The final fixture of today’s Premier League action takes us to The Bet365 Stadium as Stoke play host to Arsenal. Over the years this has been a tricky place to visit for many of the big clubs and Arsenal it must be said are no exception, this evening they will look to earn a vital win in a bid to strengthen their hopes of a top four finish.
For Mark Hughes’ Stoke side they have reached the point where is nothing really left to play for but pride. A top half finish is still an obtainable pursuit but they are going to find a win if they are to move up the table, especially as they started the weekend lying 13th in the table.
After successive 9th place finishes for Stoke if they were to finish in the lower reaches of mid table then it can only be viewed as a disappointment and perhaps something of a step back under Mark Hughes tutelage, whether that calls his own managerial status into question at the end of the season remains to be seen.
But so may well feel that he has taken the club as far as he can. If the former Wales boss is to stay on then Stoke will be well suited attempting some lengthy cup runs next season. They are a perennial mid-table side, of which there is nothing wrong about but they should at least try and give their fans something to shout about.
As seems to be the case with anyone out of the top seven teams it seems as cup runs are tossed aside with the sole focus being Premier League survival. Stoke may have started the season slowly, something they tend to do frequently but they have never really been threatened by the drop at any point during this campaign.
Last week they traveled to the Vitality Stadium and had to make do with a share of the points with Bournemouth, in fairness it was a game in which neither side had anything to play for and the result was a fair reflection of the game. That said it will be a different proposition with Today’s opponents Arsenal.
The Arsenal resurgence is in full swing with four wins from the last five matches, and successive wins since their abject display in the North London Derby. That means they are just three points off of Manchester City in third but more importantly will be eyeing up Liverpool who have played a game more and sit just four points clear.
This past week has put Arsenal back in the hunt for a Champions League place with back to back 2-0 wins. Firstly they beat a much changed Manchester United outfit at The Emirates, the task may have been made easier by Mourinho’s rotation but in fairness they still had to beat what was in front of them.
In addition to that they themselves have recently made a trip to the South Coast but in this instance it was Southampton that they faced and they bagged another all important three points at St Mary’s. The first half was nothing to write home about but The Gunners found the extra gears after the restart to earn a vital win.
Alexis Sanchez was on hand to score his first goal in four matches on Wednesday night while Oliver Giroud was also on the scoresheet. With Stoke offering more of a physical presence, Wenger may decide to start with Giroud leading the line this time around and Sanchez deployed out wide.
Stoke have failed to win any of their last three matches but at the same time the last two have been draws so they will not be a pushover but you do have to wonder if they are not on the beach already what with the hallowed fourty point marker already reached.
With that being the case I cannot see past an Arsenal win this evening, they once again seem to be in the midst of a late season run and it could once again be one that sees them sneak into fourth place at the end of the season. I reckon this is another routine win for The Gunners.