Aaron - not playing but still the focus of Arsenal-Stoke rivalry
Aaron – not playing but still the focus of Arsenal-Stoke rivalry

At all levels playing Arsenal seems to fire up the good folk of the Potteries; their chairman, local journalists and their fans on social media are all having their say.

Peter Coates the Stoke chairman has told the local Stoke Sentinel newspaper in the build up to Saturday’s match: “Yes, we have got this thing with Arsenal. “We were very disappointed with how the Shawcross incident was treated because we thought there was never any intent whatsoever on Ryan’s part.We thought he was very badly treated over that incident in various quarters and it was wholly unfair on him.”Players get bad injuries all the time in professional football, and in the vast majority of cases there is no blame to be attached, but Ryan seemed to be unfairly singled out over this one, in my opinion.”

Martin Smith the journalist for the Stoke Sentinel who covers Stoke City wrote in an article previewing the match. “Baiting Arsene Wenger is fun”. “There’s always something simmering just under the surface whenever Arsenal come to the Britannia Stadium, and it’ll be no different this time. It is a game in which we always seem to find an extra few ounces of energy and belief, and there is nothing quite like seeing Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, sporting a face like a smacked backside in the post-match interviews. Last week’s sending off of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich made it a staggering 100 red cards for Arsenal players during Wenger’s tenure as manager. Whichever way you dice it, that’s too many for a man who likes to climb on his high horse to lecture others on discipline. I don’t know how many players we’ve had sent off during the same period, but then it doesn’t really matter because we are not the ones adopting a holier-than-thou position on the issue as Wenger so often does.

Some of the social media circulating in the lead up to the match makes grim reading – some Arsenal fans are just as guilty as those  from Stoke in making unsavory comments.

So everything points towards another feisty encounter, where both teams need three points for differing reasons. Stoke have only won one match in the Premier League this year, 2-1 against Manchester United, and are just three points above the relegation places. Whilst Arsenal’s victory over Sunderland last Saturday came after dropping points in the home draw with Manchester United and away defeat to Liverpool. Manchester City’s Wembley trip this weekend provides a opportunity for Chelsea and Arsenal to open a small gap at the top of the Premier League. Chelsea face a derby-day trip to Fulham on Saturday

So what do you think. Are the Gunners going to take three points at Stoke to maintain their Premier League title challenge.