THE POTTERS will be well aware that the odds of recording their first League win of 2013 will be stacked against them when they make the trip to Arsenal on Saturday . . . but they will draw encouragement from the fortunes of other clubs’ trips to North London this year.
Swansea City, just two places above City in the Premier League table, came away with three well-deserved points from the Emirates at the beginning of December, while Liverpool were 2-0 up against the Gunners before being pegged back on Wednesday night.
The head-to-head story of City and Arsenal points towards a victory for the hosts, however – they have recorded a win in this fixture in the most recent ten games, with Stoke last emerging successful from this particular trip in August 1981.
Nevertheless, Tony Pulis’ side will be hoping the demons in Arsenal’s defence return and they can get February off to a positive start following a difficult first month of the calendar year.
Full name: Arsenal Football Club
Stadium: Emirates Stadium
Owner: Arsenal Holdings plc
Chairman: Peter Hill-Wood
Manager: Arsene Wenger
2011/12: Premier League (3rd), UEFA Champions League (Round of 16), FA Cup (Fifth Round), League Cup (Fifth Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £13m for Sylvain Wiltord to Bordeaux, August 2000.
Record transfer fee received: £25m for Marc Overmars from FC Barcelona, July 2000 and £25m for Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City, July 2009.
IN PROFILE – ARSENE WENGER
Arsene Wenger has faced many challenges during his time as Arsenal manager . . . and the latest of them is a familiar one as he endeavours to return the glory days to the Emirates Stadium in this his sixteenth year in charge of the club.
The Frenchman is facing up to life without star performers Robin van Persie and Alex Song following their summer departures, but he will no doubt stick to the ideology of promoting Europe’s best young talent within his squad.
Wenger certainly proved the doubters wrong last season when he guided them to third place in the Barclays Premier League after the toughest of starts to their campaign in which they not lost only lost influential pair Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, but also suffered major setbacks on the pitch, most notably an 8-2 defeat at Manchester United.
Arsenal’s seven year, much-publicised trophy drought won’t be any easier to break after the emergence of Manchester City in the past few seasons.
The north London club’s barren spell is a contrast to the success of his early years in charge when he landed three League titles, four FA Cups and four Community Shields.
Wenger’s credentials also include being the first Arsenal manager to take the club to a Champions League Final and guiding the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ unbeaten through an entire League season. He has also
gained respect for his ability to spot and cultivate potential stars from around the world, which will be vital if he is to turn current promise into future silverware.
Queens Park Rangers v Norwich City (12:45)
ARSENAL v STOKE CITY
Everton v Aston Villa
Newcastle United v Chelsea
Reading v Sunderland
West Ham United v Swansea City
Wigan Athletic v Southampton
Fulham v Manchester United (17:30)
West Bromwich Albion v Tottenham Hotspur (Sunday, 13:30)
Manchester City v Liverpool (Sunday, 16:00)
All games kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday unless otherwise stated.
HEAD TO HEAD
League: 22 Stoke City wins; 41 Arsenal wins; 20 draws
FA Cup: 1 Stoke City win; 7 Arsenal wins; 2 draws
League Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 2 Arsenal wins; 1 draw
TOTAL: 23 Stoke City wins; 50 Arsenal wins; 23 draws
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal (Premier League) – 26/08/2012
Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal (Premier League) – 28/04/2012
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City (Premier League) – 23/10/2011
Stoke City 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League) – 08/05/2011
Arsenal 1-0 Stoke City (Premier League) – 23/02/2011
ODDS WITH BET365
Stoke City win 13/2; Arsenal win 4/9; draw 10/3
REFEREE – CHRIS FOY
Merseyside referee Chris Foy has been a regular on the circuit this season… and Saturday’s match at the Emirates Stadium will be his second Stoke City game of the year.
His first came in the televised match at West Ham United back in November, when a Jonathan Walters strike was equalised by Joey O’Brien as both teams took a share of the spoils.
The Hammers were involved in his most recent job too – he oversaw their 3-1 defeat to Fulham on Wednesday night at Craven Cottage.
This will be his third visit to Arsenal this season, with him refereeing their 0-0 draw with Sunderland on the first day of the campaign and then their 7-3 thrashing of Newcastle United at the end of December.
He has awarded 41 yellow cards and one red so far in 2012/13.