Stoke City-Arsenal Preview
By RYAN WILLOX
STATS Football Writer
(AP) -- For Arsenal's supporters it must seem like an eternity since their side was in crisis mode having lost their first Premier League match of the new campaign at the Emirates.
Of all the possible outcomes in the aftermath of that meek 3-1 home capitulation to Aston Villa on opening day, coming back faster, stronger, better seemed the least likely.
Now, a win at home to Stoke City on Sunday would put Arsenal on 12 points through five matches, their best start to a league campaign since 2008.
The Gunners have reeled off six straight wins following the loss to Villa, most recently navigating a tricky away assignment against Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott secured a 2-1 victory in France and extended the club's record run of consecutive away victories to ten in all competitions.
"It just shows how consistent we are away from home," Walcott told the official club website. "We just need to be a bit more consistent at home now, that's the next big step. If we show that, we can really go far this season. I really believe that.
"That record shows how much hard work everyone has (done) and it's definitely something to be proud of, being part of that. It just shows how special this team is and how gifted these players are. I think we're starting to believe that and you can see that in the performances."
In manager Arsene Wenger's time at Arsenal matches with Stoke have traditionally been feisty affairs but a clash of styles has masked what is actually a fairly lop-sided rivalry. The Gunners have won eight consecutive home league matches against Sunday's visitors and the Potters have recorded only two wins in ten against Arsenal since their return to the top flight in 2008.
Ramsey, scorer of Arsenal's winner in the Stade Velodrome on Wednesday night, believes Stoke are a different proposition now that former boss Tony Pulis has been replaced by Mark Hughes.
"It's vital to get back into the swing of things in the league," he told the club website. "We play against Stoke who have changed their style a bit under Mark Hughes.
"They've had a good start to the season so we'll have to be switched on, get a good recovery in the next couple of days and hopefully get another win in the league."
In over five seasons back in the top flight Stoke City have recorded consecutive away wins just once; in December 2011. Having beaten West Ham 1-0 in their last match away from the Britannia Stadium, the Potters will look to emulate the feat by stunning the in-form Gunners.
Stoke midfielder Marc Wilson is under no illusion as to the size of the task but insists his side will not be awed, having taken a point off another title contender, Manchester City, in a 0-0 draw last time out.
"We will go down there on Sunday, be confident and give it a real go," Wilson told the club website. "The gaffer likes us to play football, move forward and create goal-scoring opportunities, and whilst we know it will be difficult at Arsenal, we know that we have the players to cause them problems.
"We showed against Manchester City that we are capable of mixing it with teams of that stature, and on another day we would have won that game comfortably."
It took a late Lukas Podolski goal to separate the sides in the corresponding fixture last season. The sides' other meeting last season ended goalless at the Britannia in a match that featured just three shots on target (Arsenal managed just one on target from 18 total attempts). Neither side has scored more than once in any of the last three meetings.
Arsenal recovered well following their European adventures last season, winning five and drawing three times after playing Champions League football.
Updated September 20, 2013