So this is it. The final game of the season and the Potters are in the situation we all dreamed and hoped of way back last August – we’ve absolutely nothing to play for!
That’s not to say that the Stoke players will not give it their all with pride still at stake and the chance to do the double over the Gunners after that sensational 2-1 win back at the Brit last November. After that game Arsene Wenger dominated the headlines as he attempted to deflect criticism of him and his players by accusing Stoke of ‘cheating’. It now seems as though those bridges have been mended with the Gunners’ boss congratulating Tony Pulis on both the great job he’s done this season and his recent performance in the London Marathon.
Certainly Tone’s got nothing but praise for Wenger after his recent contribution to the Donna Louise Trust: ‘He sent me a lovely letter when I did the Marathon, he sent me an autographed shirt as well and he’s been very, very kind. You have these spats, it happens.’
Wenger is a top manager, Arsenal are a top football club with top players and I’ll look forward to the game on Sunday.’
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal looked set to play their third choice keeper, Vito Mannone, but Fabianski has now been declared fit and will play with Almunia still injured. Their £15.8m signing, Samri Nasri is out with a knee injury.
Player to watch: Andrey Arshavin
The Russian has hit the English Premier League running with six goals, including those four against Liverpool in April’s 4-4 thriller at Anfield, since his Gunners’ debut at the end of February.
Stoke City Team News:
Tony Pulis has the luxury of naming yet another virtually unchanged side after last week’s comfortable 2-0 win over Wigan. That win moved us above the Latics into 11th position. A win at the Emirates (and Bolton doing us a favour at Eastlands) could leave us in 10th, which is the highest position we will have ever finished since the end of the glory years in 1975.
Player to watch: Andy Wilkinson
The local lad is celebrating a new deal at the Brit after completing the necessary number of games this season to activate a clause in his contract. He seems determined to be one of those rare ‘one club players’. He’s matured well and adapted to life in the Premier League, seeing off Andrew Davies and skipper, Andy Griffin in the battle for that left back slot.
Match Facts & Stats
It’ll be the first time at the Emirates for Stoke’s 3,000 travelling fans. The last time we pitted ourselves against the Gunners in the capital was the 2-1 defeat at Highbury in the FA Cup back in January 2005.
Martin Atkinson is in charge at the Emirates.
Roll on August 15th….