Category Archives: Arsenal

The Art Of Finishing – A Look At Alexandre Lacazette’s Meteoric Rise

Alexandre Lacazette
Alexandre Lacazette

The Art Of Finishing – A Look At Alexandre Lacazette’s Meteoric Rise

Over the years, Arsenal have been starved of a strong finisher up front. It is certainly not easy to find a forward who is strong at finishing. Take a look at Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, for example. He is excelling on all fronts for the Reds but he has struggled majorly when it comes to connecting the dots seamlessly. It is one thing to shoot on target but it is an entirely different thing to be able to score while running and when under pressure. These are two qualities Arsenal’s summer acquisition Alexandre Lacazette seems to possess in abundance.

The Frenchman was a part of Lyon’s academy and he rose through the ranks rapidly to establish himself as a mainstay for the French side. He spent about 8 years with the club, during the course of which he blossomed into one of the best players in Ligue 1. His magnificent displays attracted attention from foreign clubs and Arsenal were interested in him for around 2 summers, following which he finally joined them earlier this year. The move to join the Gunners was undoubtedly a big one for the player and it seemed like his years of hard work were starting to pay off.

He arrived at Arsenal with sky-high expectations from a set of fans desperate to see some quality new faces at their club. Manager Arsene Wenger has been subjected to a lot of criticism for his lack of activity in most transfer windows but he truly made some promising signings over the summer. One was Sead Kolasinac, who arrived on a free transfer. The other was the spectacular Lacazette, who was signed for a club record fee. Initially, there were doubts, since the fans were cautious about how quickly he would be able to settle into the demands and rigours of the Premier League.

However, from the first time he set foot on the ground in an Arsenal jersey, Lacazette displayed glimpses of the quality which prompted Wenger to target him for about two seasons and then ultimately sign him. He went on to score in his first 3 Premier League games at home for the Gunners and displayed ruthless predatory instincts – and that was something Arsenal fans were dying to see. Lacazette’s movement and influence in the final third is perhaps the most splendid quality about him.

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League

Over the last couple of seasons, a lot of strikers came and went for Arsenal but none of them managed to create as much of an impact as Lacazette already has. They struggled in all the areas that the Frenchman is excelling in. A look at his stats only further strengthens the fact that he has been a force to be reckoned with at Arsenal, with his sublime finishing and work-rate in the final third.

In 15 appearances in the league, Lacazette has already scored 8 goals and provided 1 assist. He has managed to do all this even though there have been times when he has been restricted to the bench during important games. Quite unsurprisingly, the Gunners have struggled in those matches where Wenger chose to set him aside.

In the last few matches (exceptions do exist), Arsenal have displayed a vintage style of attacking football that has truly impressed their fans. There’s still a lot of debate as to whether or not Wenger should quit as the manager but as far as the attacking trio of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Lacazette is concerned, the fans hardly have any reason to complain.

Sanchez brings about an innate sense of trickery and pace while Ozil makes things work with his creative advances. Lacazette – the darling of Arsenal fans, uses his enviable finishing skills to slot the ball into the net. Regardless of whether or not Sanchez and Ozil continue with Arsenal beyond this season, there is no denying that the presence of Lacazette has amplified their performances as well.

A look at Lacazette’s many YouTube video compilations is enough to deduce that he does not lack variety when it comes to scoring goals. For example, he can do a simple tap-in, a sublime side-foot finish and even strike from a distance. A naturally right-footed player, Lacazette is also quite adept at cutting in to take advantage of whatever the situation has to offer. An out-and-out poacher, the Frenchman has taken up a role up front for the Gunners that very few have been able to do before him.

sanchez-lacazette-arsenal

That said, when the transfer rumours were swirling around, there were concerns regarding his physique. It is quite evident that the likes of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck offer greater physicality. Although that was a potential area of concern, the fact remains that the Gunners rarely ever use mere physical strength in terms of scoring goals. Lacazette’s movement is calculated and economical. He prefers to make tiny and subtle movements to get through tight spaces unscathed and that has worked in Wenger’s favour so far.

The manager brought him in to score goals and Lacazette has delivered so far. There is the age-old pearl of wisdom which suggests that good defences win the title but truth be told, the Premier League has been won more times by teams with a blistering attack with a goal-scoring machine leading the line.

