Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger surprised by Stoke's revolution
By Allan Valente
Last Updated: 17/01/16 10:58am
Arsene Wenger has been surprised by Stoke's footballing revolution, but says their ability to attract big names proves the pulling power of the Premier League.
Table-topping Arsenal go to the Britannia as part of Super Sunday having won only once in the league at Stoke in 34 years.
While the Potters have held a jinx over Arsenal in recent years with their robust and direct style of play at odds with that of Wenger's teams, Mark Hughes has introduced a more free-flowing approach since taking over.
Asked if he was surprised at how Stoke have evolved, Wenger said: "Yes, I think they have gone a more technical and creative way.
"They have proved their creative potential and it's a symbol of Premier League power because Ibrahim Afellay has played at Barcelona, Xhedran Shaqiri at Bayern Munich, Bojan at Barcelona, Marko Arnautovic at Werder Bremen.
"So they have players who have played at the top European clubs. They have not taken them because they were bad and today they play at Stoke so that shows you the financial power of the Premier League."
Arsenal's unhappy hunting ground
Stoke have the third-best home record against Arsenal in the Premier League since 2008/09
The Arsenal players and management received a barrage of abuse from angry fans last year as they boarded their train back to London following a 3-2 defeat, but Wenger said he has no qualms travelling by rail once again.
The 66-year-old believes having a more experienced side, coupled with Stoke's change in approach, could see his side banish those memories.
"First of all, when we had a very young team we had a style that was maybe a little bit rough for us and we could not always cope with it," he added. "Last year we went to Stoke with a very young defence - we had [Hector] Bellerin, [Calum] Chambers, [Damian] Martinez - and at the start of the game we got caught.
"Petr Cech is 34, [Per] Mertesacker 30, [Laurent] Koscielny 30, [Nacho] Monreal 30... Before we did not have that level of experience and that helps a little bit.
"But over the years they had a very efficient, traditional English style which nobody liked to play against and at home it is as well a very windy stadium.
"I think it feels stronger. It is always a test Stoke and I believe our record goes against us but it is interesting as well because it is also a mental test to show we have moved forward and that we can deal with what Stoke offer."