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Wenger targets key victory

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that Wednesday night's game against Stoke City could prove vital as he looks to secure a first Premier League title since 2004.

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The Gunners can move within a point of leaders Manchester United with a win at the Emirates. The game has added importance with Manchester United playing twice before Arsenal's next game at home to Sunderland on March 5.

Should Arsenal slip up against Tony Pulis' side, then Wenger could find his side ten points off the pace by the time the Black Cats make the trip to the capital.

"This is a very important one for us,'' Wenger told Arsenal's official website. "The best way to win the Premier League is to win the game. It is only that which is important.

"If you want to keep in touch with Manchester United, which we want more than anything, this game is vital.

"We have given so much in the Premier League, we have gone through so many difficult periods and have come back with such resilience.''

Arsenal have comfortably won both previous Premier League home games against the Potters, and have not lost to them on home turf since 1981. It is a fixture which has history, with Wenger often critical of Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross - who was sent off after breaking Aaron Ramsey's leg last season.

Wenger will be without in-form striker Robin Van Persie (hamstring) and defender Laurent Koscielny (back), but hopes both will be fit for Sunday's Carling Cup final against Birmingham.

It may fall to Andrei Arshavin to fill Van Persie's boots, and Wenger is confident that a player who has been low on confidence can rediscover his form.

"I love Arshavin because he's a player who can always give you hope that he can make the difference,'' Wenger said. "He was troubled by confidence problems for a while but he is now back and that goal against Barcelona helped him.

"He is a top-level player who lives on success and when it doesn't go for you for a while you question 'What am I not doing right and why?'. Nobody is immune to that.

"I have seen so many big players - and believe me Andrei is one of them - and they all go through periods like that. It is part of being a human being.''

Meanwhile, Wenger has confirmed that Ramsey will return to Arsenal when his loan spell at Cardiff ends this weekend, despite manager Dave Jones' attempts to keep the midfielder until the end of the season.

"He is on loan until Saturday," Wenger said. "After that he comes back. "He could be available for the second game against Leyton Orient on Wednesday.

"I have had good reports from Cardiff and I intend to use him. He could not play last Saturday because he had a little hip problem and we demanded that he rest.

"I think he will play this Saturday again and then we will see if he comes through that game well. After that he is available for Arsenal."


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