Arsenal v Stoke City

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Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Stoke City: The Brief

Steve Bould built his reputation with us as a steely-eyed, teak-tough defender who was determined never to give anything away for free on the pitch.

The legendary centre back, now our assistant manager, displayed that same attitude in Thursday's press conference when he stood in for the ill Arsene Wenger.
Bould seemed to enjoy jousting with the media in the same way as he relished the heat of battle with opposing centre forwards. It was a fascinating head-to-head, with the Arsenal man staring down questions he felt were extraneous to football with the same glare he used to throw at strikers who started to cause trouble.
No, he wasn't here to talk about the manager, the Europa League or anything else, he insisted. This was about Stoke on Sunday, and gaining three vital points - and our fourth win on the bounce - and that was that. Bould, who spent nine years at Stoke at the start of his playing days, was certainly not giving anything away for free.
Read on for a comprehensive pre-match briefing: we’ve got classic goals against Stoke, team news, an exclusive chat with the assistant manager, match facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.


Bould on dealing with physical and mental fatigue in the final stretch...
"I don’t think there’s any fatigue. Fatigue is when you’ve not got anything to strive for. We’ve still got an awful lot to do and I think there’s a bit of excitement actually. Training has been really lively this week with the 10 or so boys who have been here. I don’t think they’re just looking towards the end of the season for a holiday." 

Steve Bould on Alex Lacazette


ARSENAL: Cazorla (ankle)
STOKE CITY: Choupa-Moting (groin), Cameron (hamstring), Grant (wrist), Ireland (calf)


Tactical expert Michael Cox:

“The key dangerman is Xherdan Shaqiri, the only attacker guaranteed of a start. He plays on the right flank and enjoys drifting inside into pockets of space between the lines. While he’s predominantly left-footed, it’s notable that he’s scored three of Stoke’s last four goals, one apiece with his left foot, his right foot and his head. Two have been similar: measured, precisely curled shots into the bottom corner from 25 yards out, and Arsenal must be hugely wary of allowing him space between the lines."


Bould on the importance of going one step at a time…
“Absolutely. The worst thing in the world, if you’ve got to win a football game, is to get beaten in the one before. It’s just a fact that confidence drops. It’s a big game for us against Stoke. We need the three points, a bit of confidence, see if we can improve our form with a view to the Europa League. Really, though, Sunday’s the focus." 

Matchday Show: Arsenal v Stoke (h)


First team train ahead of Stoke game

The first-team squad were hard at it in training on Saturday ahead of our game against Stoke City.

Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff oversaw the session as we completed our final preparations for the match.

Our club photographer was at London Colney and sent back these images.


How Granit changes his game based on his partners

He’s been a virtual ever-present this season and he’s been utilised in plenty of central-midfield combinations, so how does Granit Xhaka change his game based on his partner?

Our Swiss midfielder impressed alongside Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere in both legs of our Europa League last-16 tie against AC Milan - and found himself at the base of the midfield.

“When I play with those two, I’m a bit deeper, basically just in front of the defence,” Granit explains in Saturday’s matchday programme. “Jack and Aaron like to go forward, to get into the box, whereas I’m happy to stay back and build the play from a deeper area. 

“In the past it’s worked well, even if we haven’t had the results to back that up, and in the AC Milan games, we combined well together.”

Four days before our home win over Milan, Granit started in a midfield two with Mohamed Elneny.

“Mo likes to sit quite deep sometimes, and think from a defensive perspective,” Xhaka added. “Jack and Aaron naturally go forward more. But we all have our qualities and always try to help each other out.

“I’ve always said that to be successful, you need all 11 players, plus those on the bench and those in the squad. 

“You can’t just win a game because two or three players have a good game. You have to work together as a unit, both in defence and in attack. I think we’ve become stronger defensively because we’re all really focusing on what we need to do. 

“Everyone knows that we have a lot of quality going forward, but at the moment I think we’ve got that balance and we need to keep that.”

Team news

Team news: The latest on Wilshere and Lacazette

Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette

Steve Bould stood in for an ill Arsene Wenger at Thursday's press conference - and provided a team news update ahead of the Stoke City game.

