Arsenal, Clubs, English Premier League, Stoke City, Story

Shaka Hislop explains why Arsene Wenger needs to throw caution to the wind and play Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette together down the stretch for Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger is looking forward to Europa League quarter-finals after Arsenal knocked AC Milan out of the competition on Thursday night, but the manager still believes in a “miracle” top four Premier League finish.

Paul Lambert believes criticism of Arsene Wenger is over the top as he prepares to take his Stoke side to the Emirates Stadium.

The pressure on the Arsenal boss from the club’s fans has hit a peak during this campaign, with the Gunners looking certain to finish outside the top four in the Premier League for the second successive season.

Lambert said: “If he’s getting criticism then we can all get it. It’s ludicrous to say he’s out of touch with the level of success he’s had and everything he’s done. If you can just get a part of that success then you’re doing all right yourself.

“It’s never nice to see a fellow manager (face that), regardless of how long you’ve been at a football club. I don’t agree with it. He’s a victim of his own success really, the amount of trophies he has won and high level trophies. He’s transformed so many players.”

Arsenal are 13 points adrift of the top four but go into Sunday’s clash on a high after three successive wins, including two against AC Milan in the Europa League, which could yet give them a route into the Champions League.

“I don’t think they’re a team in decline,” added Lambert. “I think maybe a lot of their focus will be on the Europa League, because if you win that you go into the Champions League.

“They’ve been a terrific football club in Europe as well and I still think they’re a really top side with some really top players. The bar’s been raised by Man City — I think Man City are a team who are out on their own at the minute — but I still think Arsenal are a really good side.”

Stoke are desperate for points down the other end of the table but have lost on all nine previous visits to the Emirates — a sore point for fans given the needle between the two clubs. Not that any of that will concern Lambert.

He said: “I know there’s maybe history between the clubs but this is new for me. You respect the history at any football club but I don’t go into the game thinking what’s happened before, I go and try and win for my own team.”

Stoke go into the match on the back of successive defeats by Manchester City and Everton, with the latter featuring an increasingly rare substitute appearance by Saido Berahino.

The former West Brom forward has gone more than two years without scoring a goal and seems no closer to winning over Lambert than he was the Scot’s predecessor Mark Hughes.

“He’s not given me the (selection) problem and he knows that,” said Lambert.

“I’ve been totally open with him about what I expect and he’s not hit the height I thought he should have. The club bought him for a lot of money and we should be looking at, when someone’s injured, you’re in.

“I think the penny is starting to drop. My standards are that high to try to get the best out of them. You have to perform and do the right things. I don’t have any question about the way he is as a goalscorer but there’s more to the game than just that.”

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