Stoke City v Arsenal
Saturday 19 August, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Hughes needs a spark

Stoke were beaten 1-0 at Goodison Park on the opening weekend of the season and while that isn't a terrible result on paper, the fact that they didn't score or overly look like scoring is a concern.

Their main attacking spark was sold during the summer as Marko Arnautovic moved to West Ham, but Mark Hughes has now replaced him in the shape of Jese Rodriguez.

The Spanish forward was a flop at PSG but if he can recapture the form that he showed at Real Madrid, he could be worth his weight in gold. Hughes has confirmed that he is available for selection, but I would assume that a role from the bench is the most likely for this game.

Hughes may opt to make changes from the team that lost at Everton, with both Bojan and Berahino's places under threat, but one man who should keep his place is Xherdan Shaqiri.

In Wenger we trust

The range of emotions that Arsenal fans must have gone through in their game against Leicester doesn't bear thinking about. From an early goal for new-boy, Alexandre Lacazette, to some terrible defending which saw the Foxes go 2-1 and then 3-2 up, to two late goals from substitutes, which handed them a 4-3 win - it's safe to say that the Wenger hokey-cokey was in full swing.

What Wenger will want more than anything from this match is to defend better. Rob Holding came in for plenty of criticism for his performance against Leicester, and while he will probably lose his place on Saturday, the main issue was the lack of cover that the wing-backs provided.

It will also be interesting to see if both Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud return to the team following their goals. Ramsey is probably a given, but I'm not convinced that Wenger will want to adjust Lacazette's role just yet, so Giroud may have to settle for a place on the bench.

More dropped points on bogey ground

The Betfair layers have Arsenal priced up at odds-on for this at the 1.89 mark. A home win is the outsider at 4.60 and the draw is trading at 3.85.

Until the Gunners won here back in May, they hadn't won on this ground since 2010. We all know the history of the two clubs, dating back to the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey, and it does appear that Stoke tend to raise their game somewhat against Arsenal.

Despite feeling quite negative about the Potters' prospects this term, I think that they are decent value to get a point from this game. They are usually strong at home, and the signing of Jese might just give the fans and players a boost.

It's always difficult to know which Arsenal side will turn up, but the likes of Ozil and co. won't relish a battle, and that is exactly what Stoke will give them.

Goals far from guaranteed

In the Over/Under 2.5 section, the over is favoured at a price of 1.83. If you saw the match at the Emirates last Friday you would steam into those odds, but I'm not keen.

I would much rather take the 2.14 for the under, as Wenger's defence will surely be better protected away at Stoke, and they won't be facing a striker in the form that Jamie Vardy was in.

Stoke aren't as tight defensively as they were under the Tony Pulis regime, but they kept Everton to one goal last weekend and 23 of their 38 games last year saw under 2.5 backers collect.

You can actually back both teams to score at a very similar price as over 2.5 - it's 1.79 - and if you are thinking about doing the over, go for BTTS instead as 1-1 is surely more likely than 3-0+ either way.

Just going back to the Leicester game, given the way that the wide areas of the back three were exposed, I have to recommend a wager on Xherdan Shaqiri to score the first goal at a tasty 10.50.

The Swiss international isn't a prolific scorer, but he will be playing in that position against one of Arsenal's wide centre halves and he could get some joy. He also gets his fair share of set-pieces.

Early bath on the cards

The man in the middle on Saturday evening is Andre Marriner and with little love lost between these two teams in the Premier League era, there has to be value in a red card if you can get 5.50 or bigger.

Marriner has already sent off a player this season as he was in charge at St James' Park last Sunday, and he's got other recent form as well - sending off three players in a Europa League tie between Panathinaikos and Ajax last September.

Recommended Bets
Back The Draw @ 3.85
Back Xherdan Shaqiri to score first @ 10.50

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