I don’t like Stoke.
That being said, given the amount of abuse I get from Stoke fans whenever I mention them, it’s safe to say that they don’t overly care for me either. Then again, they don’t seem to care for much up Mordor-way.
They boo the sick don’t you know.
Yes, of course, the bad blood stems back to Arsene Wenger’s rugby comments and Ryan Shawcross’s inability to tackle like a normal human being. No-one denies this.
There is, as well, the small matter of the humiliation we suffered there just five weeks ago to be addressed and a performance required from Arsenal to ensure that sort of thing has no hope of happening again.
And it won’t. Not at the Emirates at least.
But we’ve seen before from this Arsenal side what the ‘ghosts’ of previous humiliations can do to them, how it stifles their play which, in turn, makes them more prone to overthink and less likely to avoid doing something idiotic.
At the time of writing there has been little-to-no team news announced officially.
It is widely expected that Wojciech Szczensy, dropped because it was a cup game not because he was an iditot who got caught smoking in the changing rooms, will return to goal making a mockery of the suggestions he had lost his place for the season.
Mesut Ozil should also be returning although if that’s from the start or the bench we will have to wait and see. Given the cautious approach the club are taking to returning players in a bid to rid themselves of the never-ending conveyor belt of bolloxed players, my money would be on the bench.
Olivier Giroud returns as well after enjoying his very own winter break. Who knew that all it took to get a winter break was to be an idiot on Boxing Day?
As for Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey, they will undergo fitness tests unless Wenger rules them out at his press conference later on Friday.
What is there to be said about this game that hasn’t already been repeated ad naseum? We know how they play and we know what we are capable of.
The players have had a full week to work in training, rest weary and bruised limbs and get themselves mentally prepared for this game.
And that’s where it will be won or lost, this battle on Sunday. Not on the Emirates pitch but in the head of every Arsenal player out there.