''I’m free to shake hands with whoever I want'' - Wenger v Hughes

As Arsenal get ready to host Stoke City we look at the interesting personal battle between Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger.

Today will see Arsenal reignite one of their most bizarre rivalries in the Premier League with Stoke City in the early afternoon clash at The Emirates.

Before the game much of the attention will of course be on the potential clash between Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Shawcross. Perhaps it is the fact that, three years after the incident, Ramsey is finally showing glimpses of the excellent player he was supposed to become with six goals in seven games. But regardless of the reason, the fact Shawcross once put him out of action indefinitely with a horror challenge has again been one of the main talking points ahead of the game - and expect Shawcross to receive the usual abuse every time he touches the ball.

Ramsey admits he will shake his hand, but has warned people not to expect hugs and kisses between the pair.

But talking of shaking hands, don’t the two managers have previous as well?

I am talking of Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger’s ongoing feud of course. In 2009 Wenger refused to shake the Welshman’s hand after his Arsenal side were outgunned 3-0 by Manchester City - after which Wenger said ‘’I’m free to shake hands with whoever I want.’’

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Hughes called it ‘ungracious’ and I think even Arsenal fans must agree that Wenger is a poor loser, which is a good thing - who wants a manager who is a good loser?

But the feud goes further back. When Hughes was manager of Blackburn Rovers they played a rough and tumble style, not dissimilar to that displayed by Stoke City under his predecessor Tony Pulis.

It had Wenger angry on more than one occasion, not that Hughes cared.

And he has stoked the flames of the tie today, by suggesting that Wenger would have to walk from Arsenal if he did not win silverware this season.

When Hughes says and does things in Wenger’s direction he always makes a point of saying ‘he has huge respect’ for the Frenchman - just to not upset the applecart - but one thing is for sure, neither man appears to like the other.

The real question is what Hughes does today. Stoke and his former Blackburn side had some success against Arsenal in the past when they got in their face, tackled hard and played an ugly game. Hughes has tried to get The Potters playing football this campaign, keeping the ball grounded and using the channels effectively.

If they try to match Arsenal in that respect today, the result can only go one way.

So does Hughes go back to Blackburn philosophy to get one over on his old nemesis, or stick to his new principles and likely lose … time will tell.

images: © Ronnie Macdonald, © Ronnie Macdonald

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