Take a look at Manchester City, for example. Nobody has even spoken about their defence since everybody is so hypnotised by their electrifying attack. To put things in perspective for Arsenal, they have not come close to being the league’s top goalscorers since 2004-05. That does paint a worrisome statistic but with Lacazette up front, they do have the potential to restore their reputation as deadly attackers.

All this while, Arsenal had Giroud and Welbeck but neither of the two was strong enough to be the striker up front. Giroud can finish well but he is slow during counters whereas Welbeck can run but he is weak at finishing. In that sense, Lacazette seems to be the ideal amalgamation of the duo and there is no limiting as to how far he can go if he continues this way for the Gunners.

Meet the Runners and Riders in the race to replace Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

It’s coming to the time of the season when Arsene Wenger must make the decision on his contract renewal. At any other club, the Frenchman’s future would be out of his hands but this is Arsenal and this is Wenger.

The board of directors – and more importantly, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – are content with the annual top four finish and financial conservatism that the Frenchman brings. With the umbrella of attractive football protecting him, the majority of supporters are content, or not so unhappy that they want change.

There is an air of ambivalence at times around the Emirates which is the opposite of the febrile atmosphere of the club’s fanbase on social media.

Change is inevitable though. There’s only so long that the Wenger era can continue and the club is faced with the prospect of a seismic change in its operation.

Manchester United made the mistake of appointing David Moyes, a ‘Sir Alex Ferguson lite’ if ever there was one when their legendary manager finally called it a day. Arsenal would do well to heed those lessons.

It seems they are unlikely to. The financial plan which underpins the club isn’t going to change. Kroenke isn’t going to invest directly in the club and he’s unlikely to sell. Increasing the value of his shareholding is pivotal to his vision of Arsenal and at times, that is a direct contradiction of the supporters’ desire for Premier League and Champions League success.

If Wenger decides to end his tenure at the Emirates, who will replace him? We look at the main candidates.

The rank outsider: Steve Bould

The only internal candidate, Bould is as close to an Arsenal man as there is on the coaching staff. A title winner as a player under George Graham and Arsene Wenger, Bould sits patiently on the touchline, conducting his work on the training ground.

He is seen by some as a throwback and without any managerial experience, there is a huge risk involved in his appointment. Is that overcome by his apprenticeship under Wenger?

There is certainly a continuity element in appointing him and few can argue that he knows the club inside out. But is that enough to motivate the calibre of player that Arsenal need to attract and retain if they are to win the Premier League or in Europe?

The reality is no. Bould is the outsider in this race. Not entirely ruled out but his appointment would be the equivalent of Leicester City winning the Premier League title!

The Klopp effect: Thomas Tuchel

Managing Dortmund brings a romantic touch with it. Jürgen Klopp, for so long the favoured successor in the fanbase, has blotted his copybook by joining Liverpool but his successor, Thomas Tuchel, is rated as highly.

Working within budgetary constraints at Mainz is a sound footing for Arsenal, while his time at Dortmund underlines his adherence to the footballing principles Wenger has instilled at Arsenal.

Astute moves in the transfer market are part of the collaborative approach at Dortmund and overhauling Arsenal in that direction works with the likes of Tuchel, who see it as the ‘norm’ rather than an alien concept.

Runners-up last year and fourth again this, he understands the financial and supporter demands of Champions League football. Major minus is the lack of silverware but he’s a popular choice.

The media’s choice: Eddie Howe

The Bournemouth boss’ CV is based on the relative success of keeping Bournemouth and their style of play. Popular with the media because of his willingness to talk football and being English, Howe has no big club experience.

This, as well as never managing or playing in European football, undermines him at this stage of his career. Perhaps he could be an Arsenal boss in the future, if he hasn’t ruined his reputation by taking on the England job!

Europe’s bright young thing: Unai Emery

The Spaniard’s star is on the wane. PSG routinely ran away with the French title but are struggling in the post-Zlatan era. It underlines how much of an influence he was on PSG and how much they relied on his goals.

However, three Europa League triumphs with Sevilla and taking perpetual crisis-riven club Valencia into the Champions League, were phenomenal achievements. More importantly, his sides played with a high-tempo which suits English football.

Anyone who can get Valencia into the top four with their lack of funds and work with Sevilla in their business model, can work at Arsenal. Perhaps he could bring Monchi, the Andalusian club’s feted director of football, with him?

