Stoke’s arse­nal a threat to Gun­ners

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

ARSE­NAL will look to get back on track in the Premier League ti­tle race on to­day against a club whose phys­i­cal and di­rect style of play has both frus­trated and trou­bled Arsene Wenger’s side in re­cent sea­sons.

Stoke have beaten the Gun­ners in each of the last two years, us­ing route-one tac­tics and the long throw-in of mid­fielder Rory Delap.

Wenger has of­ten been crit­i­cal of Stoke’s ap­proach and is hop­ing the match at Emi­rates Sta­dium will be one for the purists as Arse­nal seek to re­bound from their 1-0 loss to Manch­ester United on Mon­day.

“What is im­por­tant is we want to see a foot­ball game where both teams play good foot­ball,” he said. “It is Arse­nal against Stoke. Ev­ery game is dif­fer­ent and a new start .”

With Manch­ester United, who are two points clear at the top with a game in hand, fac­ing a tough trip to Chelsea to­mor­row, Arse­nal have a chance to re­take the lead if they win and United lose.

When they last met Stoke - at Bri­tan­nia Sta­dium in Fe­bru­ary – Arse­nal mid­fielder Aaron Ram­sey broke his leg as a re­sult of a late chal­lenge by de­fender Ryan Shawcross.

Wenger was fu­ri­ous at that tackle and this sea­son ac­cused Shawcross and fel­low Stoke cen­tre back Robert Huth of be­hav­ing like rugby play­ers against Tot­ten­ham.

Wenger wants to con­sign these in­ci­dents to his­tory and is fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing his side’s poor home record in the league this cam­paign, which has seen the Gun­ners lose to West Brom, New­cas­tle and Tot­ten­ham.

“What hap­pened in the past, hap­pened in the past,” Wenger said. “There is no need to add any fuel on it and we just fo­cus on play­ing foot­ball as we al­ways do and re­spect­ing our op­po­nents.”

Stoke, who beat Arse­nal 3-1 in the FA Cup last sea­son and 2-1 in the league in the 2008-09 cam­paign, are look­ing for an­other up­set win.

“I can’t con­trol what Wenger says (about Stoke) or does,” said Stoke man­ager Tony Pulis, who was keen to stress this week that his side has a bet­ter dis­ci­plinary record than Arse­nal.

“I don’t know the fella – but if he crit­i­cises this club for what­ever rea­son then you have to stand up for your­self.

“Peo­ple have per­cep­tions and you strug­gle to change those some­times.”

Cesc Fabre­gas should make his re­turn to the start­ing XI for Arse­nal af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a ham­string in­jury.

Alex Fer­gu­son will be look­ing to cel­e­brate sur­pass­ing Matt Busby as United’s longest­serv­ing man­ager by guid­ing his un­beaten team to a sec­ond suc­ces­sive win against a ti­tle ri­val.

By the time the game kicks off to­mor­row, Fer­gu­son will have been in charge at Old Traf­ford for 8,811 days, one more than Busby, who had two spells in charge – be­tween 194569 and 1970-71.

In that time, Fer­gu­son, who joined the club in 1986, has de­liv­ered 11 Premier League ti­tles and has his sights on over­haul­ing Liver­pool, who are level with United on 18 English ti­tles over­all.

Third-place Manch­ester City, who are level on 32 points with Arse­nal, host strug­gling Ever­ton on Mon­day.

In to­mor­row’s other games, fifth-place Tot­ten­ham travel north to Black­pool and West Bromwich are at home to Mid­lands ri­vals Wolver­hamp­ton. – Sapa-AP

PIC: GALLO IM­AGES

LAUNCHER: Stoke City’s long-throw spe­cial­ist Rory Delap is sure to test Arse­nal’s vul­ner­a­ble de­fence when the two sides clash at Emi­rates sta­dium to­day.

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