Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains there is no “bad blood” between his side and Saturday’s Premier League opponents, Stoke City.
The teams meet at the Emirates Stadium at the weekend with their rivalry having eased off somewhat in recent seasons – Stoke’s previously robust approach often attracting the ire of Wenger and his side.
A broken leg suffered by Aaron Ramsey in a tackle with Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross at the Britannia Stadium in 2010 served as a catalyst for emotions to run high.
Stoke have never won at the Emirates while Arsenal have traditionally struggling at the Britannia.
After a mixed start to Arsenal’s season, Wenger wants to kick-start the campaign against a Stoke team now geared towards attacking flair with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic available to Mark Hughes this weekend.
“For me there was never bad blood, it was just a game that was always very difficult for us to play,” said Wenger, who will be without Jack Wilshere (ankle) but can welcome back Per Mertesacker after a virus.
“But I always focus on playing football and trying to get my team to play as well as we can.
“They are team with a good culture of the Premier League, they know how to behave and they have experience. They have been here a long time in the Premier League and they have improved their technical quality.
“They have [Ibrahim] Afellay, Bojan, Shaqiri, [Mame Biram] Diouf up front and Charlie Adam in midfield. They have a lot of technical players that can give you problems.
“What we want is to focus on our own performance as we want to take off at home now. There is a little bit of history because of what happened and overall it was always very difficult for us.”
Hughes will be without Afellay and Adam due to suspension while Diouf (hamstring), Glen Johnson (groin) and Marko Arnautovic (ankle) are doubts.
Bojan is fit and in contention for a first Premier League start since being laid low by a serious knee injury in January, as Hughes too seeks to get his side’s campaign up and running after taking just two points from four games.
Hughes said on Thursday: “Bojan flourished with game time last season, and maybe he will need that time again. Hopefully he comes back flying.
“They have struggled at home, surprisingly, and maybe on the back of an international break, going there this weekend could be a good time to go.
“We feel we are better equipped to deal with Arsenal on the road now. We have players who can cause them problems.”