It is match day again and anything short of a win will make the race for third spot even more intriguing. The match is at the Britannia and this makes the task slightly more difficult but not extremely different from the other teams that we have to face this season. We know their style of play and the tactics which they will use to gain an advantage over us. Yet, the outcome of the match will have a stronger significance for us than them.
Bolton are 17th and if they win all their remaining matches, they could go ahead Stoke, that is if Stoke lose all their remaining games. But Stoke are in 14th place, it will take a combination of incredibly positive results from the teams below for Tony Pulis’ side to get relegated. Although, some of them may be playing each other and thus rendering the possibility even lower.
As for now though, Stoke looks safe and plays like they are already on a holiday. However, I’m certain that they will be fired up for this game. The relations between both clubs have not been good since one of our own was attacked on their ground. I’m sure we all remember what happened to Aaron Ramsey, they robbed one good year of football from the young player.
Abou Diaby was reportedly ill earlier in the week but will travel with the team. While it is good to see Francis Coquelin back in full training and I’d be surprised to see him involve in today’s match.
Yossi Benayoun returns to the fray after being forced to sit out the Chelsea game due to the loanee rule. With Theo Walcott out and Gervinho looking woefully out of form, it’s good to have the Israeli back. I see what he brings to the team, in terms of stability and responsibility. However, despite his aerial presence against Wigan, Benayoun haven’t showed as much creativity in the attack.
For that reason, I’m hoping to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting line-up despite being largely anonymous against Chelsea. Taking him out of the side won’t help him. In fact, I think it’s much better for him to get another 90minutes and see if he can improve on his previous performances. That’s what being a professional is all about. No one gets a 10/10 rating every game.
We know what to expect of Stoke today. They will be physical and will rely on set pieces. We have to stand up and be counted for. Any less desire and determination shown today and we will surely not get 3 points.
Last but not least, we also need Robin Van Persie back. One goal in 6 or 7 games is a far cry for the scintillating form he was in that earned him the two individual awards.
Published with permission from ArsenalHeart.