The Arsenal assistant manager revealed the latest news on Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette and this is what he said:
on the latest team news…
Jack trained yesterday so he’s OK. Everybody else has come back as far as we’re aware. We’ll find out a bit more this morning, but Jack was OK yesterday.

on Alexandre Lacazette being in this weekend’s squad…
That, I don’t know.  He trained yesterday but whether he’ll be involved at the weekend or not, I’m not entirely sure.

on him getting match fitness ahead of Europa League quarter-final…
Of course. It’s important for him to have as much training and match time as we give him. I’m not entirely sure [whether he’ll be involved on Sunday], so I can’t give you an answer. Sorry!
on whether there was an issue with how England treated Jack Wilshere…
Not that I’m aware of. I don’t know where the issues or the reports are coming from to be honest with you. Jack had a bit of a knee problem I think, but he’s come back and he’s fine. As far as I’m aware, there’s no issue.
on if the team will be rotated to prioritise the Europa League…
I don’t think so, no. I think we’ll be playing our best team at the best times to suit. We need to win games, we want to win games. We’ll be as strong as we can at most times.

Press conference

'I've never known someone as determined to win'

There was a ripple of surprise among the press corps on Thursday when Steve Bould walked into the press conference room at London Colney.

The Arsenal assistant manager was standing in for an ill Arsene Wenger, and gave an insight into the Frenchman's "remarkable" hunger to succeed.
This is what Bouldy told the media:
on the boss’ mentality in the face of criticism…
I admire him immensely. He takes unbelievable stick off an awful lot of people and he’s just one of the great managers. It’s a pleasure for me to sit next to him.
on if the boss has been treated fairly…
I’m not here to answer those kind of questions. I’m sitting in for the Stoke game. I’d much prefer you to concentrate on football if possible.

on if that’s all connected…
I understand that he’s doing a great job, as far as I’m concerned and has done a great job for an awfully long time.
on whether Wenger’s desire to win is as strong as ever...
Absolutely. He’s remarkable. Behind closed doors I've never known someone who’s as hungry and determined to win football games. It’s as big as I’ve ever seen, for sure.

Press conference

Bould - How we must approach the Stoke game

Having grown up as a Stoke fan and spent nine years there as a player, Steve Bould knows all about Sunday's opponents.

The Arsenal assistant manager was asked how much focus will be on the game against the Potters when we face CSKA Moscow in the Europa League four days later and this is what he said:
on what he expects from Stoke…
They’re all tough games. It’s a cliche but whoever we’re playing, every team in this division now is very strong. They need points, we need points, it’s a tough game.
on what Paul Lambert has brought to Stoke…
Well, I’m not sure how different he is. We’re not sure whether he’ll play Crouchy and give us a problem. They’ve got good players all through the squad. Every squad and every team is strong now so it’s a tough game.
on how much focus is on the Europa League game...
At this present moment honestly, not an awful great deal. We’re concentrating on Sunday. It’s a big game for us, we need a result.
on whether they believe they can still get top four...

Look, it’s tough. The manager said it’s tough and of course it’s tough. We’re not stupid. But you never know. Winning games is much better than not if we’re going to win a Europa League final. To win games now is better for us, so the more games we can win now the better the season becomes and what happens in the end is what happens.
on whether they’re placing their main focus on the Europa League...
I’m not sure we have, no. As far as I'm concerned it's a big game on Sunday for us. We could do with a win. We need to pick up a win, we need to play well and get players fit again and get a full squad and see where we go from there.


Check out our best goals at home to Stoke City

We’re back in Premier League action when we host Stoke City at Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

From Aaron Ramsey’s clinical strike to Theo Walcott finishing off a brilliant Mesut Ozil assist, we’ve scored some classic goals against the Potters in recent years - but which of these was our best finish.

Click ‘Play’ on the video above and then don’t forget to vote in our poll below:

Matchday Show

Follow the Stoke match LIVE on

Matchday Show: Arsenal v Stoke (h)

We return to Premier League action when Stoke City visit the Emirates on Sunday lunchtime - and if you’re not in N5, don’t panic because you can follow the game with us. 

Tune in to the website from 1pm (UK time) for the following from our league game:

  • Matchday Show, with live build-up and audio commentary from 1.30pm (UK time)
  • Live text commentary - featuring minute-by-minute updates and insights from our fans on Twitter
  • A short goals clip, extended highlights and a full match replay will be available from midnight on Sunday

It’s all free with Digital Membership - and remember, you can listen on the Arsenal App too!