Football

Walcott out for Gunners

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Arsenal winger Theo Walcott will miss Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Stoke because of a hamstring injury.

However, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger expects Walcott to be available for Wednesday's Champions League match against Olympiacos.

Alex Song is suspended for the showdown at the Emirates Stadium but right-back Bacary Sagna has recovered from his ankle injury.

Gael Clichy (back), Abou Diaby (calf) and Nicklas Bendtner (groin) are still missing, as are Johan Djourou (knee), Kieran Gibbs (foot) and Robin van Persie (ankle).

Arsene Wenger has admitted he is a "bad loser" but does not regret his refusal to shake Mark Hughes' hand.

Wenger was condemned by Hughes for failing to accept his offer of a handshake after Arsenal's 3-0 Carling Cup defeat by Manchester City on Wednesday night.

But the Gunners boss insisted he would behave exactly the same way again, though he refused to confirm a report stating he had been verbally abused by Hughes during the match.

"Saturday, by coincidence, I am managing my 500th game at Arsenal and I believe I have shaken hands 497 times," he said.

"I believe that it is a ceremonial courtesy. But the most important is not the ceremonial but the courtesy of behaviour.

"I don't deny that I am a bad loser but on this occasion I would have done exactly the same if we had won or lost the game.

"I act in accordance with the principles I think are important on the football pitch and I maintain exactly what I said and did."

When asked if he had been insulted by Hughes, Wenger responded: "I'm used to treating this kind of thing with the needed distance. I do not want to make a fuss.

"There are incidents on the touchline but you never heard me ever say anything about another manager after the game, in a press conference or after during the week.

"I maintain exactly the way I behave and do not regret one second of what I did."

Wenger admitted Arsenal will play host to Stoke demoralised by recent setbacks.

The defeat at City was their third successive domestic loss, but more importantly the emphatic nature of their collapse against Chelsea has once more highlighted their frailty.

Arsenal trail leaders Chelsea by 11 points yet Wenger refuses to concede the title race.

"We are disheartened. We are not light-hearted at the moment, I don't deny that," he said.

"But I believe it is a good way to see how strong we react.

"I believe the players are disappointed but highly motivated and determined to get back on track in a convincing way.

"We have a game in hand on the other teams and I believe that Chelsea and Manchester United can drop points."

Stoke will give a late fitness test to central defender Ryan Shawcross.

The 22-year-old has a groin injury that forced him off in last weekend's 0-0 draw at Blackburn, and is considered a major doubt for the trip to the Emirates.

Stoke are without midfielder Dean Whitehead, who is suspended. Potters boss Tony Pulis also has four other players - Ricardo Fuller, Robert Huth, Glenn Whelan and Shawcross - all one booking away from a ban.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis hopes he is not shaking Arsene Wenger's hand at the Emirates tomorrow after being on the wrong end of a hammering.

The Potters boss has already made it clear he is very much in the camp that insists rival bosses shake hands after matches.

But Pulis fears any handshake will be accompanied by gritted teeth, with Arsenal looking to end a run of three straight defeats.

He said: "They will be facing us on the back of playing a second team against City, one of the strongest sides in the country and losing. Is that a crisis? I think not.

"What it will do is spur Arsene on, spur the club and their team to go out and show people what they can do. Their recent results will make them more determined, it will stir them up and Wenger will get into them."

Pulis will still utilise the strengths of his side, Rory Delap's long throw, defiant defending and harassing of opponents in possession.

Pulis continued: "We have improved in lots of respects. We have had a couple of poor games and still got points. Last season when we played badly we lost games.

"This season we have been strong enough to play poorly and still get points. Away from home we have seven points from seven games, which is good.

"If we can average a point a game away from home we will be delighted. We are ahead of the target we have set ourselves.

"We are ninth in the Premier League and that is fantastic for this club."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
European News
Stoke City
Kieran Gibbs
Football
Manchester City
Blackburn Rovers
Robert Huth
Johan Djourou
League Cup
Chelsea
Mark Hughes
Ryan Shawcross
Premier League
Alex
Rory Delap
UEFA Champions League
Manchester United
Bacary Sagna
Gael Clichy
Mark Hughes
Dean Whitehead
Ricardo Fuller
Vassiriki Abou Diaby
Glenn Whelan
Nicklas Bendtner
Theo Walcott
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