AFTER finishing outside the top four in the Premier League, Arsenal needed a fast start to the season, and although they conceded three times against Leicester City and had to come from behind, they start with three points on the board.
A tough opening fixture doesn’t get any easier when they travel to the bet365 stadium to take on Stoke City on Saturday night.
Winning six points would be the ideal start to Arsene Wenger’s redemption campaign.
However, Mark Hughes side won’t make it easy and our friends at Football Whispers have previewed the game and where it will be won and lost.
?THE ANALYST: Stoke v Arsenal betting preview?
By Danny Higginbotham, THE ANALYST
ARSENAL could be in big trouble from corner against Stoke. And I mean BIG trouble.
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Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Kurt Zouma are all big, physical players and with Xherdan Shaqiri on corners that spells danger.
Arsenal are particularly vulnerable as they persist with zonal marking. I never liked it. You can pass the buck and you aren’t marking anybody in particular.
Organisation is key. Arsenal have a few injuries and the vocal players have missed the first game.
I’m not saying Arsenal will lose, but I do like Ryan Shawcross to score from a corner.
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Stoke will not be happy with the first result, losing 1-0 to Everton is by no means a bad result, but a loss is a loss and the Potters will want to react in front of their home fans.
It’s been a tough summer for Hughes, losing Marko Arnautovic to West Ham while Jonathan Walters moved to Burnley.
What TV channel is Stoke vs Arsenal on and what time does it kick off?
Only now, with the arrivals of Jese Rodriguez on loan from Paris Saint-Germain and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting on a free, has the attacking situation been somewhat fixed.
Arsenal are in a much stronger position at this point. Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac have come in way before the start of the season and both looked settled before the campaign got underway.
Key Battle: Kurt Zouma v Alexandre Lacazette
On loan from Chelsea this season, Kurt Zouma started on the right of the back-three as Stoke lost 1-0 at Goodison Park.
Dragged away by a smart run from Davy Klaassen, the centre-back was caught in no man’s land and Wayne Rooney was able to head in the winner.
On Saturday night, Zouma’s task is made even tougher by an old enemy.
Alexandre Lacazette played against the big defender numerous times in the Derby du Rhone as rivals Saint-Etienne and the forward’s old club Lyon battled for local bragging rights.
Now Zouma, starting beside Arsenal fans favourite Ryan Shawcross, will have to try and stop the 26-year-old scoring his second goal of the season and, with Alexis Sanchez still missing, Wenger’s hopes will be resting on Lacazette proving that he can do it on a cold evening in Stoke.
On Wednesday, Paris Saint-Germain forward Jese Rodriguez was confirmed as Stoke’s latest signing, moving on loan to the Potters. He remains a talent unfulfilled, deemed surplus to requirements at the Parc des Princes only months after joining last summer.
Able to play off the left-wing or as a centre-forward, he would be the perfect addition to Hughes’ front-three, possibly in place of Bojan. Peter Crouch was Stoke’s top scorer in the Premier League last term with just seven goals.
If the Spaniard can surpass that this season, he could become a club legend. However, to do that he will need to improve on his poor form in Paris and on loan at Las Palmas. This is a fresh start though and he certainly has the potential to make a difference.
With all eyes on Arsenal and Stoke’s attack, don’t forget to watch the influence of Granit Xhaka on Saturday. The Swiss midfielder picked up two assists against the Foxes on Friday and if the Potters are tough to break down, it will be the midfielder tasked with picking them apart from deep.
Having someone like Lacazette is key, the Frenchman’s intelligent runs are exactly what the former Borussia Monchengladbach maestro has been waiting for.
Both managers went for 3-4-3 in their opening game of the season, with the formation a huge part of Arsenal’s strong finish to last season.
Wenger isn’t going to dump this system any time soon, but it will be interesting to see if the former Blackburn Rovers manager goes head to head with the Frenchman with the same set-up.
Both used it with a central striker and two players just behind rather than wingers, and it is a move that could get more consistency from two mercurial talents, Xherdan Shaqiri and Mesut Ozil
Predicted Stoke XI
Predicted Arsenal XI
Since 2010, Stoke have only lost once at home to Arsenal. That was last season when the Gunners won 4-1 in Week 37. The home side have only won four of their last 10 league fixtures at the bet365 stadium.