Tony Pulis has renewed his feud with Arsène Wenger by implying that Arsenal are a dirtier side than Stoke City and claiming that the Frenchman is under "enormous pressure" to win a trophy this season.
Pulis made his comments as Ryan Shawcross prepares to face Arsenal for the first time since his challenge on Aaron Ramsey at the Britannia Stadium in February left the Welshman with a fractured tibia and fibula. Pulis and Wenger have repeatedly clashed since Stoke were promoted to the Premier League in 2008 but their relationship deteriorated in the wake of the incident involving Shawcross.
At the time Wenger described Shawcross's tackle as "horrendous" and "unacceptable" and said it was "ridiculous" the central defender would be banned for only three matches. After the Arsenal manager criticised Shawcross again at the start of the season, when he accused the defender and his team-mate Robert Huth of employing "rugby" tactics against goalkeepers, Stoke were so incensed with Wenger's behaviour that they wrote to the Premier League and the Football Association to complain.
Although Wenger seemed keen to play down the ill-feeling between the two clubs yesterday, Pulis remains upset with the reputation Stoke have earned for their uncompromising approach and used the disciplinary table to underline his argument that Arsenal have been the sinners on more occasions this season. Arsenal have picked up three more yellow cards and three more red cards than Stoke.
"People have perceptions and you struggle to change those sometimes," the Stoke manager said. "We go into a game here where Arsenal have more red and yellow cards and have committed more fouls, yet you speak to the layman and it's 'Bad old Stoke going to the Emirates'. But the facts don't back up that story."
Pulis, who said he and Wenger "never talk", believes the Frenchman has been "fantastic" for Arsenal but that he must deliver a trophy this season. "If they don't win anything this season, he will be devastated. I think Arsène Wenger is under quite a bit of pressure because there hasn't been a trophy won for five years or so. There's enormous pressure on him."
Wenger, who described Stoke as a team that have "improved on the footballing side", said it was not for him to forgive Shawcross for his challenge last season. "It is only Ramsey who can forgive Ryan Shawcross for what happened to him. I cannot forgive. I do not have that power," said the Arsenal manager, who suggested that Ramsey would return to the club when his loan spell at Nottingham Forest expires early in January.
"If you were the manager of Aaron Ramsey, who is 18 and has two bones broken in his leg, you cannot say you are not upset, it absolutely normal you are upset. I gave my feelings at the moment, what we were focused on after that was to get Ramsey back to playing again, what he is just starting to do now."
Wenger said he had no problem with Pulis's comments about Arsenal's poor disciplinary record. "He's right. We've got more yellow cards," the Arsenal manager said. "It's surprising about our yellow cards. Like the other night [against Manchester United] we picked up yellow cards but I thought it was a fair game."