Arsenal face Stoke City in the Premier League at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
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DOING THE DIRTY WORK
Arsenal's visit to the Britannia Stadium is a game positively made for Mathieu Flamini, who admitted earlier this week that he enjoys doing the team's "dirty work". Faced with a team with the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League, the Frenchman's aggression will be absolutely central to Arsenal's chances of success.
The 29-year-old had a fine game against the Potters at Emirates Stadium in September, and his positional discipline can be seen in our heatmap above. Flamini patrolled the area between the Gunners' midfield and defence, breaking up attacks, flying into tackles and denying the visitors space.
Flamini made two tackles (green triangles), three interceptions (blue), three clearances (purple) inside his own area and six recoveries in an all-action display. With Stoke at home this time around, it is likely that his presence in this danger zone will be even more important, particularly in terms of closing down Charlie Adam (see below).
KEY BATTLE - ADAM v FLAMINI
Flamini's showdown with Adam is likely to shape the game at the Britannia Stadium. The Frenchman enjoys the physical side of English football, and he will be met with a stern challenge from the Stoke midfielder, who has been booked in four of his last five matches.
While the Scotland international is more than able to handle himself, he is also the creative hub of Mark Hughes' reshaped side and possesses a set-piece delivery that Sir Alex Ferguson once said was worth "£10m alone". Denying Adam space will be absolutely vital, as aside from the seven goals and three assists he has to his name this season, he has also created 30 chances for his team-mates.
Adam's passing accuracy in the opposition half, when he is far more likely to come under pressure from defensive midfielders and defenders, is noticeably inferior to his overall rate (67.6 per cent to 74.9 per cent). A big part of Flamini's role on Saturday will be to monitor the danger zone in front of the defence, and prevent Adam from threading balls through to team-mates, crossing or having a go at goal himself.
If Flamini can keep the Scot quiet, the central component of Stoke's new-look passing approach will be neutralised and their attacking game will be hindered.
STOKE CITY v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Peter Crouch has scored seven Premier League goals against the Gunners; only against Blackburn (8) has he been more prolific
- Crouch has scored four goals his last six Premier League appearances at the Britannia Stadium
- Arsenal have only scored in the first half of three of their last 13 Premier League matches
- Arsenal have won seven and lost just one of the last 10 Premier League games against Stoke City, but won none of the last three trips to the Britannia Stadium (W0 D2 L1)
- Only five teams in the Premier League have taken more points on home soil than Stoke have at the Britannia this season (21)
- Only Tottenham (29) have earned more points away from home than Arsenal (26) this season
- Stoke have scored the joint-fewest headed goals this season (2) while only Liverpool (11) have netted more headers than Arsenal (10)
- Olivier Giroud has scored the opening goal of a game more often than any other player in the Premier League this season (7)
- The Potters have committed more fouls than any other team in the Premier League (360) and picked up the most cards (58 yellows and three reds).
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