Wenger wary of Stoke intricacies

BY foxsports • February 26, 2010

While the Gunners play arguably the most attractive football in the Premier League, Stoke's style can be described as direct. Wenger's men have come unstuck in their only two visits to the Britannia Stadium, losing 3-1 in this season's FA Cup and 2-1 in the league last term, with Delap's missiles from the touchline causing massive damage in both matches. But Wenger believes Stoke have improved as a footballing outfit during their second season back in the top flight and have more strings to their bow, despite statistics showing otherwise. "Stoke have scored 15 goals from set-pieces, 14 of them at home," noted Wenger, whose team are third in the league heading into the weekend, six points adrift of leaders Chelsea. "Of those 14, a big part is down to their long throw-ins but they are a team that plays football as well. I have seen them recently in games and they have a good mixture in their play. "Stoke are a good football-playing team. We'll have to beat them on the ground and play at a good pace if we are to come through." Players such as left-winger Matthew Etherington and Tuncay Sanli, the Turkey forward signed by manager Tony Pulis last summer, have given Stoke some trickiness and spark going forward this season. But there is no getting away from the lethal effect of Delap's throw-in, which has accounted for three of the five goals Arsenal have shipped at the Britannia. The Gunners' often flimsy defence, which will again be deprived of centre-back William Gallas on Saturday, is sure to be bombarded with more long-range projectiles from the midfielder. Wenger has challenged his title-chasing team to be strong in the face of such a tactic, which is the antithesis of the way the Frenchman likes the game to be played. "It's very difficult to defend against because that is exactly the same as a corner," Wenger said of Delap's throw, which caused more damage in midweek in Stoke's FA Cup win against Manchester City. "You have to mark well, be well organised, come for it and get it. But I believe we don't have to make an obsession of that. "Stoke at home are a strong side and don't forget that when we put our experienced players on the pitch in the FA Cup (defeat back in January), it was 1-1 at the time and we still lost the game. "On the day, Stoke were better than us and we have an opportunity to prove that we can be better than them on Saturday." Arsenal did not have a game in midweek, unlike Stoke, whose extra-time victory over City earned them a quarter-final tie with Chelsea in the FA Cup. Wenger, who should welcome back striker Eduardo this weekend but is still without key injured quartet Gallas, Abou Diaby, Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie, does not believe the Potters' exertions on Wednesday will be a factor. "Let's not expect any weakness from Stoke," he said. "When they play us, they are always committed. There have been so many times where we have been in this situation and we have managed to get results. "I believe it is for us to turn up and be efficient on the day." Meanwhile, Wenger has singled out Gael Clichy for praise after seeing the France left-back rediscover some form. Clichy, 24, came back last month from long-term injury and looked rusty in defeats to Manchester United and Porto. However, the full-back's displays in recent victories over Liverpool and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium have been solid and Wenger believes the player is back to something approaching his best. "He was out for a long time and like with every player at the start, he was not completely back to 100%," Wenger said. "But I think in the last two games he has been very convincing."

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