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Arsenal midfielder prepared for another tough battle at Stoke

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (left) skips past a tackled from Sunderland's Jack Colback Arsenal's Jack Wilshere (left) skips past a tackled from Sunderland's Jack Colback

Ben Kosky
Monday, February 24, 2014
7:18 AM

Jack Wilshere expects Arsenal’s work off the ball to make the difference again when they attempt to end their barren run at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

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The Gunners have failed to beat Stoke on their own turf in a league game since 2010 – and ending that winless sequence is essential after their title rivals all matched them by collecting three points last weekend.

And, although Stoke’s style of play may be slightly less predictable since Mark Hughes succeeded Tony Pulis as manager, Wilshere is well aware that he and his team-mates will face a robust battle nonetheless.

“We know what to expect – Stoke away is always a tough game,” said the Arsenal midfielder. “We’re going to have to press them hard up the pitch and deal with the long balls, then when we get the ball we have to play.

“We know what we’ll get and we’re looking forward to it. We need to continue that work ethic off the ball and as long as we do that, we’ll be all right.

“When we lose the ball, we try and win it back straight away and press hard. You see the best teams in the world, like Barcelona and Bayern Munich, doing that and we’ve got to try and do it as well.

“Every time we do that in the other team’s half, we look dangerous and we’ve got the players to hurt them. I thought we did that in the first half hour against Bayern.

“Once we lost the keeper it was always going to be tough – we weren’t able to press them in the same way. When it’s 11 against 11 we know we can come out of our own zone and win the ball back.”

Arsenal displayed those qualities on Saturday as they shook off the gloom of their setback against Bayern Munich with a commanding 4-1 victory at home to Sunderland.

The Black Cats were rarely allowed to venture beyond the halfway line in the first period as Arsenal strung together a series of high-tempo passing moves and scored three times without reply.

Wilshere was involved in two of those goals, supplying the assist for Olivier Giroud to score the first of his brace and also contributing to the silky sequence that was finished in style by Tomas Rosicky.

The Czech’s goal, only his second of the campaign, was reminiscent of Wilshere’s strike against Norwich back in October – also a 4-1 win for the Gunners.

And Wilshere reserved praise for his experienced team-mate, as well as leading scorer Giroud – who returned to the starting line-up after sitting out the last two matches in favour of Yaya Sanogo.

“It was a bit like my goal earlier in the season – a team goal,” added the 22-year-old.

“Even though he’s 32, Rosicky’s up there with the best in the world when it comes to pass and move and getting in behind, and technically he’s one of the best.

“Sanogo did well when he came in and Giroud looked refreshed.

“Fair play to him – I know he was looking for the hat-trick and it didn’t come, but he got two goals and he did well.

“Sometimes it works well for players to rest and it’s good that we can rotate players.”

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