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Tuesday 25 July 2017

Wenger not giving up on Arsenal's title dream

Robin Scott-Elliot

Defiant Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains his team will "still have our say" in the destiny of the Premier League title.

Despite their defeat by Manchester United on Monday night, Arsenal could find themselves back at the summit this evening if they beat Stoke at Emirates Stadium -- if only for 24 hours, with United scheduled to go head-to-head with Chelsea tomorrow and third-placed Manchester City, currently level on points with the Gunners, hosting Everton on Monday night.

Given that Chelsea travel to the Emirates Stadium on December 27 and City are the visitors on January 5, Wenger knows his team's destiny remains very much in their own hands.

"We are disappointed because we lost at Manchester United, but we have an opportunity to go back to winning habits at home," the Arsenal manager said.

There has been no love lost between Arsenal and Stoke in recent meetings, but Wenger has called for a line to be drawn under Ryan Shawcross' tackle which left Aaron Ramsey with a double leg fracture and is sure to see the Potters captain singled out by the home supporters today.

Earlier this season, Stoke boss Tony Pulis was left enraged by Wenger's comments suggesting his team employed "rugby-style" tactics against Tottenham, writing to the authorities in complaint. However, Wenger maintains he has no issues with how any manager sets their team out.

"I don't think I have a better style than anybody," the Gunners boss insisted. "You can only manage at a football team with your own personality and I respect everybody's personality."

The Arsenal manager remains cautious of Stoke's threat, both physically and tactically.

"I think they are offensively more dangerous than before because they have (Kenwyne) Jones, (Ricardo) Fuller, Jermaine (Pennant) and (Matthew) Etherington," Wenger said.

"They are very dangerous on the flanks with good crosses and in the middle. When you play against Stoke you know you will need a very solid defensive game. I think they have improved on the footballing side so they are a dangerous side for anybody."

As Shawcross nervously awaits the reception of the Arsenal supporters, the player whose leg he broke the last time the teams met back in February will be preparing to start his first game since that dreadful injury.

painful

It has been a long and painful road back for Ramsey, who before the injury had just started to win a regular starting place in the Arsenal first team, winning rave reviews for his goalscoring display in the 4-1 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park last December.

However, three weeks ago on loan deadline day he was sent out to Nottingham Forest in the Championship to build up match fitness after manager Billy Davies contacted Wenger on "a flyer" and today Ramsey is set to make his full Forest debut against Crystal Palace at the City Ground.

"We know what we've got to do with him, professionally we've got to be careful and we're very thankful to Arsenal for loaning him to us," Davies said. "It suits the player to get fit, suits Forest and it suits Arsenal to see the boy getting games."

Speaking after Ramsey came off the bench in Forest's last game, a 1-0 defeat to Leicester which because of two postponements was three weeks ago, Davies could hardly hide his delight at adding the talented playmaker to his underperforming side.

"When he came on we started to link back to front, which we didn't do earlier in the game," Davies said. "We know where he's come from and we know the quality that he's got. You could see that within two minutes of him coming on -- the calmness, the composure, the ability to pass and link and play."

Ramsey, who started out with Cardiff in the Championship before turning down Manchester United to sign for Arsenal for £5m back in 2008, is just delighted to be playing again.

"I just couldn't wait to get out on the pitch (against Leicester). I couldn't sleep the night before," he told the Forest website. "I couldn't wait to pull on the jersey again and get out on the pitch.

"It's (the injury) gone now. It's out of my head. I've seen the specialist; the leg is fine and he was happy for me to go back into contact and I didn't have a problem with his word. I even had a few kicks on the leg and it felt good.

"Just to be out there and playing football again made me realise how much football means to me." (© Independent News Service)

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