Stoke City vs Arsenal preview - Wenger maintains respect for Pulis

I have a say

Posted Sunday, May 08, 2011 by PA

Arsene Wenger insists he has respect for Stoke boss Tony Pulis and every other manager - no matter what their approach to the beautiful game.

There has been little love lost between the two coaches, whose tactical approaches are at the opposite ends of the footballing spectrum.

Earlier this season, Stoke went as far as writing to the Football Association to complain over Wenger's comments they employed "rugby on the goalkeepers" with reference to Ryan Shawcross' and Robert Huth's challenges on Tottenham number one Heurelho Gomes.

Wenger, though, insists he is not interested in adding any more fuel to the flames ahead of what is set to be an emotional return to Britannia Stadium for Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who suffered a double leg fracture after a tackle from Shawcross there in February 2010.

"You can have disagreements and respect," said the Arsenal manager. "I always give my honest feeling about things, that will never change. I respect every single manager in the league."

Arsenal recovered from the loss of Ramsey as they went on to win last season's game at Stoke with two late goals, but on Sunday must again do without injured captain Cesc Fabregas because of a thigh problem.

Wenger is expecting nothing less than a stern examination from the FA Cup finalists - with former Gunner Jermaine Pennant impressing on the flank to supply Trinidad & Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones.

"When you look at the difficulty to remain in the Premier League, the fact Stoke were safe very early is great credit to them," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online.

"They have played much better [football] this season, and maybe that is why they have done better as well.

"There is a logic in the way Stoke build their team and you have to say Pennant has had a good season, delivering many balls for them."

Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen could return for Arsenal after nine months out with a niggling Achilles problem.

Full-back Gael Clichy (hamstring) and defender Johan Djourou (ankle) face fitness tests but Samir Nasri and Abou Diaby remain out along with Fabregas.

Shawcross will not be fazed by the prospect of facing Ramsey for the first time after his challenge broke the midfielder's leg, according to Stoke assistant manager Dave Kemp.

Ramsey has made a full recovery from his horrific injury that sparked an outcry from Arsenal, scoring the winner against Manchester United last weekend.

Kemp said: "Ryan is an excellent professional. He is our captain and growing as a player. He conducts himself well in training and on match days.

"In any player's career you will have ups and downs and things you have to deal with. I don't expect anything to affect his performance.

"Everyone is pleased Aaron Ramsey is up and running and playing well and scoring the winner against United. We don't want him scoring on Sunday, but we wish him well."

Asked if the players would shake hands when the teams line-up, Kemp sidestepped the question.

"It is not a big issue," he said. "Stoke City versus Arsenal is a big game. There is enough going on without concerning ourselves about side issues."

On-loan striker John Carew is aiming for another run-out after coming off the bench in the draw against Blackpool following a back problem.

Full-back Andy Wilkinson is expected to shrug off a knock in time for the game but Matthew Etherington, Ricardo Fuller and Danny Higginbotham remain sidelined through injury.

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