Writer: Tom Mckeon
Date:Sunday October 23 2011
The Emirates Stadium
23rd October 2011
Stoke travel to Arsenal today on the back of a terrific mid-week win over Maccabi Haifa.
A controversial dismissal of Stoke's Cameron Jerome did nothing to stop the Stoke juggernaut as the Potters cruised past Maccabi Haifa and edged closer to the knock-out stages of the Europa League.
Kenwyne Jones returned from injury at his unplayable best as a typical header from the Trinidadian and two well taken goals from Jerome and Shotton ensured the Potters had the game won before the half hour mark.
You'd think that would give the Potters confidence heading into today's game, but Stoke's away form has been shoddy throughout their time in the Premier League and this year there seems to be no let up.
It's not as though we can't win away from home, we've gone away in Europe and secured three fantastic results - it's just frustrating seeing how well we perform at home(easily top 6 material) to how we travel.
Pulis is desperate to banish Stoke's away day blues with a result at Arsenal today.
Is it his mindset which holds us back away from home, or is it that the players just don't perform? It's probably a bit of both, either way - Tone believes the issue is in the mind :
He told stokecityfc.com : 'We've looked at the Prozone statistics and it shows the lads did as much running at Sunderland and Swansea.
'It's a mental thing rather than a physical problem. Our running stats in those two matches were very, very good. But we didn't look as sharp mentally as maybe we could be, so that is something which we are looking at.
'But whether we played Thursday or had a rest since last Saturday, it doesn't alter the fact that we have a very tough task on our hands.'
Arsenal will be without a right back, so Matty Etherington should be licking his lips...
Sagna has been out for a while and with Jenkinson injured, there's every chance Djourou will be chose as the man to combat Etherington's threat.
Defensive linchpin Thomas Vermalean is still sidelined so Stoke should be encouraged as looking at Arsenal's back line, there's not much pace or defensive quality there, even Per Mertesacker lacks pace and considering Stoke's whole defence cost less than Lauren Koscielny - Wenger hasn't exactly showered himself in glory with his defensive signings.
Arsenal may have lost Nasri and Fabregas, two undoubted top class players, but they still have one fantastic footballer left - and with the form Robin Van Persie is in, we'll just have to hope and pray he has an off day.
There has been talk of him being rested, but I'm not sure even Arsene Wenger himself would do such a mad thing.
Jermaine Pennant has been a massive player for Stoke this season, but after being ruled out of the European game in midweek, it'll be 50/50 whether he'll be handed a start today or not.
Kenwyne Jones tormented Maccabi in midweek, and I'd probably expect him to keep his place in the starting line-up.
Meanwhile, Asmir Begovic is set to return in goal.
Huth, Jerome, Shotton & Whitehead, who all started on Thursday, will probably have to settle for a place on the bench.
I really hope he starts, as he was pretty unplayable on Thursday night, we all know Arsenal's weakness and Jones could really give the Gunners plenty to worry about today.
Glen Whelan is expected to return to the starting line up, and away from home our main problem has always been keeping the ball, so our success will probably come down to how well Whelan keeps it for us and links up with Etherington and (hopefully)Pennant.
CONFIRMED STARTING LINE-UPS
ARSENAL: Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos; Ramsey, Arteta, Song (C); Walcott, Chamakh, Gervinho. Subs: Fabianski, Frimpong, Benayoun, Rosicky, Arshavin, Park, Van Persie.
STOKE: Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross (C), Upson, Wilson; Whitehead, Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Walters, Crouch. Subs: Sorensen, Huth, Shotton, Diao, Palacios, Jerome, Jones.
So Van Persie starts on the bench, and interestingly, Jones loses his place for Stoke.
Arsenal 1-1 Stoke OK, I know Arsenal are at home and everyone will be expecting them to thump us, but I've got a weird feeling about this one.
Liverpool roll into town on Wednesday night, in a Carling cup fixture.
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Date:Sunday October 23 2011
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Wilkinson handed contract until end of the year (Thursday July 30 2015)
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