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Premier League preview: Arsenal v Stoke City

Arsenal will be looking to bounce back from their 2-2 draw with Liverpool as they host Stoke City on Saturday.

The Gunners found themselves 2-0 down against the Merseysiders before goals to Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott secured them a point against Brendan Rodgers side.

A trip to Stoke represents a tough match however, with Tony Pulis’ men having lost six times in the league – the same as Arsenal – and is sitting in a respectable 10th position.

However, Stoke haven’t won any of their past five league games and have conceded 15 goals through that period with the last league clash a 2-2 draw at home against Wigan.

After a four-match winning streak culminating in the 7-3 thrashing of Newcastle, Arsenal have only won one of their past five matches and have slipped to sixth position – a huge 19 points behind league leaders Manchester United.

The last meeting between the two sides came on the second weekend of the season as they fought out a goalless draw at the Britannia in which the Gunners dominated but could not secure the three points.

Stoke top-scorer last season, Peter Crouch (10), again leads the way with five goals and Pulis will be hoping that the beanpole striker can trouble Arsenal from set-pieces, an area that has been described as a Gunners’ weakness.

Arsenal have gone behind first in their last five games and Arsene Wenger will be keen that his back four, likely to be missing the injured Kieran Gibbs, is on their toes early in the contest.

Forward Theo Walcott has enjoyed his best ever season with 11 goals surpassing his next best tally of nine with 14 matches still to play and Wenger will be banking on not only the Englishman’s goal-scoring prowess, but his ability to create chances as well.

Andre Santos came off the bench to replace the injured Gibbs in the first-half against Liverpool and could be expected to deputise in that role while Mikael Arteta (calf) and Gervinho (Africa Cup of Nations) will be unavailable for selection.

Stoke have a full quota of senior players to select from and there could be an opportunity for Cameron Jerome or Kenwyne Jones up front in place of Jonathan Walters, who hasn’t scored since a brace against Liverpool on Boxing Day.

Since Stoke returned to the Premier League in 2008, Arsenal have won five of the 10 clashes between the teams but have only triumphed in one of the last four contests.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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