Stoke look to extend Arsenal's frustration in Champions League chase

Home games against Arsenal have always proved popular fare for Stoke fans, who have more than enjoyed the upper hand in the fixture since their arrival back in the top flight. The Potters have lost just one of the eight games they have contested against Arsene Wenger's men on home soil during their time in the Premier League, a run they will be keen to extend on Saturday.

It's a game that needs little in the way of added spice, but on this occasion the usual hostilities will be supplemented by the distinct possibility that this could well be Wenger's last away game as Arsenal manager. His contract expires at the end of the season and his future remains undecided, but popular opinion would suggest that the majority of his club's supporters are in favour of a departure.

Were he to part company with the club, Stoke City's Mark Hughes would take his title of the longest serving Premier League manager, based on games in this league. Given his own run of poor form, that is somewhat of an ironic proposition. The Welshman's future would appear to be clearer than that of his opposite number, but despite him having two years of his contract to run, a large proportion of the support would more than welcome their own change at the helm.

The small task of beating their old foes is the focus for now, with manager and players alike needing to improve their efforts if they are to have any chance of maintaining that recent hoodoo over the visitors. In a 2-2 draw against Bournemouth in their last game, the Potters finally ended a 10-hour goal-scoring drought away from home, but their inability to twice hang on to a lead -- in addition to Hughes' questionable substitutions -- meant that it was more points lost on the day.

With any luck, lessons will have been learned from that game and at least two key decisions should be made in advance of the team being named for the weekend. The first of those is that Marc Muniesa must surely be dropped from the left back berth. Not only has he underperformed, but he has actively contributed to the side's downfall since his re-introduction to the first team.

There is no doubt that the affable Spaniard is a talented footballer, but positional discipline is not his strong suit and his decision-making on when to step out of the back line has been poor and to the detriment of recent results. His removal from the starting XI would suggest a recall for the almost equally disappointing Erik Pieters, but at this stage his inclusion is the lesser of two evils and perhaps an early indication that recruiting a new left-back should be high on the agenda for the summer.

The other decision that should be made is the continued selection of Mame Diouf as the leading striker following his goal-scoring return to the side. Having managed to score more than any other Stoke striker has in a single Premier League season during his maiden campaign, he has had few chances to play in his natural position. Strikers have come and gone, but perhaps more frustratingly, all have been given the opportunity of a run in the side to play themselves into form. That's a luxury that simply hasn't been afforded to Diouf.

His pace and power always gives an out ball into the channels to chase, which means that the opposition defence are unable to push up to their midfield, leaving space in between to exploit. There's the argument that his touch isn't great and that he perhaps misses chances that others would put away, but for the most part those chances are ones he alone has created with his pace that any other player at the club would not even be in a position to miss.

Those two decisions would appear to be no-brainers for a manager desperately clinging to his aspiration of a top-10 finish. But given his penchant for illogical choices in recent months around selections, the fans won't be holding their breath.

If there's one thing everyone agrees on, though, it is that despite there being some 150 miles between the two clubs, games against Arsenal are as close as Stoke get to a derby-like atmosphere these days. Local "rivals" Port Vale have rarely ever threatened to offer any meaningful competition, and news of their most recent relegation suggests that won't be changing anytime soon.

That, and the fact that Saturday could see Stoke help deny Arsenal a top-four finish, would at least put the smiles back on the faces of the fans for the final home game of an otherwise disappointing season.