Whenever it’s a match between Arsenal and Stoke, there would be questions of all type. On the eve of their weekend clash, Arsene Wenger had to come out and declare that there is no bad blood between the two clubs.
It is but natural for anyone to think that the two sets of players will be at each other’s’ throats. The history between the two clubs in recent years is something that gives rise to such a thought.
Wenger 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 it 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.”
The Gunners host Mark Hughes’ side which will be their 12th meeting since that horrendous incident involving Aaron Ramsey. During a Premier League encounter in February 2010, Ramsey’s leg was broken by a horrendous challenge by Ryan Shawcross. Although Shawcross was sent off that day, there was obvious frustration and anger within Arsenal supporters. The tackle looked horrifying on television and one can only imagine the effect on Ramsey. The centre-back was booed every time after that by fans, in a visible display of frustration for that incident.
Stoke have strengthened this summer trying to give shape to their ambitions of flying high in the League. Though their start is not in line with their ambitions, many analysts believe Stoke could be the surprise package of the season. The team that will take on Arsenal this afternoon will not feature Shawcross, though. The hard tackling defender will be missed by the Arsenal supporters, ironically. But, the proclaimed ‘bad blood’ is not just because of that incident.
Arsenal and Stoke are considered to be the two sides of playing football – in short, they are exact opposites of aesthetic football. While Arsenal always puts good football ahead of anything else (including trophies) Stoke believes in getting points by hook or crook.
Wenger had to come out and diffuse reports that there could be ‘bad blood’. He is right when he says that Stoke would always be motivated against Arsenal. Whether it has anything to do with what happened to Ramsey or not is something that can never be properly established. One thing is clear. Whenever Arsenal and Stoke clash, it is like watching two different philosophies; like watching two different motives; like watching a ballet and a boxing match at the same time! This weekend will be no different.