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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Arsenal should extend home hold over Stoke

Back strong Gunners line-up to beat Potters with something to spare

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores on his Arsenal debut against Everton
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Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 1.30pm Sunday

Arsenal haven't had a fixture since March 15, when they completed a 5-1 aggregate victory over Milan in the Europa League, and the lightly-raced Gunners should enjoy their return to action against Stoke.

The Potters tend to make life difficult for Arsenal on their own patch- they nicked a 1-0 win in August's reverse fixture despite having less than 25 per cent of possession.

When the teams meet in north London, however, it is one-way traffic and Arsenal have won their last 15 home games against Stoke, nine of them in the Premier League era.

Of those nine, seven were by a margin of two or more goals and the visitors are unlikely to haul themselves out of the relegation zone against virtually a first-choice Arsenal line-up.

Jack Wilshere pulled out of England's friendlies against Holland and Italy with a slight knee problem but is fit again while influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey should be fresh after missing Wales's trip to China.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, ineligible for the Europa League after his January move from Borussia Dortmund, will be eager to add to his tally of three goals in five Premier League appearances and fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette could feature after a six-week injury layoff.

After a dismal run of six defeats in eight games, Arsenal eased the pressure on Arsene Wenger with impressive performances in the 2-0 and 3-1 wins over Milan and a 3-0 victory against Watford in the league.

Their home Premier League form has been a rare area of consistency in a campaign of turmoil.

Wenger's men have won ten out of ten at home against teams below them in the league, scoring 31 goals in those fixtures, and they should have too much for struggling Stoke.

Only West Brom are below the Potters in the table and away defeats to Manchester City (7-2), Manchester United (3-0), Tottenham (5-1) and Chelsea (5-0) do not bode well for their latest assignment.

Paul Lambert made a winning start in the Potteries, beating Huddersfield 2-0 at the bet365 Stadium, but seven subsequent league games have yielded just four points and four goals (three of them scored by Xherdan Shaqiri).

Stoke fans wouldn't have expected much from a home game against Manchester City but there was little to fear from their other recent fixtures and it is hard to see them turning things around at Arsenal.

Arsenal -1 on handicap
3pts 4-5 general

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Team news
Jack Wilshere is available after recovering from the knee injury that kept him out of England's friendlies while Alexandre Lacazette could feature for the first time since February 10.

Charlie Adam starts a three-game ban and Eric Choupo-Moting is injured but Erik Pieters and Mame Biram Diouf are set to return.

Key stat
Arsenal have won all nine of their home Premier League games against Stoke by an aggregate score of 22-4.

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Wenger's men have won ten out of ten at home against teams above them in the league, scoring 31 goals in those fixtures
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