The Breakdown: Stoke City v Arsenal

We're back in Premier League action on Saturday when we travel to the Bet365 Stadium to face Stoke City.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke assess our opponents to find out about their strengths and areas that we can exploit.


MC: The Gunners have encountered Mark Hughes many times before - he's often frustrated and sometimes angered Arsenal players with his tactics over the years. Since replacing Tony Pulis, Hughes has successfully introduced a more positive style of football while also improving league finishes - ninth three seasons in a row - although this season has been slightly underwhelming, and Stoke face a battle to finish in the top half again.


MC: Like Arsene Wenger, Hughes has experimented with a 3-4-2-1 in recent weeks, but is likely to name a 4-2-3-1 system here. Joe Allen will probably play at the top of the midfield trio, dropping into deeper positions to give Stoke control of the centre, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic pushing forward down the flanks.


MC: Arguably Stoke's biggest strength here is simply their home record against Arsenal. Although they've lost every Premier League fixture at the Emirates since their promotion to the Premier League in 2008, the Gunners have only managed one win at the Bet365 Stadium - and that was overshadowed by Aaron Ramsey's broken leg. 
AC: Arsenal have to show aggression, the same as Stoke City. They will try to rough us up and will be physical, so we have to do better than just match that physicality. We’ve got to bully them and then our quality will come through.


MC: Shaqiri has experienced a mixed campaign, but on his day he's a tremendous creative weapon. Always drifting inside from the right flank on to his favoured left foot, he's capable of slipping dangerous balls through the defence, or launching long-range shots at goal, and must be watched carefully.
AC: You’re always talking about Stoke City’s wingers. They will have their moments in this particular game. I like Arnautovic and Shaqiri and, on their day, they can give anybody a headache, but if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit then he is going to have to concentrate when he is one on one with Arnautovic. What I’d like to see him doing is taking Arnautovic the other way. If Mesut Ozil drags their left back, Eric Pieters, in, then I fancy Ox’s chances inside their half. It’s a really interesting matchup.


MC: Neither Shaqiri nor Arnautovic are particularly reliable in terms of tracking back, and Arsenal's wing-backs might find they have plenty of space to break into at attacking transitions. 
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