The man to keep Alexis at Arsenal: Jorge Sampaoli

Copa America winner, Sevilla in second place in La Liga, Sampaoli could keep Alexis at Arsenal through their past association.

A renowned tactician, the Argentine is a keen student of the game and is noted for probing the weakness of opponents. This is a regular complaint about Wenger, whose sides are, it’s claimed, routinely frustrated by well-organised opposition.

Recently crowned La Liga Manager of the Month in only his second month in the job, Sampaoli won three titles in Chile and the Copa Sudamericana so has silverware to bolster his reputation but his unfancied adopted country to the final and winning ranks as one of the best achievements of his career.

The one everyone wants to appoint: Diego Simeone

Maniacal on the touchline, a bundle of energy, the Argentine is the popular choice.

Many see the parallels between Arsenal and Atletico as a reason to hire Simeone. Taking Atleti to two Champions League finals underlines his credentials, as well as a solid defensive unit which underpins their regular top four finishes. A return to the days of “one-nil to the Arsenal” won’t be far away.

He’s won the Europa League and European Super Cup, as well as the Copa del Rey and of course, La Liga.

The fly in the ointment? Both Simeone and his son Giovanni, a pro at Genoa, have made recent noises that his next move would be to Serie A. Which is handy because it looks like the Juventus job is going to be available at the end of the season…

The more successful successor: Max Allegri

Can the English-speaking Allegri be the next Arsenal manager?

Speculation at the weekend says it’s very likely he will leave the perennial Italian champions at the end of the season. Looking around, Arsenal are the only club of a similar stature which offers a reasonable prospect of success.

His credentials are impeccable: the Scudetto with Milan and two with Juventus, top three finishes in each of his full seasons in the San Siro, as well as two Coppa Italia and Supercoppa wins.

He routinely takes his sides to the Round of Sixteen and beyond in the Champions League and has a CV which would impress Alexis and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s current contract rebels.

Would appease both the pro- and anti- Wenger camps.

Coming in from the left field: Luis Enrique

He’s won everything there is as a manager at home and abroad, but finishing outside of the top two in Spain’s two-horse race might be a signal that his time at the Camp Nou is up.

There’s been plenty of media speculation that he will be on his way following a harder than expected run during their double-winning 2015/16. In the Catalan capital, a failure to retain the Champions League cut deeper as bitter rivals Real Madrid claimed the prize.

At its’ heart, Enrique’s brand of football isn’t much different from Wenger’s which will keep the Arsenal faithful happy. If he can work through the political mire at Barcelona, keeping a split fanbase in check is child’s play.

 

Arsène Wenger: Help or Hindrance

Arsene Wenger

As the final whistle beckoned at the Etihad on Sunday, Arsène Wenger cut a disconsolate figure as he berated goalkeeper Petr Cech for taking a short free-kick as Arsenal desperately sought an equaliser from a match they should never have lost.

Arsenal are in freefall, back-to-back defeats in the Premier League with just three wins in the last seven. Second place and on Chelsea’s heels, the Gunners are now fourth and in Tottenham’s sights.

Wenger’s own fate is intertwined with that of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, with the Frenchman apparently unwilling to sign the new contract on offer from the club until the ‘star’ players have done the same.

The question Arsenal must answer is whether arguably the most successful manager in the club’s history has reached the end of his shelf life?

Sunday’s performance suggested that the club must be close to calling time on his career.

Arsenal went into the game unbeaten at the Etihad since they crashed 3 – 6 in 2013. Indeed, before the weekend, that was their last defeat against Manchester City in competitive or friendly fixtures. The Gunners were in form against their nouveau riche rivals and confident of continuing their string of good results.

In the Premier League – home or away – the Wenger template against City has been the antithesis of his football philosophy. Possession was ceded willingly and the Citizens were sucker-punched at every opportunity. It’s the footballing equivalent of rope-a-dope and City couldn’t cope with it.

Arsenal Go Route One

On Sunday, Wenger varied it slightly. This time there was no Olivier Giroud to play as a target man and to hold the ball up while support arrived. Arsenal’s success this season has been based around Alexis Sanchez as a central striker, linking with the midfield and his attacking colleagues.

