There surely cannot be a more contradictory clash of footballing styles than an Arsenal and Stoke Premier League fixture.
The Emirates stadium will be awash with Arsenal fans on Sunday, but the intricacies of their side’s complex passing game no longer trumps Stoke’s straightforward and basic approach when it comes to getting results.
Arsenal heads into this one off the back of a well-deserved victory against Sunderland and a late win over Marseille midweek.
Manager Arsene Wenger, speaking after the Marseille game, believes his side are finally gaining some much needed momentum: “We are a team who has to continue to grow. If you look back at the last five or six games, you will see only one defeat. We are slowly getting there. This result will help us. We were rewarded because we kept going.”
The Gunners will be without a number of key players for the visit of Stoke with Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and Vassiriki Diaby certain to miss out, all with ankle injuries. Carl Jenkinson (knee) and Kieran Gibbs (muscle) are doubtful.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis will be confident of upsetting the applecart here, fresh from dominating a disappointing Fulham side last weekend and dismantling Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Britannia on Thursday night.
According to Matthew Upson, one of a string of excellent signings Pulis pulled off this summer, the manager is at the very heart of this success story:
“He has a knack of getting the best from everyone. It is a combination of his personality, attitude, decision-making and the ability to recruit the right kind of characters.”
Pulis will have an almost fully fit squad to choose from, with Ricardo Fuller (achilles) the only certainty to miss out. Both Wilson Palacios (knee) and Danny Higginbotham (anterior cruciate ligament) are slight doubts but are expected to play.
Wenger’s claims of an Arsenal resurrection do not carry much validity, as scraping victories against half decent opposition cannot constitute progress for such a supposedly big club. Stoke will fancy their chances here and will look to get at what is an incredibly fragile Arsenal defence, a draw is the likely outcome.