Back in September Arsenal beat Stoke at the Emirates, but that was not too much of a surprise as we have an excellent home record against Mark Hughes’ side, but up at the Britannia Stadium it is a completely different kettle of fish.
We have only won one of our last 8 visits and our 3-2 defeat there last year was taken very badly by some of our travelling supporters, but Arsenal bounced back and we fought our way into the Top Four as usual. This year we are in a much stronger position and will regain top spot with a win today, but Wenger has admitted that although the Gunners have improved since our last meeting, he also believes Stoke are a much better team as well now and Arsenal should not expect an easy win.
Le Prof said yesterday: “We have had difficulties at Stoke, they have a good record against us in recent years and I must say as well they have overall a good record against Man United, City, the big teams,”
“They have done very well. they have moved forward as well because they have improved their creative potential with players like Arnautovic, Afellay, Shaqiri, Bojan – they can create and play.
“It is a good challenge for us as well because they have to maintain their record and we can show we have taken a big step forward and can beat them. It is an opportunity we want to take.
“I would say Stoke are sharper because when we played them they were in a bit of a difficult patch and had some bad injuries. Since then, they have developed well and have moved forward well in the league, with some convincing results.
“I’m convinced that both teams have moved forward since [the game at Emirates Stadium].
“It is a similar test to Liverpool where on our side we need the same intensity again four days later and the same desire and focus again. What we have learned in this Premier League… you think ‘How many surprises we have seen today? That will not happen again’. The week after it happened again, and again and again, since the start of the season.
“That shows the consistency of your focus, the consistency of your determination, will certainly play a big part in the outcome of this league.”
This is a very good test again to see if Arsenal really are Championship winning material, but we also seem to play better when we are under pressure. I’m confident that this will be no different and we can face Chelsea in a confident mood next week…