Arsene Wenger says Stoke game is crucial to Arsenal

Arsene Wenger admits that Arsenal's chances of winning the league for the first time in seven years could hinge on tonight's crucial game against Stoke.

Arsenal appeared to be out of the title race when they lost to Manchester United in December, but a run of nine league matches unbeaten has seen the Londoners drag themselves back into the reckoning.

Wenger's side could reduce the gap between themselves and leaders United to just one point with a victory tonight and the Frenchman has called on his squad to secure what he believes could be a decisive win in the title race.

"This is a very important one for us," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online. "The best way to win the Premier League is to win the game. It is only that which is important.

"If you want to keep in touch with Manchester United, which we want more than anything, this game is vital.

"We have given so much in the Premier League, we have gone through so many difficult periods and have come back with such resilience."

Wenger will be without in-form striker Robin van Persie (hamstring) and defender Laurent Koscielny (back) tonight, but hopes the duo will be fit for Sunday's Carling Cup final against Birmingham.

Losing Van Persie is a big blow for the Gunners as he has scored five times in his last three matches, but Wenger hopes that Andrey Arshavin can weigh in with a few goals in the Dutchman's absence.

Arshavin has struggled for form and confidence, but Wenger feels scoring the winner in last week's 2-1 win over Barcelona has renewed the Russian's self-belief.

"I love Arshavin because he's a player who can always give you hope that he can make the difference," Wenger said.

"He was troubled by confidence problems for a while but he is now back and that goal against Barcelona helped him."

Wenger was not surprised that Arshavin had doubted himself, insisting that even the best of players question their own ability from time to time.

Wenger added: "He is a top-level player who lives on success and when it doesn't go for you for a while you question 'What am I not doing right and why?'. Nobody is immune to that.

"I have seen so many big players - and believe me Andrey is one of them - and they all go through periods like that. It is part of being a human being."

Meanwhile, Wenger has confirmed that Aaron Ramsey will return to Arsenal when his loan spell at Cardiff ends this weekend, despite manager Dave Jones' attempts to keep the midfielder until the end of the season.

"I intend to use him," Wenger said. "I have had good reports from Cardiff. He could be available for the second game against Leyton Orient on Wednesday."



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links