Stoke vs. Arsenal
This fixture is always perceived as a clash or styles but as time goes on this assumption is less accurate. Stoke are an upwardly mobile and progressive club and the manager has tailored a team to match each of their goals. The current target is a top ten table finish and the management will be fully aware that huff and puff and long ball football isn’t the route to this end. The carrot of Champions’ League football has been an excellent motivation in recent weeks for the better teams in the division who are out of contention for the title. Arsenal have made an excellent recovery to find themselves in third place but the job isn’t quite done yet and they will have to remain focussed for the last three games of the season. Unfortunately they travel to the Britannia Stadium without two of their main goalscorers in Walcott and Arteta. Both players have been major contributors to Arsenal’s all round play over the past few months and Arteta will be particularly missed. Arsenal probably didn’t deserve much more than the draw they achieved against Chelsea last Saturday. They had the chances to win the game but the overall performance lacked conviction. In mitigation Chelsea were in a rehearsed defensive mindset which was to pay dividends later on in the week and Stoke will have to perform exceptionally well to match Chelsea’s defensive discipline.
If Arsenal play reasonably well they will have chances to score. Stoke’s downfall this season appears to be their lack of ability to retain possession. Only two of their first team regulars have a pass success percentage of over 80 % while Norwich for example can boast of having at least four regulars who exceed the 80 % mark. Stoke will attempt to put Arsenal under pressure at set pieces and while they will never be division leaders at defending such situations, Arsenal have improved in this area of late. Stoke will also play a physical game against Arsenal. The home side adopted this approach for the visit of Man. City recently and only a long distance strike from Yaya Toure denied them all three points. Van Persie is likely to be heavily man-marked where ever he goes and he is often doubled up on. This goes some way to explain why he is dispossessed so often, so it will be up to Arsenal’s other attackers to benefit from the space created.
In terms of the outright result this contest is a hard one to call. Arsenal are the better team but they are both away from home and missing key personnel. Stoke on the otherhand will have to play an exceptional possession game on their behalf to exert suitable pressure on the visitors. Arsenal’s second most prolific goalscorer in this afternoon’s starting eleven is Vermaelen. It is very likely that he’ll have an opportunity to score and seeing as he converts 18 % of his efforts, 6-1 in the anytime goalscorer market is a fair proposition if he only sees one goalscoring opportunity throughout the whole game.
Recommended bet : Back Vermaelen to score anytime.