Arsenal are off to Stoke this weekend, which is not a sentence that inspires joy in one's heart. Ever. But, Stoke are who's next on the schedule, so it would seem Arsenal have no choice. Last year, of course, not only did Stoke win, but some Arsenal traveling fans decided that it'd be fun to verbally abuse Arsene Wenger as they all waited for the train after the game. Fair to say that that was a low point, for both team and fanbase.
This year, though, Arsene Wenger has set his team a challenge ahead of Sunday. He said that
victory this weekend would be a significant indicator of their ability to stay at the top of the Premier League. "We have to show that we have made a big step forward and can beat them"
For a manager who is famously not about motivational quotes and public winding up of his players, this is quite a statement - he's challenging his team to go to, if not Mordor, then at least a particularly unpleasant suburb of Akron, and do what he knows they're capable of doing.
He also confirmed that Arsenal will be going to Stoke by train again:
"We travel in what we think is the best and the shortest way," Wenger said. "You want as well not to be isolated too much because you want contact with people who love the club, you want contact with the fans."
You do want contact with the fans; you just want those fans with whom you contact to have some perspective every now and again, though.