EPL Soccer Picks for Arsenal vs. Stoke City

Lee Phelps

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 1:44 PM GMT

The Emirates will be louder than usual this weekend as Arsenal 'welcome' Stoke to their ground. Our tipster has been looking at the odds and if it's worth taking on the away side as his free picks.

It’s been an identical Christmas for the Gunners and the Potters, picking up seven Premier League points and progressing to the fourth round of the FA Cup. This is a crucial match for both sides, so they can spring into 2015 and work towards a top four and top eight spot respectively.

Since Stoke’s promotion to the top flight they have played each other 14 times in league and cup with Arsene Wenger’s men winning six, Stoke winning five and three draws. Eight of the head-to-heads have featured three or more goals too, with seven of them featuring over 3.5 goals.

The Media would have us believe this is a feisty fixture, there was of course the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey which broke the Welshman’s leg, but in terms of cards, only two of the 14 match-ups have seen more than four cards dished out (both saw the referee hand out six yellows and a red) and most of the head-to-heads actually produce three or less cards.

Whilst the players tend to behave themselves by and large, the fans enjoy carrying on the vitriol stemming from that awful challenge and the general feeling that the Gunners don’t like the stereotypical Stoke bully-boy tactics.

 

Arsenal
Wenger’s 2014/15 squad are seven points worse off than this time last season, with blog ArsenalArsenal.net predicting they’ll finish with six less than their haul of 79 last season. That would still have been enough to clinch fourth in all but two of the last 10 Premier League seasons.

This match is another one that they won last season and obviously won’t want to slip further behind, with Southampton away at Manchester United, they will see it as a chance to close in on the Saints.

They have picked up 18 of their 33 points at the Emirates, with defeat to Man United and draws against Manchester City, Tottenham and Hull costing them so far. They are second in the home shots on goal and third in the home shots on target table, with their star man Alexis Sanchez fourth in the goal scorer charts. He has 10 goals from 57 shots in his 18 games and six of those came at the Emirates.

The Gunners’ boss has sent Podolski and Sanogo out on loan this week, but is expecting a trio of attacking talent to return to the squad for this match. Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil are all rumoured to be nearing a first team return.

 

Stoke
Mark Hughes’ team has won three games on the road this season, with the victories coming at The Etihad, White Hart Lane and Goodison Park. Their counter-attacking style and ability to stay very strong at the back helped in all three of the one goal wins and they could deploy similar tactics in this match as Arsenal attack.

The difference this time is the scorers in those three away wins are both missing. Bojan is out with a hamstring injury and Mame Biram Diouf is away with Senegal at the African Cup of Nations. That leaves Jon Walters and Peter Crouch to lead the line.

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Soccer picks
I’m adding Arsenal to my soccer picks here because of the difference in the team news ahead of the match, but I don’t anticipate it being easy. Stoke will be happy with a point and will play that way too, with maybe just one man up front to relieve the pressure on the back line.

The stats I mentioned around Arsenal’s goals and Sanchez have led me to back the Chilean at 21/20 to score at any time. The Gunners average 7 shots on target a match at their stadium and Sanchez manages 3.4 every home game, so I expect him to get chances and take one.

Other bets I like centre around Stoke’s defensive ability, so an Arsenal win and under 2.5 goals at 11/4 or the half time draw, full time Arsenal at 7/2 are both wagers I like.

Free soccer Pick: Alexis Sanchez to score any time 21/20

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