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."



Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week