LONDON, September 11- Arsene Wenger says Stoke finally “know how to behave” as Arsenal go in search for their first home win of the season against their old rivals on Saturday.
Relations between the two sides have been hostile since 2008 when Gunners boss Wenger claimed Stoke, then managed by Tony Pulis, had deliberately tried to hurt his players.
That claim was followed two years later by a tackle from Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross that left Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey with a badly broken leg.
Wenger also once branded Pulis’ side, who often used the long throws of Rory Delap as a rudimentary attacking weapon, as a “rugby team”.
But fast forward to 2015 and Stoke, now managed by Mark Hughes, are far easier on the eye than the team that carried out Pulis’ robust tactical instructions so effectively.
Indeed, the Potters even have five players on their books with Champions League winners’ medals – Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic, Ibrahim Affelay, Bojan Krkic and Marc Muniesa.
“They are team with a good culture of the Premier League,” Wenger said. “They know how to behave and they have experience as they have been here a long time in the Premier League.
“They have improved their technical quality as they have Afellay, Bojan, Shaqiri, Mame Diouf up front and Charlie Adam in midfield.
“They have a lot of technical players that can give you problems.”
– Bad blood –
Surprisingly for a manager with a habit of bearing a grudge, Wenger attempted to play down the extent of the previous ill-feeling between the two sides.
“They have always had good teams and overall when we go to Stoke they are always especially motivated against us,” he said.
“There is history a little bit because of what happened and overall it was always very difficult for us.
“For me there was never bad blood, it was just a game that was always very difficult for us to play. But I always focus on playing football and trying to get my team to play as well as we can.”
Arsenal have not only failed to win at home so far, but have also yet to register a goal inn front of their own fans, having lost 2-0 to West Ham and then shared a goalless draw with Liverpool.
Overall they have scored just three times, with two of those own goals contributed by the opposition.
Olivier Giroud is the Gunners’ top scorer with just one therefore, but the French striker goes into the game having been booed by his own countrymen on Monday for missing a number of chances in a 2-1 friendly win over Serbia.
Wenger made it clear Giroud, who scored 14 Premier League goals last season, still had his backing.
“He has my full support and I believe that is part of being a striker,” he said.
“There is no striker in the world who has not been questioned. When he missed a chances and is booed, that can happen.”
Hughes will include Jonathan Walters in his Stoke squad despite the striker’s contract stand-off.
Walters, whose current deal expires next year, handed in a transfer request and was linked with moves to Leicester and Norwich on deadline day.
Hughes left Walters out for their 1-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion last time out, but confirmed he will be part of the 18-man party for the trip to the Emirates Stadium.
“His immediate future is he’ll be involved in our game against Arsenal,” Hughes said. “It’s one of those situations and he wasn’t the only one during the transfer widow.
“Jon’s a good professional, he’ll get his head down. I don’t feel I have to chat with him about it, if I’d seen a change in him then maybe. He’s in my thoughts for the weekend.”