Stoke’s arsenal a threat to Gunners
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
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.