Arsenal will face a traditionally tough trip to Stoke this evening but in Sead Kolasinac, manager Arsene Wenger believes he has the perfect man to deal with the situation.
The Gunners travel to the Bet365 Stadium to continue a rivalry which developed as a clash of two sides with a different approach to the game after Stoke’s promotion to the top flight.
The ill-feeling only intensified after a Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey in 2010 left the midfielder with a double leg fracture.
While Wenger’s Arsenal continue to play in a similar fashion, Mark Hughes has been tasked with altering the Stoke approach.
That meant less of an in-your-face battle for Arsenal and this was borne out with a 4-1 win for the visitors in this corresponding fixture last season, their first victory in the Potteries since that game in February 2010.
But if the going does get rough for the FA Cup holders on Saturday, Wenger has backed new-boy Kolasinac to handle the pressure.
“He has started well,” Wenger said of the summer arrival from Schalke.
“Maybe he is the strongest, he is naturally strong. He uses quite well the strength of his body without violence and when he intervenes it doesn’t look to be a foul, he just uses his body strength.
“It is an important quality to help adapt to the Premier League. He has the capacity to repeat runs and we noticed when we watched him play that he is quite dangerous in the final third. He already has some assists since he came here so overall maybe he is not a glamorous dribbler but the quality of his runs are very efficient.
“The determined attitude gets to the crowd and that gives a swing to the team, you can see that with him and when he intervenes he provokes happiness.”
Wenger said it was a “no-brainer” to bring in Kolasinac for free after his contract at Schalke came to an end and believes the signing offsets the club-record fee paid for Alexandre Lacazette later in the summer.
“I think it was a good opportunity in Germany because we knew he was at the end of his contract,” he said.
“Watching him, I thought he had the quality. I met him and he had a good spirit and a good attitude so basically overall it was a no-brainer for us.
“It is a nice bargain because it allows you to divide your buy by two. When you buy two players, the price of one you buy you can divide by two. One player for £50million is two for £25million.
“You might find it more and more, I have said it many times, that more and more players will go to the end of their contract because the transfer is too high, the inflation is too high and the agents will be demanding and clubs will not be in a position to extend contracts.”
One player whose time at Arsenal has ended is defender Gabriel, signed by Valencia on a five-year deal yesterday. The 26-year-old Brazilian moves to the Mestalla for an undisclosed fee, believed to be around £10million, as Wenger trims his squad.
Gabriel sustained a serious knee injury in Arsenal’s final Premier League game of last season and did not feature in pre-season.
Gabriel could be the first of a number of departures at the Emirates, with Lucas Perez, Calum Chambers and Joel Campbell also linked with moves away.
The future of Alexis Sanchez remains up in the air, with Wenger insisting he will stay. Sanchez is still not fit enough to make his first appearance of the season with an abdominal strain keeping the Chile forward on the sidelines as speculation over his future rumbles on.
Meanwhile manager Mark Hughes is confident Stoke will offer on-loan Paris St Germain frontman Jese Rodriguez the perfect platform to show why he is one of Europe’s elite players.
The 24-year-old, who came through the youth ranks at Real Madrid, has signed for the Potters on a season-long loan just over a year after costing the French club almost £22m.
Jese spent nine seasons at the Bernabeu, scoring 12 goals in 62 league appearances, most of them as substitute, and was part of the Champions League-winning squads of both 2014 and 2016.
Hughes remains positive of just what he can bring to a Stoke squad which has seen the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Joselu both move on during the summer.
The Stoke manager said at a press conference: “I think we can give him a platform here to really enjoy himself.
“Everyone is excited to see him play. He is an elite player, a top-level player and you don’t get too many opportunities to bring players like him to the club, so when you do you should enjoy it.”
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