A short passing game for which the north London club are renowned throughout the footballing world. Sanchez exploits defensive uncertainty by dropping deep to pick up the ball and turn provider.

That template provided Theo Walcott with Sunday’s opening goal, latching onto Alexis’ pass to calmly side foot his shot past the advancing Claudio Bravo. As the half wore on, Arsenal picked off City at will with Pep Guardiola exasperated by his side’s inability to get even the basics right.

Inexplicably though, Arsenal turned to the long-ball game. Sanchez became an increasingly peripheral figure in the game while Mesut Özil and Alex Iwobi received criticism for their performances; they were never involved enough to give the Gunners attacking intent.

A major problem became quickly evident. Petr Cech, at one point Arsenal’s leading pass maker, found his distribution lacking. Kicks were wayward, throws gained too much air. The once imperious goalkeeper looked like a man betrayed by age.

Or a lack of understanding as to what was required of him.

With the array of attacking talent and City’s vulnerability, this was a stunning volte face. For a manager who regularly berates opponents for not playing football, the Frenchman’s choice of tactics beggared belief. So did the team selection; Wenger got it hopelessly wrong up front.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain apparently had a muscular injury which prevented him playing from the start but it seems a weak excuse when the England international came on as a late substitute for Alex Iwobi. If there was a genuine injury, Sanchez on the left and Giroud centrally suited the tactics better.

It’s not the first time that Wenger’s decision-making has been called into question.

It’s In Me Head, Son

 Technically gifted, Arsenal are tasked with playing football the ‘right way’ by their manager. Increasingly however, Wenger’s beliefs are being routinely exposed. His record against Mauricio Pochettino is one of draws. A man who has seen off a dozen Tottenham managers is struggling against the latest incumbent.

His tribulations against Mourinho’s sides are well-documented and Sunday was another away defeat against a Guardiola side. The Frenchman has never won an away game against the Spaniard.

Add to that list Jürgen Klopp and now Ronald Koeman. Younger managers are routinely outwitting the old master and there’s no sadder sight in football than a great manager continuing in a role for a season or two too long.

His habitual failure in Europe is a millstone Wenger wears around his neck and there is a feeling that having missed the boat last season, the Premier League is going the same way.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Last season’s valedictory title never arrived and there’s a genuine feeling that Wenger won’t emulate Sir Alex Ferguson in departing the scene a champion. In a perverse way that would be in keeping with their relationship; Wenger never quite able to match the Scot’s record.

The danger for Arsenal is that Wenger will sign another contract with them. Whilst Stan Kroenke, the club’s absentee majority shareholder, will be happy to pay a manager who routinely increases the value of his investment, the likelihood is that the club would be forced by supporter dissent into sacking a manager that the board revere.

 

Five Reasons Why Arsenal Will Not Win The EPL This Season

Arsenal

What a difference a week has made in the Premier League for Arsene Wenger’s team. They have lost two games in a week against Everton along with Manchester City and now trail leaders Chelsea by nine points. At the start of the week, the top bookmakers at had the Gunner as one of the favorites to win the EPL this campaign. After suffering from two losses on the bounce, they are now an outsider and are even in danger of not qualifying for the Champions League with fifth-placed Spurs only a single point behind them.

The Gunners fans will be bitterly disappointed after their team took the lead in both matches only to crumble both times in the second half. The losses have greatly affected their chances of winning the league and if they can not recover quickly they will be in grave danger of being overtaken by both Spurs and Manchester United. This is not something new for Arsenal fans as time and time again their team blow their chances of winning the league after getting into a great place. It is one of the main reason they will not win the EPL again this season.

Player Mentality

Arsene Wenger will regret his commons of his team’s resilience and character after finally beating Stoke City who in recent seasons they have struggled badly against. Some Gunners fans even thought that their curse of bottling it had gone away after the result but the last two results have burst that bubble. Since that result, they have thrown away a possible 6 points after taking a 1 – 0 lead in both matches. Instead of challenging at the top they are now in a battle to stay in the top four to qualify for next seasons champions league.

Games Against The Other EPL Contenders

The Gunners have one of the best records against the bottom half of the teams but against the league’s big boys they do badly. So far this season they have won 3, drawn 2 and lost 3 which has greatly affected their chances of winning the title. It has been a common theme over the last decade and it is why they will not win the title against this campaign.

