By Giuseppe Muro
Stoke have struggled at Emirates Stadium since their promotion to the Premier League but can they change that record on Wednesday?
We spoke to Mike Baggaley of the Staffordshire Sentinel to get a Stoke perspective on the game.
THE STORY SO FAR
Absolutely, it has been a successful season. Especially with the FA Cup run, everybody is very excited about getting to the Quarter-Finals. Combine that with a place in the top half of the Premier League and it’s definitely been a very good season. What counts at the end of the day is where the team is in the League, nobody really expects Stoke to string a ten-game unbeaten run together. Their home record is better than their away record and they definitely have a big advantage at the Britannia, so maybe their away form is something they could look to improve.
Their form going into the game isn’t bad. They beat Brighton [in the FA Cup on Saturday] but they didn’t prove much opposition really. There was a lot of interest before the game because Brighton were flying at the top of League One but Stoke scored two goals in the opening 20 minutes and it was 'game over' really. Before that, Stoke had played pretty well to beat Sunderland and lost to Birmingham in a tight game. I guess the Birmingham game showed one of their weaknesses, with Stoke not creating many chances. They are quite tight away from home but, at the moment, they don’t create a huge amount.
It’s still taking time for John Carew and Kenwyne Jones [to form a partnership]. Carew has certainly been an instant hit and become a big fans’ favourite. He scored on his home debut and has looked a great acquisition since signing on loan from Aston Villa until the end of the season. Jones is perhaps struggling with consistency at the moment, he maybe just needs a goal. He’s got seven this season, which isn’t a bad return, but I’d say he looks a little low on confidence at the moment. As people have seen before he is a good player, so when that clicks for him he should really take off.
Tony Pulis has said that, given Stoke haven’t got a game until Monday, when they are at home to West Brom, it gives his team a bit more of break. I think he may be a little more cautious than he has been in recent games.
Jermaine Pennant has done really well since joining. Stoke needed a right winger to do the job that Matthew Etherington has done on the left for the last couple of seasons and just bring a bit of pace and penetration to the side. He was in and out over the New Year but he broke back into the side a couple of weeks ago and played really well against Birmingham and Brighton. What’s been a big plus has been his deliveries from set pieces, which has been absolutely excellent.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
It has to be said that the long throw has been less effective this year. Certainly less effective than it was in the first year in the Premier League when Arsenal were one of the teams who struggled with it. As the seasons go on, perhaps teams are starting to work it out more. It’s more of a weapon at home than away. We were at Birmingham a couple of weeks ago and the advertising hoardings were right up against the pitch so there was no room to run up at all!