STOKE-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom, Aug 18 – Arsenal head to Stoke City this weekend aiming to register a second victory of the season and divert attention away from continuing questions about the future of Alexis Sanchez.
Arsene Wenger’s side kicked off the Premier League campaign in exciting, if not entirely convincing, fashion against Leicester City, coming from behind to register a 4-3 victory thanks to a late Olivier Giroud winner.
Sanchez, currently sidelined by an abdominal injury, is out of contract at the end of the season, but despite interest in him from a number of clubs, Wenger would rather lose him for nothing next year than sell him now.
“We have to make a choice between efficiency on the field and financial interest and most of the time if you can find a good compromise, it’s better,” said the Arsenal manager.
“But in this case, I think I prioritise the fact that he will be useful on the sporting side.”
The win over Leicester was the kind of performance that suggested the inconsistencies that dogged Arsenal last term have not gone away.
Wenger will hope a repeat of last season’s victory at the bet365 stadium will make a more compelling case for his side to be considered strong title contenders.
But their status among the leading clubs will not be confirmed until the transfer window has passed, with Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain among the players who are also out of contract at the end of the season.
And as far as Wenger is concerned, Sanchez, Ozil and Oxlade-Chamberlain will stay, even if that means they will be allowed to leave for free at the end of the campaign.
For now, Wenger’s focus remains on the trip to Stoke, where Arsenal won for the first time in seven attempts last May.
– Jese debut –
“We had a convincing win there and that should inspire us,” said the Frenchman.
“I don’t believe in bogey teams too much. We had a good performance last season and we have to focus on that, just to deal with the same performance.
“Stoke have a good record at home against many teams and I’m convinced that if we play our game, we have a good chance of winning.”
Stoke began their testing early-season schedule with a 1-0 defeat at Everton last weekend.
Saturday’s meeting with Arsenal is followed by a trip to West Bromwich Albion and a home game against Manchester United.
Manager Mark Hughes can at least call upon new signing Jese Rodriguez this weekend after the Spanish striker completed a season-long loan move from Paris Saint-Germain.
“I have never had an opportunity like this here so I am very happy to have the chance to show what I can do,” said Jese, who failed to impose himself at PSG after signing from Real Madrid last year.
“I want to work hard and help the team. I have chosen Stoke because it is a team that wants to grow and evolve in the Premier League and to reach the European spots.
“I feel we have got the right players to reach those objectives and to inspire the Stoke City fans.”