Player Physicality

Everyone in the EPL knows that to beat the Gunners they need to get physical and aggressive against them. More often than not Arsenal will crumble and over the years teams such as Stoke City have used this tactic with great success against them.

Injury Jinks

The Gunners seem to always have top players out due to injury and many have questions the manager’s training methods. Wenger’s team though play a lot of games throughout the season and he puts it down to player fatigue as the reason they suffer more than most. At present, they have eight players out and only Sunderland with nine players injured are above them in the league.

Defensive Weaknesses

Star Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is having his worst ever run of results without conceding a goal and is now on a run of eight matches. Over his remarkable career in the EPL, he has been one of the league’s most consistent goalkeepers which just goes to show how weak the Gunners defensive line is.

Are Arsenal Bottling It Once Again In The Title Race After The 2 – 1 Loss To Manchester City?

Arsene Wenger

Any Gunners fan will tell you that every time that Wenger’s team puts themselves in a dominant position in the EPL, their team bottles it. Arsenal had the chance at the weekend to stake their claims as genuine title contenders on Sunday and after starting well, they blew it. Instead of finishing the weekend in second place the team is now just a single point in front of North London rivals Spurs in fifth place. Their odds at most of the top bookmakers have lengthened to win the EPL after losing to Man City. If you still fancy backing them you can find the best promotions at and compare footy promo offers.

Arsenal started off the match extremely well and to begin with, it looked like Pep Guardiola would be the one with egg on his face after the weekend. Theo Walcott ripped apart the Man City defense with ease after only five minutes of play. It is not the first time that the Blues have had major problems at the back and is something that the new manager will be working on hard in training to resolve it. If they do not tighten up their defenses they will struggle to win the EPL this campaign and may even miss out on a top-four finish due to the league being so tight this season.

What will annoy Gunners fans most after the defeat is the fact that Walcott’s goal after five minutes was their teams last shot on goal. To not have a single goal attempt on target for 85 minutes plus stoppages is extremely embarrassing and in the second half they were completely dominated by the Blues.

City made the breakthrough in the 47 minute through Leroy Sané. It was his first goal for the club and it was scored at the perfect time as it gave his team the confidence to push further forward and dominate the whole of the second half. It was Raheem Sterling who won the games for the Blues in the 71st minute with a nice finish inside the goals near post. The win helps City to move up to second in the EPL and it ended a run of not winning games after going behind at half-time which stretches back to 2012.

One of the key tactical changes that altered the game’s outcome dramatically was Guardiola change the positions of Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne. For the second half, the new manager put Sterling through the middle and De Bruyne out wide. If he had not made the changes than Sterling would not have been able to cut inside to his favored foot to score the goal.

It was the second time in a week that the Gunners have gone in front only to end up losing the game which has greatly dented their title chances. Instead of being hot on the tales of leaders Chelsea they are now a single point above Tottenham in fifth. In the second half of matches, Arsenal has bottled it and not come out aggressive along with dominate they have gone into their shells. It is something that has been repeatedly happening and unless Wenger can change the team’s mentalities, he may well be out of a job at the end of the season.

 

 

 

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka – The Undroppable?

Granit Xhaka

As much as Arsenal’s crushing victory in St Jakob Park this week was a squad effort, it was a personal triumph for former FC Basel player, Granit Xhaka. Returning to a former stomping ground and winning emphatically is always welcomed by players but for Xhaka there was the added spice of beating his brother.

And the performance was the latest which underlined his importance to the Arsenal XI.

Signed in the summer for £35m from Borussia Monchengladbach, it’s been a regular source of bemusement to many Arsenal supporters that the Swiss international has not been a regular member of the starting line-up.

Arsène Wenger recently suggested that Xhaka had yet to fully adapt to the English game. With sporadic outings, that was hardly surprising. Xhaka was introduced as a substitute for fellow former Basel player Mohammed Elneny during the opening day defeat to Liverpool.

His first start came in the draw at defending champions Leicester City six days later. Retaining his place against Watford and starring during the 3 – 1 win, it was assumed that the Albanian-born midfielder had carved his niche in the Arsenal side.

The assumption was wrong. Wenger rotated him in and out of the side for Premier League, Champions League and EFL Cup matches. The frequent chopping changes to the midfield and not playing with the same partner week in, week out, impacted on Xhaka’s form.

