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Arsenal v Stoke City

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Monreal: Could make his debut

Monreal: Could make his debut

Arsenal welcome Stoke City to the Emirates on Saturday looking to improve on their fragile defensive record and move back into race for the top four.

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The Gunners last outing was an entertaining 2-2 draw with fellow top-four hopefuls Liverpool at the Emirates on Wednesday night with bad defending letting the north London club down again and Wenger will be looking to put things right when the Potters come to town.

The draw with Liverpool sees Arsenal stay in sixth place in the table on 38 points but the Gunners only trail bitter rivals Spurs in the fourth and final Champions League place by four points.

A thigh injury to Kieran Gibbs against the Reds prompted the Frenchman to dip into the transfer window on deadline day, signing Spanish defender Nacho Monreal from Malaga "on a long term deal for an undisclosed fee."

The former Osasuna man could make his debut on Saturday if Wenger prefers him to the inconsistent Andre Santos at left-back.

Additionally, Wenger could welcome Mikel Arteta (calf) and Francis Coquelin (hamstring) to the side following their recovery from injury but is unlikely to rush the pair back into the starting line-up and they may find themselves on the bench.

Olivier Giroud's recent run of goalscoring form means Wenger will likely play the Frenchman as the lone striker with the talented midfield trio of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Theo Waclott behind him.

Meanwhile, Stoke boss Tony Pulis will be fuming following his sides result against struggling Wigan in midweek after they let a two goal lead slip and ended up drawing 2-2 at the Britannia Stadium.

Lapses in concentration in the game denied Stoke all three points and saw them remain in tenth place in the Barclays Premier League table.

Pulis will, however, be buoyed by the fact he will have another full squad to choose from when they travel to North London, with the exception of long-term casualty Mark Wilson (broken leg), who only expected back later this month.

The Potters could hand American winger Brek Shea, whom they acquired from MLS club FC Dallas on deadline day, a debut at the Emirates.

Expect Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters to start up front with Matthew Ethrington and Jemraine Pennant providing the width on the flanks.

Posted: 01/02/13 15:17

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