Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger finally sprang into action in the dying embers of the January transfer window as he moved to capture left-back Nacho Monreal from Malaga. Although prominent on Arsenal’s radar for some time, the Spain international has been signed in reaction to an injury suffered by Kieran Gibbs in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
Initially thought to be out for three weeks with a thigh problem, Wenger has now said that Gibbs could miss up to two months. Monreal looks set to be thrust into action straight away, with the 26-year-old included in the squad to face Stoke at the Emirates on Saturday. And Wenger believes Monreal can make a positive impact.
“He’s a very intelligent player and plays the kind of game that can adapt to our style of play,” Wenger said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “That’s the main reason we bought him.
“It’s always stimulating [to make a signing], because it’s always a sign of hope and new ambition.
“I feel this squad is very focused and highly motivated to do well. We don’t need that [stimulus] but if it helps, it’s better. What is most important is that when the player plays, he shows quality. That is the best way to help the squad.”
Monreal’s presence may not be enough, though, to help shore up an Arsenal defense that continued to look brittle as they conceded two lamentable goals against Liverpool. Center-back Thomas Vermaelen looks set to face a late fitness test, although midfielder Mikel Arteta may be ready to return.
Stoke’s strength this season has been their defensive record, although that has fallen away dramatically in recent weeks. Tony Pulis’ side have now taken just two points from their last five outings.
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Neither of Stoke’s deadline-day signings will be involved, with Jack Butland loaned back to Birmingham and American Brek Shea still recovering from a foot operation.
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal
M: Wilshere, Diaby
Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
Stoke City (probable)
D: Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Cameron
M: Walters, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Adam, Etherington
Prediction: Arsenal have won their last 10 home games against Stoke, suggesting that they have been able to cope well with the physical challenge. However, given the errors that the Arsenal defense has been displaying in recent weeks and a particular vulnerability in the air, Stoke have reason to approach the match with confidence.
Yet the visitors’ own poor form and a dangerous-looking Arsenal attack should mean that Monreal begins his Arsenal career on the winning side.
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick-off from the Emirates at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available on via Fox Soccer 2Go.