places heat up.
Arsene Wenger made a key point about the players that are returning from injury. About the fact that the likes of Debuchy, Koscielny, Giroud, Ramsey and Ozil would be fresh because they have played few games this season, that according to him should give Arsenal some impetus going into the last lap of the season.
Suffice to say, Arsenal have not really kicked on this season, the best that has been put together is just two consecutive wins in the league this season which is a poor return for a club the status of Arsenal.
With the festive period now over, and with majority of the players genuinely fresh physically, it should be an interesting run in from a Gunners’ perspective. But Stoke City’s form, they have been up of late with just one defeat over the festive period, which was to Chelsea. They have had away wins at White Hart and Goodison Park this season, so Arsenal’s should be weary, especially with the long balls and a certain Peter Crouch.