LONDON (AFP) – Arsenal’s clash with Stoke at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday offers Arsene Wenger with the chance to erase the bitter taste of one of his most testing days as Gunners manager.
Wenger has increasingly found himself under fire from Arsenal supporters in recent seasons but the criticism reached new levels of vitriol after last month’s 3-2 defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
The game summed up the inconsistency that has dogged Wenger’s side for years and the Frenchman was forced to run a gauntlet of abuse from furious fans when he boarded the club’s train home at Stoke station.
The Gunners’ form briefly improved after that dispiriting loss, but another lacklustre defeat at Southampton triggered familiar complaints from fans and pundits and anything less than victory against Mark Hughes’ side this weekend will again throw the focus on Wenger’s position.
Arsenal lie sixth, three points off the Champions League places, and must put together an improved run if they are to reclaim their familiar position in the top four.
Wenger insists fortune is now swinging in his side’s favour after a difficult run of injuries during the first half of the season.
Defenders Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy are fit again while midfielders Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini all returned to training this week.
“I feel we are getting stronger now. We could benefit from that because these are players who are not overloaded with games,” Wenger said.
“Some of our players have played 26 or 27 games, whereas some have played four or five.
“These players coming back can give us some impact for the coming months.”
Olivier Giroud is available again after serving a three-match ban and Wenger may be tempted to go with the Frenchman’s physical presence up front rather than use the more lightweight Alexis Sanchez as the main striker.