Four years ago, following the game that left Aaron Ramsay with a broken leg, Arsene Wenger branded Stoke ‘a rugby team’. Whatever they have been doing has worked, with the Potters losing just once in seven encounters with the Gunners in six years, but now things must change.
Captain Ryan Shawcross has spoken of how the fans and the players haven’t forgotten the Frenchman’s jibes and will be looking to teach them a lesson.
“The fans dislike Arsenal so it’s going to be a tasty game. Hopefully the atmosphere will be buzzing and we can get three points”, he said.
But as much as the Britannia faithful would love to see a full-blooded battle on the pitch, they cannot revert to stereotype if they want to come out of the game with anything.
Under Tony Pulis, their rough-and-ready attitude certainly ruffled the feathers of Wenger’s cultured side, but now a more flair-driven approach must be adopted.
Stoke have struggled of late, losing their last three matches, and continue to slide towards the relegation zone, but one man has begun to come into life in recent weeks.
When he joined from Barcelona in the summer, football fans seemed to think that Mark Hughes had pulled off the coup of the season in alluring Bojan Krkic to Staffordshire.
But a slow start seemed to suggest that the transition into the Premier League hadn’t gone well for the Spaniard.
However in the last month he has started to show why he was so highly rated.
He scored the opener in Stoke’s last win against Tottenham, and chipped in with an assist against Burnley, picking up the Man of the Match award in the process.
More importantly, his pace will be a vital asset against Arsenal’s defence.
Mark Hughes may be tempted to play Peter Crouch up top in Saturday’s game, but with Per Mertesacker the main man in Arsenal’s back four, an aerial battle isn’t a sure fire recipe for success, pace is.
Therefore, allow Bojan to lead the line alongside Mame Biram Diouf, and the Potters could continue their awesome record against the Gunners.
By all means stick the likes of Charlie Adam in the centre of the park to rough up Arsenal’s midfield, but Hughes must play to the Barca loanee’s strengths if they are to come out on top.
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