Arsenal v. Stoke: Match Preview

dude I totally spit on that hand before I shook yours with it

Stoke City v. Arsenal
The David Seaman Memorial Ponytail Trophy
Saturday, April 28, 3PM Stoke/10AM Rutland, VT/7AM Pahrump, NV
Britannia Stadium, Stanley Matthews Way, Stoke-on-Trent, England
Form: ARS LWWLD | STO DLWDL
Televisual Coverage: ESPN2/ESPN3
SBN's Stoke City Internet thing: here's a video of a cat on a treadmill.

Hey look! It's everyone's favorite team! Stoke City! This demands exclamation points! And a jump to get to the content!

Arsenal, as I'm sure you all know by now, are thisclose to locking up third place. A win against the Potters would be a huge step in the right direction and would keep Arsenal's place-destiny in their own hands. Is place-destiny a thing? I think it is, and Arsenal can control theirs so that's a good thing.

Arsenal come into this game with a relatively unchanged squad from last week's scintillating, pulse-pounding excitement against Chelsea, and with the good news of a healthy Frances Coquelin being available for selection should the need arise, Arsenal should field more or less the same side they did last week. It's getting to the point in the season where there really aren't that many lineup or formation surprises, which means the usual 4-2-3-1; Benayoun will probably get the start over the Ox, after sitting out against his Chelsea paymasters last week.

Stoke have Ryan Shawcross. Stoke also have this guy. And somehow we're supposed to take them seriously as a team. Whatever. Anyway, they're coming off of a loss to Newcastle, and they're somewhat of a bogey team for Arsenal - Stoke have won three of the last four games at home against Arsenal. According to the always informative Stoke City FC website, Stoke have scored 38% of their goals via headers, and Arsenal have conceded just five goals from headers. That has to mean something, right?

Even though Stoke play in a formation, they also tend to score a lot of goals from set pieces - everyone knows about Rory Delap and his long throws, but they also score a fair amount from corners. Their defending...well, if you are a Stoke fan you probably call it "stout" or "robust", but the rest of the world calls it a thinly veiled street gang. They're physical, which normally I have no problem with, but all too often that physicality is used instead of skill, and that's where I have a problem.

Stoke aren't a great team, but they also aren't a terrible one, and Arsenal will have to be on their guard and understand that even with nothing of substance to play for, Stoke will definitely come to play. Arsenal had better be ready. Their place-destiny is at stake!

FEARLESS PREDICTION:
Arsenal will come out ready to attack Stoke, but Stoke will be ready with sticks and clubs. Right before half time, this will happen. After the dust settles, Stoke see two players sent off, and Arsenal cruise to a 4-0 win.

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