Stoke vs Arsenal: Arsene Wenger keen to avoid any 'suspicions' ahead of 'tasty game' at the Britannia

The two sides have history

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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident his side can cope with whatever awaits them at Stoke, but could do without "exaggerated" pre-match comments aimed at turning up the heat.

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross - whose horror tackle on Aaron Ramsey in 2010 left the Gunners' midfielder with a double leg break - claims the home fans "dislike" of Arsenal will lead to a "tasty game" at the Britannia Stadium.

Wenger - who once labelled Stoke's tactics under former boss Tony Pulis as "rugby on the goalkeepers" - believes his side must concentrate on their own game rather than worry about what they might face both on and off the pitch.

"I think that is exaggerated. It is a football game, it is not a hate game. You want to focus on playing football," said Wenger, whose side have just one win at Stoke from seven matches since 2008.

"Stoke is always a tough and very committed place to go, but we prepare ourselves to be at the level of our commitment and dictate the way we want to play. The most important thing is to not forget how we play our game.

 

"They have a little bit of a different style (under new manager Mark Hughes), but against us it is always a very committed game anyway."

Wenger added: "We are in a job where you have risks. The physical risk is part of our job, we accept that.

"What you want is to go into a game with everybody being 100 per cent committed, but fair. After, you accept that any accident can happen.

"You do not want to have any suspicions before the match starts, that is not very good."

 

Since the disappointment of losing at home to Manchester United, Arsenal have put together three straight wins with three clean sheets to progress to the last 16 of the Champions League and close up on the Barclays Premier League top four.

Chile forward Alexis Sanchez netted a late winner against Southampton on Wednesday night to continue his impressive form since a big-money summer move from Barcelona.

Wenger feels the 25-year-old "is in the red zone" given how many matches he has played this season for both club and country, so must be carefully managed over the hectic Christmas schedule.

"Unfortunately you never know how far you can push (a player). We are not scientific enough to predict that completely, but he has a great recovery potential," said Wenger.

"He recovers very quickly, is always sharp and wants to play.

"Alexis has a huge desire, no complex, and has a fighting attitude that means even when he misses something it doesn't affect him.

"He is very mobile, very determined and he has the sense to be in the right place in the box."

Sanchez has netted 14 goals so far, but Wenger feels it is unjust to label Arsenal as a one-man team.

"Let's say it does not reflect the truth," Wenger added.

"On the goalscoring record, you can say he is dominant, but in the game of course not."

Monreal.jpg 

Arsenal have some defensive worries, with Nacho Monreal having suffered ankle ligament damage early on against the Saints, and so could be out for a few weeks.

Centre-back Laurent Koscielny will be assessed on his inflamed Achilles.

Full-back Mathieu Debuchy is close to a return from three months recovery from an ankle injury, and may be taken to Istanbul for next week's Champions League tie at Galatasaray.

Arsenal have been linked with a move for promising Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings when the transfer window opens in January.

Wenger said: "On the defensive front, we will try to bring somebody in, but we are not on any special case.

"We are on a few young players yes, that we always follow. He (Mings) is one of the players we follow, but we are not close to signing anybody at the moment."

PA

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