Arsenal face the tough task of an away trip to Stoke on Saturday evening but manager Arsene Wenger insists that the Potters aren’t a bogey team for the Gunners.
Having completed back-to-back victories over Mark Hughes’ side last season, Arsenal’s annual curse of struggling against Stoke has appeared to have come to an end.
“I don’t believe in bogey teams too much. What is important is the performance on the day,” We had a good performance last season and we have to focus on that, just to deal with the same performance.
“Stoke have a good record at home against many teams and I’m convinced that if we play our game, we have a good chance of winning.”
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Wenger’s side won their opening game of the season against Leicester City following a late winner from Olivier Giroud and will be hoping that their defence is better prepared for a physical battle at the bet365 Stadium this weekend.
Alexis Sanchez will not be fit for Saturday’s match against Stoke but is expected to return for the game against Liverpool.
“For Alexis it looks a bit early, but he works hard in training,” said Wenger. “Our medical people think Saturday comes too soon but he should be available for the next game against Liverpool.”
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Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi and Francis Coquelin return to the squad while long-term absentee Santi Cazorla is still several weeks away from returning to first team action.
Wantaway striker Lucas Perez is unlikely to be involved after handing in a formal transfer request as he seeks a departure from north London.
Laurent Koscielny serves the final match of his supension after receiving a red card against Everton towards the end of last season.
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Mertesacker’s return to the Arsenal squad along with his compatriot Mustafi means that the duo could line up together on Saturday.
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Rob Holding put in a nervy display against Leicester City in the opening game of the season and Wenger may be tempted to field a more experienced centre back pairing against a physical Stoke side.
In central midfield, Aaron Ramsey looks likely to return alongside Granit Xhaka while upfront the match-winning Olivier Giroud is an option to lead the line with versatile Alexandre Lacazette able to play on the left hand side.
Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac are expected to continue in their respective wing back roles.
STOKE CITY TEAM NEWS
Stoke announced the signing of former Real Madrid starlet Jese Rodriguez on Wednesday and the 24-year-old could play after joining on a season-long loan from PSG.
USA international Geoff Cameron has urged the Potters to ‘get in Arsenal’s faces’ on Saturday after back-to-back defeats in the league last season.
“Last season was disappointing against Arsenal and we can all say we didn’t play well,” said Cameron.
“But if we go out with the attitude we showed at Everton – running, chasing down balls, getting in their faces – it will be tough for them.
“As you can see in their first game, Leicester made it very difficult for them and I’m sure they’re kicking themselves because they deserved more. We can look at that and go forward.”
Hughes fielded three at the back against Everton on Saturday but could promote Bruno Martins Indi to the team in place of Cameron.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Stoke have lost just once in their last seven home games against the Gunners [W3 D3 L1], although it came last time out in May, losing 1-4.
Arsenal have won four of their last five Premier League games against Stoke, drawing the other.
Arsenal will be looking to win their opening two games to a Premier League season for the first time since 2009-10.
Alexandre Lacazette could become the first Arsenal player to score in both of his opening two Premier League appearances for the club, should he net in this fixture.
Mark Hughes has lost more Premier League matches against Arsene Wenger  than he has versus any other manager in the competition.
Source: Chris Wheatley| Sporting News