The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Stoke City v Arsenal preview

We return to Premier League action on Saturday when we face Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke analyse our opponents' strengths, dangermen and areas we can target.


MC: Arsene Wenger has become well-accustomed to tussles with Mark Hughes throughout the Welshman’s extensive managerial career, which has taken in Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham, QPR and now Stoke City. Hughes successfully changed the Potters’ style upon replacing Tony Pulis in 2013, introducing more technical, cultured football without ever seriously being in danger of relegation.

AC: They’re between styles. They’re not the Stoke of old who like to rough up and bully teams, and they’re not a pretty passing side. They’re caught in the middle somewhere. I wouldn’t say they’ve got an identity crisis, but they’re not far away from that. They’ve got a difficult start to the season, they need to get some big results otherwise Mark Hughes is under pressure.


MC: In the first game of the season, a 1-0 defeat at Everton, Hughes opted for the en vogue 3-4-3 formation that several sides, including Arsenal, have been using so far this season, with Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters as the wing-backs. Expect a match between two sides using a similar formation, with players essentially man-marking one another when trying to press.


MC: Stoke have largely moved away from their old physical approach and depend much less upon set-pieces these days. However, after Leicester caused problems from dead-ball situations at the Emirates last week, the defensive trio of Geoff Cameron, Kurt Zouma and Ryan Shawcross, all good in the air, will relish the chance to come forward for corners. Peter Crouch, who has a fine record against Arsenal, remains an option.

AC: If you allow Stoke a head of steam on home turf, you allow the likes of Shaqiri to get on the ball in between the lines and make things happen. That’s a worry, especially in light of what we saw from Arsenal in the opening day against Leicester. It’s really, really important that we close those spaces off, that we don’t give their best creative players the license to look up and make something happen.


MC: The departure of Marko Arnautovic means Xherdan Shaqiri is now Stoke's main creative option. Likely to start on the right of Stoke's three-man strikeforce, the new wing-back system means he should have plenty of license to drift inside and shoot with his left foot.


MC: Stoke are playing a new system, potentially with two players - Jese and Eric Choupo-Moting - making their first Premier League starts. Therefore, they may lack cohesion, particularly in wide positions, and Arsenal might be able to create overloads down the flanks.

AC: I’m looking at possible weak links in the team and I see Mame Biram Diouf at right wing-back, and think that has got to be an area where Arsenal can target. There’s not that much mobility with Shawcross and Cameron too. When you go forward, just avoid Kurt Zouma and I think Arsenal will be OK.

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