Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Friday October 31 2008
A devastated Arsenal travels north to Stoke City for this weekends Barclay's Premier League match. After what can only be described as a humiliating and disgraceful meltdown in the last two minutes midweek versus Tottenham Hotspur, the squad must pick up the pieces and put them back together quickly, because any dropped points against Stoke will spell even more trouble for Arsenal's rapidly diminishing title hopes for this season.
Wenger talked about the squad's reaction to the result against Spurs. "We were all very disappointed," he told Arsenal.com. "The mood in the dressing room was of disbelief and frustration. But the players are united, passionate and want to win.
"They are in this together, they want to be winners together. We have a long way to go and we are all determined to show that we can fight for this title together. We know the truth on the inside and that is not what has been projected on the outside. We know what we have to do."
Captain William Gallas also spoke about the result midweek. "We know we should have taken all three points on Wednesday night but it did not happen," he said. "I know it doesn't feel like it but we got a draw. It was the minimum we deserved.
"But we cannot dwell on one game. We have to stay focussed on what is ahead of us and not what is behind. We are a tight- knit unit working together with belief and desire to challenge for trophies. We can do it.
"That starts tomorrow at Stoke. Unfortunately a scan has revealed that I have pulled my hamstring so sadly I won't be involved but the boys are determined to come back with three points.'
Tony Pulis will be looking to add to Arsenal's misery. 'Arsenal are fantastic at keeping the ball and there are going to be times in the game when we will just have to stay organised and tight.
'But we've created chances in every game we've played and when we've got the ball, we will be playing to our strengths.
'Everybody seems to be focusing on Rory Delap's throw-ins, but we've also played a lot of good football and created a lot of opportunities from open play.'
Stoke will most likely start with the same eleven that won 1-0 on Wednesday against Sunderland. Liam Lawrence will be out even longer for Pulis, as he had surgery on a torn ankle ligament and will be gone for another month.
With Stoke's record signing Dave Kitson likely to start on the bench again, I will go with the obvious pick for man to watch for Stoke City. Delap's throw-ins will possibly cause Arsenal's defense many problems, as set pieces and long balls have been a dilemma for a while now.
There might be a few changes in the lineup for Arsenal on Saturday, but this will be down to Arsene continuing his rotation policy during this busy time. Wenger hinted he may rotate but with points being worth gold right now I'm not sure he will. Though, both Eboue and skipper William Gallas will not be involved because of injuries to their knee and hamstring respectively.
Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Clichy, Walcott, Denilson, Fabregas, Nasri, van Persie, Adebayor
To be blunt, the defense in the past few weeks, and even the entire beginning of the season, has been nothing short of shambolic. Gallas is removed from action because of an injury, and Kolo Toure will step in to try and sure up this defense. To have any chance in rising back up to the top of the table, we must fix our defensive frailties.
The always controversial Rob Styles will be the head official for this game. This season he has botched two penalty calls already, and how he still manages top flight games is beyond me. He has refereed 6 Premier League games this season, handing out 21 yellow cards and 2 reds. That's 3.83 cards per game.
I don't think I can give accurate predictions anymore. I have no idea what Arsenal team will show up for any particular game, and even if they do show up, will they be able to keep up the concentration for an entire game? I'll go with 2-1 to the Arsenal
5/11-- Fenerbache(H)-- Champions League
8/11-- Manchester United(H)-- Premier League
11/11-- Wigan(H)-- Carling Cup
Date:Friday October 31 2008
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