By Chris Harris
"We have put ourselves back in a strong position but it’s important to take off at home now as well." - Arsene Wenger
It feels like a long time since Arsenal last played.
When they kick off against Stoke City on Saturday, a shade over two weeks will have passed since the final whistle blew at Newcastle United. But the spectre of transfer deadline day - and the expectations that came with it - made this international break drag on.
Arsene Wenger didn't find the solution he was looking for but he is happy with the quality and the depth of his squad. And he's understandably glad to get actual football back to the top of the agenda.
"I know that we are always questioned and people always want us to sort out the questions by buying," Wenger told Arsenal.com. "It’s a way to improve your team but there are other ways.
"The quality of your work in training, the quality of your solidarity, the competitiveness which you can work on to improve your quality. That’s what we’ll do. Now the reality is what’s happening on the pitch, so let’s focus on that."
|Arsenal: Welbeck, Rosicky (both knee), Wilshere (ankle)Stoke City: Odemwingie (hamstring, doubt), Shawcross (back)|
The reality on the pitch is that no Premier League team - with the exception of Manchester City - has found its form. Wenger thinks that is a symptom of a shortened pre-season but Arsenal have a solid base with seven points from four games. Goals have been scarce but the manager would be more concerned if chances weren't being created.
"If you don’t create chances, it’s worrying," he said. "In the Premier League we are the team who have created the most chances since the start of the season so let’s just continue to focus on that. I know we can finish.
"If you look back to our last game, we won away from home and we want to continue our positive run. We know we are facing Stoke who are a team that can surprise you because they have added top quality. Overall we have put ourselves back in a strong position but it’s important to take off at home now as well."
ONE TO WATCH
Wenger has a new thirty-something at his disposal for the visit of Stoke. Laurent Koscielny passed that milestone on Thursday and, contrary to midweek reports, is fit to start at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Koscielny has followed a familiar path as a Wenger signing - from virtual unknown in 2010 to world-class performer in 2015. His manager thinks he's better than ever.
"The best years are to come now but it looks like he has gone to another step since the start of the season," said Wenger.
"He’s more serene, more mature in his attitude, more confident as well. He deals better with tense moments in the games and he has become a wonderful European and world-class centre back. The next two or three years will be his best years."
Arsenal's problems at Stoke are well-documented but at Emirates Stadium it's a different story with seven straight wins for the Gunners.
|The Gunners have won each of their seven home PL games against the PottersArsenal have averaged 2.4 goals in those seven home PL games against Stoke (17 goals in total)Aaron Ramsey has netted three Premier League goals against the PottersArsenal have put away only 5.6 per cent of their PL shots|
But Stoke have changed. Since Mark Hughes replaced Tony Pulis, their pass completion and possession stats have climbed considerably. That fits with a recruitment policy that has brought groundbreaking talent to the Potteries. Now Stoke have less bludgeon and more beauty.
"They have players who are technically tricky and creative," noted Wenger. "They have Shaqiri, Afellay, Bojan and Diouf up front. They have Charlie Adam in midfield and a real mixture of players who can create chances.
"That’s why their possession has certainly gone up, because they have added technical players to their squad.
"At home we have recently done very well [against them] but it’s true that away from home they are always highly motivated against us as well. Let’s take this opportunity to add another win."
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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