Arsene Wenger has this week tried to play down the bad blood that has existed between Arsenal and Stoke City ever since that horrible and potentially career ending tackle on Aaron Ramsey by the Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross. That was back in early 2010 but the animosity between the two clubs has never gone away.
To say there has been an extra edge to the games between us since then is a massive understatement and while Shawcross has never been forgiven by us, or by Ramsey for that matter, the Stoke fans have vented their fury on Wenger and the victim of the challenge himself for supposedly `milking´ it.
But while Wenger accepts that there has been an issue, the Frenchman has also tried to draw a line under it by suggesting, as reported by the Evening Standard, that he and his players will be treating the clash this weekend as just another game, albeit a tough one for the Gunners. Wenger was also careful to applaud our opponents for their qualities.
He said, “They have always had good teams and overall when we go to Stoke they are always specially motivated against us. There is history a little bit because of what happened and overall lit was always very difficult for us.
“For me there was never bad blood, it was just a game that was always very difficult for us to play. But I always focus on playing football and trying to get my team to play as well as we can.”
With Mark Hughes introducing a different style of play to the Potters and with Shawcross not available due to injury, perhaps this is the best possible time for the Arsenal boss to try to calm the waters. If the game was at Stoke this would have no effect but if Arsenal can rise above the animosity for our home game, then perhaps the gesture will be reciprocated at the Britannia Stadium and maybe that is behind Wenger´s comments.
He also said, “At home we have done quite well against Stoke. Sometimes we have problems at Stoke. They are team with a good culture of the Premier League, they know how to behave and they have experience.”
It is a nice thought by the Frenchman and shows a bit of class, but I would not hold my breath expecting the Stoke fans to tone down their usual behaviour. Is the boss right in trying to end the feud?