Stoke v Arsenal: Gunners challenged by Arsène Wenger to show strength in crucial month of games

 

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The Independent Online

Second-placed Arsenal begin another crucial month in their title challenge today, travelling to Stoke City knowing they can temporarily move five points ahead of Manchester City in third with victory.

Despite predictions of a stutter, Arsenal are still in touch at the top and manager Arsène Wenger predicted that if they can maintain their position through some difficult fixtures, they can challenge later in the spring.

“March is the month,” said Wenger ahead of today’s game. “We play Spurs, City, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Everton in the Cup. We have a great opportunity to show that we are strong, which is what I think. At the end of March we will know much more.”

Arsenal will welcome back Mesut Özil after resting their record signing following a drop in form and confidence. They will not have Aaron Ramsey back, though, the Welsh midfielder still two weeks away from a return after a thigh injury. So Ramsey will not return to the ground where his leg was  broken four years ago, but Wenger would not be worried about a repeat in any case.  “If it was an accident, an accident can always happen,” he said.

Wenger is confident that his team can put all negative thoughts of the Britannia Stadium out of their mind for today’s game. “We have some bad memories, as well we have some good memories,” he said. “It is a stadium where, first of all, the pitch is narrow and a bit more difficult to play. As well it is more open to the wind, but at the end of the day we have shown recently it is down to the performance. If we perform on Saturday, [the rest] is only feelings.”

Thomas Vermaelen may return at left-back if Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal do not regain fitness.

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