Arsenal will stand up to Stoke insists Arsene Wenger


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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal will have to "combat" Stoke's aerial threat at the Britannia Stadium tomorrow, but feels the Gunners can play their way to victory.

Arsenal do not have the best of records at Stoke, winning on just one of the last four visits, which came in the most testing of circumstances in February 2010 when midfielder Aaron Ramsey suffered a broken leg.

However, despite being acutely aware of the need for his side not to be outmuscled again by Tony Pulis' men, Wenger believes if his team play to their own strengths, then the Gunners can get the victory needed to stay on track for third place.

"We have to combat in the air because with [Peter] Crouch up front, he is technically good, he can bring other people in, but as well we cannot forget to put the ball down and play our game," Wenger said.

"We are ready to win. If you think are we ready to win petty, it depends what you call petty, but we will be faithful to the way we play football, that is for sure.

"We will not compete with Stoke playing an unusual game, we can only win if we play our game.

"We will be faithful to trying to play football well."

Wenger, though, knows it will be no easy ride against the Potters.

"First of all, Stoke are a good side. They get you to a game where you have to prepare mentally," he said.

"We have conceded goals from long throws or from corners - and I think they have one of the best [home] defences in the league. It is difficult to score goals against them."

Arsenal have forced themselves back up into the top four of the Premier League with a fine run of form.

However, there is still some work ahead to secure third place, after losing at home to Wigan and then be held to a frustrating goalless draw by Chelsea just 72 hours before their famous result in Barcelona.

Should the Blues go on to win the Champions League against hosts Bayern Munich in May and fail to finish in the top four, then they would usurp one of their rivals to enter the group stages.

Wenger's men currently lead Newcastle by three points, but having played a match more.

While the Arsenal manager feels the rule is "not completely fair", he also believes it would be "illogical" for the holders not to be able to defend the title.

"It is the rule that everybody knows before the season starts, nobody complained and if Chelsea win then England will have four clubs represented in the Champions League. We have to accept it," Wenger said.

"But the surprise of the season is neither Chelsea, who are not even in the Champions League places at the moment which is very unusual, nor Bayern, are top of their leagues. That shows you how unpredictable the Champions League is."

Off the pitch, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has spoken again of a desire to increase his stake in Arsenal's parent company.

At present, Usmanov - whose Red & White Holdings group are the second largest shareholder at just under 30% - does not have a seat on the board, unlike majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, who completed a takeover last year.

Wenger believes so long as he is left with total control of team affairs, and behind-the-scenes changes would have no impact on the day-to-day running of the squad.

"I always think it is important in a big club that everybody does his job. I have zero shares so I cannot sell him anything. For the rest I don't want to be involved in that," the Arsenal manager said.

"That [a seat on the board] is a decision which has to be made by the board, who is represented there.

"Why not? As long as we have the freedom to decide on the sporting side, I have not to decide what is going on with the board."