Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Stoke City

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, January 11
8:30 a.m. EST, 13:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Richard West and Andrew Halliday
    • 4th Official: Lee Probert
  • Reverse Fixture: Stoke 3 - 2 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 1 Stoke
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 52 Arsenal wins, 25 Stoke wins, 23 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-D-W-W-L
  • Stoke's League Form: W-D-L-W-W-D
We are now well into January and the "WHY HAVEN'T WE SIGNED ANYBODY?!?" machine is firing on all cylinders. To get everyone up to speed, here is a list of players Arsenal have not yet signed:
  1. Isco for a ridiculous £64 million.
  2. Lionel Messi for £250 million to whichever club he follows on Instagram.
  3. Lionel Messo, which is what I typed the first time. He's gotta be available on the cheap, no?
  4. Mathieu Flamini's half-brother Pierre.
  5. Yann M'vila, pending a medical.
  6. Bort.
  7. An actual center back or defensive midfielder, i.e. what the club actually needs.
  8. Uhhhh... Sol Campbell?
  9. A 16-year-old Azerbaijani attacking midfielder, because, let's face it's, that's all we're getting.
I, for one, can't wait to see what Messo brings to the table.

Anyway, yeah, Stoke at home. I've got nothing to add here.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (calf,) Wilshere (ankle,) Diaby (calf,) Gnabry (knee)
Doubts: Welbeck (thigh,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Sanogo (calf,) Ozil (knee)

Arsenal suffered a severe lack of handsomeness during
Giroud's suspension.
Up top, Olivier Giroud will return from his three match suspension at just the right time, as his height will surely prove useful at some point against Stoke. This is good news, as Danny Welbeck remains in the doubt column with a thigh problem, Lukas Podolski is already hashtagging it up with Roberto Mancini in Milan, Yaya Sanogo appears to be on his way out on loan as well, and there are rumors Joel Campbell could be loaned out soon too. You know what that means... Arsenal will surprise everyone by making some needed signings in the back this January only to end up short up front.

In midfield, reports indicate that Mesut Ozil could feature, though such a return would almost certainly be from the bench. It's pretty much as you were everywhere else in the squad since last week. There might be a question of Theo Walcott, still on his way back from such a long time out, vs. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right side.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Coquelin, Cazorla, Walcott, Alexis, Giroud.

Stoke Squad News

Out: Diouf (international duty,) Odemwingie (knee,) Moses (thigh,) Sidwell (knee)
Doubts: Bojan (hamstring)

Arsenal would be lucky if Bojan was not 100%.
Mame Biram Diouf is away on international duty with Senegal for the Africa Cup of Nations, which could leave Stoke a little light up front. That means Peter Crouch will likely start as a lone striker.

Elsewhere, Bojan Krkic is a doubt with a hamstring problem; the former Barcelona man has not played since December 28, when he was forced off with the injury after 78 minutes against West Bromwich Albion. Bojan was an influential part of Stoke's win over Arsenal in December and I suspect he'll be ready to play by Sunday.

Among Stoke's other injuries, Steve Sidwell is close to a return from a knee injury he suffered at the start of last month, Victor Moses is about six weeks through his eight-week absence with a thigh injury, and Peter Odemwingie's season is over after needing surgery to repair ligament damage in his knee, an injury suffered way back in August.

Predicted XI: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters, Whelan, N'Zonzi, Walters, Arnautovic, Bojan, Crouch.

Current Form

Stoke avoided an upset at the hands of Wrexham, making them
slightly better than Arsenal of 1992.
Arsenal's consistent inconsistency returned last week as they followed a lackluster 2-0 loss to Southampton with a mostly controlled 2-0 win over Hull City. The win over Hull was the club's 10th clean sheet this season across all competitions and the first for David Ospina. The win maintained Arsene Wenger's streak of having never been eliminated from the FA Cup at the first hurdle.

As for Stoke, they needed to come from behind to beat Wrexham at the weekend; Mark Carrington gave the visiting Dragons a 1-0 lead on 73 minutes. Marko Arnautovic equalized ten minutes from time before Stephen Ireland scored twice in closing minutes to win it. The Potters won a trip to Rochdale in the fourth round; the Dale sit 9th in League One, which is basically two and a half leagues higher than where Wrexham sits (16th in the Conference.)

Stoke entered the reverse fixture of this match having lost five of their last seven; in the seven matches since (including the 3-2 win over Arsenal,) the Potters have won four, drawn two, and lost only once, to Chelsea.

Match Facts

For all of Arsenal's struggles on the road in Stoke-on-Mordor, they have an incredible home record against the Potters. The last time Stoke won against Arsenal in North London, the #1 hit in the U.K. was Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." The date was August 29, 1981. Since then, Arsenal have won 12 straight against the Potters in North London. Nine of those have been league meetings, with three victories in cup ties coming during the time when Stoke was not top flight.

Of course, Stoke won the reverse fixture, played just over a month ago, 3-2. The Potters scored within 19 seconds and built up a 3-0 lead by halftime against a makeshift Arsenal back line that looked overwhelmed from the start. A goal that would have put Stoke up 4-0 was ruled offside, then Arsenal stormed back to score twice and make the game interesting. Anthony Taylor then sent off Calum Chambers for two yellow cards, nixing the comeback.

Mesut Ozil had three assists from set pieces in this fixture last season as Bizarro Arsenal beat Stoke 3-1, all on goals from dead ball situations. Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, and Bacary Sagna had the goals.

The Referee

I don't think I've ever actually included a photo of
Jonathan Moss. Just Maurice Moss. Or actual moss.
The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss. Arsenal have seen Moss once this year, on opening day, when they beat Crystal Palace 2-1. That win was aided by an 89th minute red card to Jason Puncheon, one of six red cards Moss has shown this season; only Chris Foy has shown more.

Arsenal have eight wins all-time from eight competitive fixtures with Moss as the referee. Arsenal did, however, lose to Galatasaray in the Emirates Cup in 2013 thanks, in part, to a dubious penalty awarded by Moss.

This will be Moss's fourth Stoke match of the season, all road matches for the Potters. They drew Hull 1-1 in August (despite an early red card for Hull's James Chester,) and lost 1-0 at Southampton and 2-1 at Manchester United.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Sunderland v. Liverpool; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Queens Park Rangers; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Newcastle United; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Manchester City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Leicester City v. Aston Villa; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. West Ham United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Hull City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Crystal Palace v. Tottenham Hotspur; Selhurst Park, London
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. Southampton; Old Trafford, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and current holder of the Magical Gems of Ta'thazar. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, if the Gems smile upon you.