Moments of brilliance – goals at Hull City, Nottingham Forest and Ludogorets Razgrad – were interspersed with some average performances. The sizeable fee seemed to be weighing heavily on his shoulders; frequent substitutions on or around the hour mark became a regular feature of his season.

The tipping point came in the home match against Swansea City. Xhaka was visibly struggling with the pace of the game and with Arsenal just holding onto their lead, the Swiss international found himself exposed close to the halfway line.

Modou Barrow, on the verge of a dangerous counter-attack, was halted with a professional foul. Controversially, Xhaka received a red card; former referee Mark Halsey criticised the decision and whilst Wenger publicly defended the midfielder, his patience appeared to be wearing thin.

Having appeared in the north London derby, Xhaka found himself relegated to the bench for the vital Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

Wenger did Xhaka a favour. Arsenal’s approach that day was conservative; they were ponderous in possession and despite his errant behaviour, Xhaka moves the ball quickly, turning defence into attack with a fine range of passing. In Santi Cazorla’s absence, that variety has been sorely missed.

The French coach was using every possible combination available to him. Francis Coquelin partnered Xhaka, Elneny and Aaron Ramsey. The former Basel pair found themselves on the pitch together whilst Ramsey continued to be Wenger’s square peg forced into a round hole.

However, it began coming together for Xhaka and against Bournemouth, West Ham United and FC Basel, he was imperious. Arsenal struggled to assert their authority against the Cherries at the Emirates but still won 3 – 1; the other two games, both away from home, saw them swat aside their opponents.

Neither Basel nor West Ham could contain the crisp counter-attacks with Xhaka at the heart of everything; recycling possession quick and efficiently earned him rave reviews from the Gunners faithful.

It’s no coincidence that Xhaka hasn’t earned himself a yellow card since the final minute at Old Trafford. Not walking a disciplinary tightrope has freed his mind from caution while Wenger’s decision to pair his protégé with Francis Coquelin has provided a platform for Xhaka to express himself.

The French player is one of the Premier League’s more combative defensive midfielders but a highly efficient one. It relieves Xhaka of the need to sit in front of the back four and rein in his instincts. He and Coquelin have picked their moments to alternate in pushing forward to support the Arsenal attack.

It’s no coincidence the pair forming a fulcrum has seen Arsenal’s performances improve. There is a confidence in the forward line. Safe in the knowledge that opposition counter-attacks are being monitored, they are more expressive now and the goals are flying in.

Crucially, Xhaka is playing with a smile on his face. He seems more settled on the pitch and missing three matches through suspension was a shock, even for a midfielder used to frequenting the committee rooms of the DFB’s disciplinary department.

Arsenal supporters are quick to recognise his growing importance. With Aaron Ramsey sitting in the deeper, the Welshman finds himself and fans frustrated by his inability to spark attacks.

There’s a simple reason why: it isn’t using Ramsey in the best position for his game. His successful Euro 2016 came as he was played further forward but that won’t happen at Arsenal.

It seems the only time Wenger has a dilemma is when Santi Cazorla returns from injury. When that happens, he has some serious thinking to do. The Spaniard is in the final year of his contract and missed a large swathe of last season with injury.

This time, if Wenger finds himself looking to shuffle the pack for a sustained period, he has some confidence that Xhaka is maturing quickly into a pivotal midfielder.

Sanchez Is A Lot Like Eden Hazard – Blues Fan Favourite Comments On Arsenal And Chelsea Stars

hazard

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has drawn similar comparisons between Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Blues forward Eden Hazard.

Hazard has regained his scintillating form this term which helped Chelsea to the League title two seasons ago and with eight goals already this season the 25 year old is looking as dangerous as ever for the Blues. The Belgian scored a superb counter attacking goal against Manchester City to wrap up the points at the Etihad with a 3-1 win over their title rivals.

Alexis Sanchez on the other hand has been equally impressive for the Gunners in the front-line; their attack now has a speedy smooth flow about them when the Chilean is in the squad. With 11 goals this season including a hat-trick last weekend over West Ham the 27 year old is really pushing for success in terms of titles at Arsenal.

Despite being used as a striker this season, ex-Chelsea striker Hasselbaink believes Sanchez is a better player when used as a winger like Hazard.

‘Alexis Sanchez, for me, is not an out-and-out striker,’ Hasselbaink told Sky Sports (via Daily Express).

