Arsenal V. Stoke City: Preview to a Physically Demanding Rugby Match

Michael LingbergCorrespondent IIIFebruary 1, 2013

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26:  Abou Diaby of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium on August 26, 2012 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

Stoke City will be visiting Arsenal on Saturday and we all know what that means.

Arsenal will be in for one of the most physically demanding afternoons they will have all season. Stoke City has one of the stingiest defenses in the Premier League, as it has allowed the fourth least amount of goals this season at 29. Coincidentally, Arsenal has allowed the exact same amount. 

The Potters' offense, however, is a different story. If it weren't for Aston Villa and QPR, Stoke City would have the lowest goal output in the top flight at 24. It's good for an average of exactly one goal per game. 

But that's not Stoke's style. They want to take a beautiful game of football and turn it into a bone-crunching game of rugby. Many of their players, such as Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross at 6'3", embody that mindset.

This is part of the reason Arsenal has trouble disposing of Stoke City. Their styles are completely opposite. It can all be simplified down to the fact that Arsenal is all about finesse, whereas Stoke is about physicality. 

In the first meeting between these two teams at the Britannia Stadium way back in August, the two clubs battled out to a scoreless draw.

Nevertheless, this will be a fun game to watch. The Potters don't like the Gunners and vice versa. The fans hate each other even more though, and that can be traced back to when Shawcross derailed Aaron Ramsey's career for a couple seasons by leaving his leg in splinters. 

There will be some interesting matchups, too. Olivier Giroud, who has scored five goals in three games, will be a big, physical presence that will compete with the Stoke defense. 

Another crucial matchup to watch will be the Arsenal defense against Stoke City set pieces. The Gunners haven't had the most success in that area, but will have to be extra focused against Stoke. When Stoke does score goals, it's usually from a corner or a free kick and 6'7" Peter Crouch is a huge reason for that. 

Arsenal will also have to go up against goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who has been arguably the best keeper in the Premier League this season. To get around him, the Gunners will have to be creative and also have some powerful shots to throw him off balance. 

But even if Arsenal does find ways around him, those opportunities will be few and far between. This will be a defensive struggle, no doubt. 

That being said, Lukas Podolski will unleash a rocket into the upper corner just out of Begovic's reach and Arsenal will come away with a 1-0 win. 

You can debate with Michael Lingberg on Twitter @Lingberg2000. Check out his website for more Arsenal banter.