Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger rejects talk of a 'tasty game' at Stoke City

By Jim Van Wijk

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident his side can cope with whatever awaits them at Stoke, but could do without "exaggerated" pre-match comments aimed at turning up the heat.

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross - whose horror tackle on Aaron Ramsey in 2010 left the Gunners' midfielder with a double leg break - claims the home fans "dislike" of Arsenal will lead to a "tasty game" at the Britannia Stadium.

Wenger - who once labelled Stoke's tactics under former boss Tony Pulis as "rugby on the goalkeepers" - believes his side must concentrate on their own game rather than worry about what they might face both on and off the pitch.

"I think that is exaggerated. It is a football game, it is not a hate game. You want to focus on playing football," said Wenger, whose side have just one win at Stoke from seven matches since 2008.

"Stoke is always a tough and very committed place to go, but we prepare ourselves to be at the level of our commitment and dictate the way we want to play. The most important thing is to not forget how we play our game.

"They have a little bit of a different style (under new manager Mark Hughes), but against us it is always a very committed game anyway.

"We are in a job where you have risks. The physical risk is part of our job, we accept that.

"What you want is to go into a game with everybody being 100% committed, but fair. After, you accept that any accident can happen.

"You do not want to have any suspicions before the match starts, that is not very good," he added.

Since the disappointment of losing at home to Manchester United, Arsenal have put together three straight wins with three clean sheets to progress to the last 16 of the Champions League and close up on the Barclays Premier League top four.

Chile forward Alexis Sanchez netted a late winner against Southampton on Wednesday night to continue his impressive form since a big-money summer move from Barcelona.

Wenger feels the 25-year-old "is in the red zone" given how many matches he has played this season for both club and country, so must be carefully managed over the hectic Christmas schedule.

"Unfortunately you never know how far you can push (a player). We are not scientific enough to predict that completely, but he has a great recovery potential," said Wenger.

Stoke City v Arsenal, Premier League: Britannia Stadium, 3pm

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