Arsenal vs. Stoke: Gunners Team News, Preview, Projected Starting XI

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Arsenal vs. Stoke: Gunners Team News, Preview, Projected Starting XI

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    January was an unproductive month for Arsenal. The Gunners won just one of their five Premier League games.

    They'll be hoping for a better return from February, starting off against Stoke at the Emirates Stadium.

    The draw with Liverpool and an unproductive transfer window has left the Arsenal fans feeling a little frustrated. How they'd love to blow off some steam by defeating Stoke.

    Go to the next slide as we preview this clash in greater depth.

Head to Head

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    Neither side goes in to this game in great form.

    Arsenal have won just one of their last five league matches, while Stoke have fared even worse: they've won none.

    Arsenal have also managed to go behind in each one of those games, so they'll be delighted to come up against a side they managed to keep a clean sheet against back in August.

    Stoke are known as something of a bogey team for the Gunners, but statistically speaking, their record is not too bad: Arsenal have won five of the 10 meetings between the sides since Stoke returned to the Premier League in 2008.

    With that said, Arsene Wenger's side have been victorious in only one out of the last four fixtures between the pair.

    The Gunners cannot afford to drop any more points on Saturday.

Team News

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    The big news for Arsenal is the calf injury to Kieran Gibbs.

    Gibbs will miss at least the next three weeks, meaning that Arsene Wenger faces something of a dilemma about how to replace him. Against Liverpool, he turned to Andre Santos. It was a move that proved unpopular with the fans and unsuccessful on the pitch.

    Wenger's other option is to play a player out of position. Bacary Sagna or Carl Jenkinson could be asked to switch to the left-hand side.

    Alternatively, he could shift his captain, Thomas Vermaelen, out of his preferred centre-back position. Given Vermaelen's patchy form in the middle, this may be no bad thing.

    Arsenal's other injury concern is over Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard has been absent for the last few weeks, and there will be an anxious wait to see if he is ready to face Tony Pulis' side.

Predicted XI

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    Here's the predicted team for Arsenal's Premier League game with Stoke.

    Andre Santos presents too big a risk at left-back, so I suspect Thomas Vermaelen will be asked to do a captain's duty and fill in for the injured Kieran Gibbs.

    Should Mikel Arteta fail to recover from his calf problem, Abou Diaby could be preferred to Aaron Ramsey in defensive midfield. His height could be invaluable against the imposing Stoke team.

    What do you think? Who would you select? Tell us below.