Wenger braced for tough Stoke test

BY foxsports • February 25, 2010

Arsenal are currently six points off the pace set by Chelsea but have - on paper at least - an easier run-in than both the Blues and their other title rivals Manchester United, who are second. Wenger has challenged his side to remain unbeaten in their final 11 games to overhaul top two but one of their toughest tests will come this weekend at the Britannia Stadium. Wenger said: "We know that that target (of staying unbeaten) is there but the only way to reach it is to start by trying to win the next game. "Let's be realistic, pragmatic, ambitious, but also humble and hungry enough to understand that what people say about our run-in is one thing, but what happens on the pitch is most important. "It will be very tight. At the moment, mathematically, Chelsea are in a strong position but they have difficult games to play, they have to combine the European programme, FA Cup games and the championship. "It will be very tight until the end." Arsenal have come a cropper at Stoke both times they have visited the Potteries over the last two seasons, once in the league and once in the FA Cup. On both occasions, the Gunners were unable to deal with Stoke's physical threat, primarily the bullet-like throw-ins of Rory Delap, which contributed to three of the five goals Arsenal conceded. But Wenger insists there is more to Tony Pulis' side than that. "I have seen them recently in games and they have a good mixture between that efficiency they have and how they actually play," he said. "Technically they are a team that has improved tremendously compared to last season. "I believe Stoke is a big fixture for us. Of course Tottenham and Man City are the big names we have left to play but you can drop points in the Premier League anywhere. This season has shown that. "We will have to be up for it on Saturday." Wenger may be able to call upon the services of Eduardo this weekend, with the Croatia striker expected to be back in training tomorrow after shrugging off a hamstring problem. But the Frenchman has confirmed Abou Diaby (knee), William Gallas (calf) and Andrey Arshavin (hamstring) will all miss the trip north as they continue to struggle with their respective injuries. One more player that definitely will not feature is Robin van Persie, and Wenger believes Holland coach Bert van Marwijk is being too optimistic in claiming the striker could be back in action by the start of April. "I would love to agree with him (Van Marwijk)," Wenger said. "But no, I believe he is a bit optimistic thinking that. "I haven't seen Robin because he is in Holland at the moment but that looks too early to me."

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