Ramsey casts shadow over Arsenal-Stoke clash

LONDON: Arsenal`s home league game against Stoke City on Saturday has been preceded with little of the usual talk that comes just after a defeat by Manchester United and it is all because of Aaron Ramsey.

Arsene Wenger`s men take on Stoke just six days after missing the chance to regain the Premier League lead in a 1-0 loss against United at Old Trafford.

But the fact the game against Tony Pulis`s Potters will be the first time Stoke`s Ryan Shawcross comes up against Arsenal since he broke Ramsey`s leg in a tackle has brought Wenger`s past accusations that City are a rough side to the fore.

No matter that Ramsey is on loan at Nottingham Forest, having only just returned to action following his injury in February.

Suggestions Shawcross will have special security on arrival at the Emirates have been dismissed by Wenger.

In fact the Arsenal boss, whose side will regain top spot in the table if they win ahead of United`s game against Chelsea on Sunday, has told Gunners fans not to berate or boo Shawcross, claiming any ire they have towards him or Stoke should be left in the past.

Wenger, who earlier this season angered Stoke by saying they "play rugby" in reference to their allegedly rough-house tactics, said: "It is Arsenal against Stoke. Every game is different and it is a new start.

"We do not have any preconceived ideas before the game about any individual. We want to win the game, focus on it and respect our opponent as we always do. What happened in the past, happened in the past.

"I don`t think there is any need to add any fuel on it and we should just focus on playing football, as we always do, and respecting our opponents.

"My message to the fans is to respect our opponents like we always do."

The Frenchman added: "It is only Ramsey who can forgive Ryan Shawcross for what happened to him.

"I cannot forgive. I do not have that power. If you were the manager of Aaron Ramsey, who is 18 and has two bones broken in his leg, you cannot say you are not upset. It absolutely normal you are upset.

"I gave my feelings at the moment, what we were focused on after that was to get Ramsey back to playing again, which he is just starting to do now."

Wenger is likely to be without striker Nicklas Bendtner for the game, as his partner has gone into labour.

Wojciech Szczesny could continue in goal as Lucasz Fabianski is still doubtful with a hip injury and Manuel Almunia is yet to recover from a twisted ankle, which kept him out of Monday`s game against United.

Meanwhile, Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has pointed to Arsenal`s varying form at the Emirates as a sign that Stoke could beat them at home for the first time in 29 years.

Arsenal have already lost to West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle and Tottenham this season and Begovic said: "In football, anything is possible.

"Teams like ourselves have gone to Arsenal this season and beaten them, so there is absolutely no reason why we can`t do the same at the weekend.

"We know what Arsenal are all about, they are a fantastic side, with world class players all over the pitch. But why can`t we go there and get the win?

"Yes, we will need every single player to be on top of their game, and yes, we will need a little bit of luck, but if that does happen then we can surprise a few people.

"We have quality players here with the pace and ability to hurt teams, so hopefully people will see that this time."

Bureau Report

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