‘He is a little bit between. He can come from wide. He is more dangerous coming from wide. Sanchez and Hazard are quite similar’ Hasslebaink added.

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea are currently leading the Premier League with 37 points while Arsenal are close behind in second with 34 points. The Blues haven’t lost a Premier League game since a 3-0 defeat by the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium in September.

 

Arsenal vs Stoke City – Preview, Line-ups, Facts And Prediction

Arsenal

After a thrashing of FC Basel in the Champions League, the Gunners will turn their attention towards the Premier League, as a visit of an all confident Stoke side has been scheduled for the 15th week of the Premier League.

Lucas Perez struck his first ever Arsenal hat-trick against the Swiss side and the young Iwobi went on to add another strike to add more misery in Basel’s slump. The last time Stoke visited Emirates, they faced an utter humiliation, as the Gunners scored two goals past them.

Looking at the recent form – in all competition – it is Stoke who are coming out as a winner, as they have won four of their last six games and have lost once, drawn once. Arsenal, on the other hand, have won just 3 of their last six games and have lost once, drawn twice and  stand at 1.40 in favour of the Gunners.

The ninth placed Stoke side will be hoping to get the better result this time out as a win would take them above the sixth place Manchester United with 22 points, but Arsenal will be hoping to give the same thrashing of previous year, as a win is all Arsenal need to stay in the title race.

Arsenal vs Stoke City Team News:

Arsene Wenger provided a huge boost ahead of the clash, as he mentioned that the flashy right back, Hector Bellerin, might play the fixture, while Francis Coquelin, who missed the midweek’s game due to suspension, will also be available for selection.

Wenger said:

“From Tuesday night we have no injuries, I hope,” said Wenger.

“Everyone looked to have recovered well.

“Coming back into the squad we have Coquelin who was suspended, and maybe Bellerin who has a fitness test today.”

The sure absentees for the Gunner would be Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker, but the manager said that the duo is recovering well.

Furthermore, the manager also commented on the surgery of the veteran midfielder SantiCazorla.

“For me it’s to say any surgery is perfect, but you can say it was needed and it went well.

“After you have to see how he recovers. I’m positive he will recovery very quickly, but once you open your body at top level sport it means that it’s two months before you can play again.”

Predicted Line-Ups:

Arsenal starting lineup (4-2-3-1 formation): Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, MustafiBellerin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil; Coquelin, Walcott, Xhaka; Sanchez

Stoke City starting lineup (4-2-3-1 formation): Grant; Pieters, Muniesa, Johnson, Martins Indi; Arnautovic, Shaqiri; Adam.Diouf, Imbula; Walters

Arsenal vs Stoke City Stats:

  • Arsenal have won each of their last 14 home games in all competitions against Stoke City, keeping eight clean sheets in the process.
  • Stoke’s last away league win at Arsenal came in the first game of the 1981/82 season, with Lee Chapman scoring the only goal of the game.
  • Arsenal are now on a 13-game unbeaten run in the Premier League (W9 D4 L0); their longest such run in the competition since a run of 16 games that ended in April 2011.
  • Stoke City have lost only one of their last nine Premier League games (W5 D3 L1) and have won their last two matches in the competition without conceding a goal.
  • The Potters have lost all eight of their visits to the Emirates in the Premier League. Only at Old Trafford have they gone longer without a win since being promoted in 2008 (nine games, W0 D1 L8).
  • Alexis Sanchez scored twice and assisted another goal in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Stoke in January 2015.
  • Sanchez has had a hand in 25 goals in his last 25 Premier League appearances for Arsenal (18 goals, seven assists).
  • This is Sanchez’s joint-best goal return after 14 apps of a league season in Europe (11 goals), equalling his 11-goal tally for Barcelona in 2013-14. If he scores in this game, it would be his best goalscoring start to a European league season after 15 games.

Prediction:

Arsenal surely have an upper hand in the game as the stars like Sanchez, Chamberlain and Xhaka are in top form, but they cannot overlook the fact that the Potters do have a strong attacking team as well with Arnautovic and Shaqiri being the main pivot.

The Potters will surely be happy with a point, but Arsenal will face slump if they drops more point. A must win for the Gunners, and we personally think that they will be victorious.

2-0 Gunners