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Stoke City v Arsenal

Scouting Report - Stoke City

Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.

Arsène Wenger's side face Stoke City on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.

MICHAEL COX

Arsenal’s trip to the Britannia Stadium is often considered the Premier League’s biggest tactical mismatch.

Stoke relentlessly pepper Arsenal’s centre backs with long balls and crosses, whereas Arsenal play a patient passing game. It’s territorial football against possession football.

"It’s territorial football against possession football"

Since succeeding Tony Pulis last summer, however, Mark Hughes has introduced a more refined style of play at Stoke. The crucial difference is the nature of the build-up play - Stoke now hold onto the ball for longer periods, often passing out from the centre backs and playing through midfield, a zone they once bypassed quickly.However, Stoke still have the option of going long. One striking option is Peter Crouch, a master of winning high balls, particularly at the back post, and he combines well with Jon Walters, the striker generally deployed on the right flank.

Both players cause Arsenal problems: Crouch has often scored against the Gunners over his long career, while Walters won, and scored, the controversial penalty that settled this fixture last season.

Besides, goalkeeper Asmir Begovic usually kicks long towards Crouch and Walters on the right, which means Kieran Gibbs or Nacho Monreal will have to win plenty of aerial battles.

 

Begovic's kicks from Stoke's 1-0 win last season

Begovic's kicks from Stoke's 1-0 win last season

 

That said, Crouch hasn’t always started, and Walters is struggling with a knee injury, so Mame Biram Diouf - a quick counter-attacking striker - has spearheaded the side recently, and would offer a different challenge to Arsenal’s back line.

Expect a tricky dribbler on the left up against Calum Chambers. Victor Moses (out injured), Marko Arnautovic and Oussama Assaidi have all been handed an opportunity there in Stoke’s last games - which, incidentally, have produced three defeats.

In the No 10 role, former Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic has become a regular and is clever at finding space between the lines and dribbling forward on the break.

 

Bojan Krkic

Bojan Krkic

 

With Steve Sidwell and Glen Whelan also out injured, a functional central midfield duo of Geoff Cameron and Steven N’Zonzi started against Manchester United in midweek. There are more creative options, however - Charlie Adam can play excellent diagonal passes, and Stephen Ireland darts into attack.

At the back, Stoke are solid and dependable. Expect Phil Bardsley, Ryan Shawcross and Marc Wilson to start, with rare moments of flair coming from the left back: Dutchman Erik Pieters is good technically, and evidence of Stoke’s evolution over the past 18 months.

 

Erik Pieters

Erik Pieters

 

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