Haunted Arsenal boss Wenger running into the last man he wants to face

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The Frenchman, who could do without any more pressure, will be aware that his away record against Tony Pulis teams makes for worrying reading


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Arsene Wenger probably feels as though he has been living a recurring nightmare over recent weeks.

Unfortunately for the under-fire Arsenal manager, things are not about to get any easier.

The Frenchman seems incapable of shaking himself and his underperforming side from their slumber, with cup successes over non-league opposition providing mere slivers of light in the dark.

Wenger will be hoping to be woken with a start this weekend, but he could just as easily slip deeper into a world of cold sweats and anxious looking over the shoulder.

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At a time in which bogeymen are the last thing the beleaguered Gunners boss needs, he is about to run head-first into one.

Jose Mourinho may be his Freddy Krueger, a seemingly indestructible figure that relentlessly disturbs his dreams from one season to the next, but Tony Pulis is the monster that lives under his bed.

Wenger has, for the most part, been able to contain that presence when in the comforts of his own home at the Emirates, but the spirits have had a tendency to run wild when the 67-year-old packs his bags and heads out on the road.

Arsene Wenger Tony Pulis

A Welshman donning a tracksuit and cap has become a haunting figure that all too often has left visitors to his humble abode unable to explain the events that they have just witnessed.

In seven previous meetings with Wenger on his own patch, Pulis has suffered just one defeat – with that solitary setback coming over seven years ago in February 2010.

Outside of that result, across spells with Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion (he did not face Arsenal at Selhurst Park while with Crystal Palace), there have been four successes for Pulis and two draws.

Given that those under his guidance have never been considered the most glamorous of sides, while the Gunners pride themselves on being an outfit for the football purists, a wily old campaigner has shown that the establishment can be challenged with the right approach.

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Wenger, who has often cut a confused and frustrated figure when faced with seemingly paranormal activity on unfamiliar territory, has spun many an excuse in an effort to explain his failings, with his quip regarding Stoke’s perceived strong-arm tactics in 2010 perhaps his most infamous.

He said at the time: “I believe everybody looks at his squad and tries to find a way where the game is most efficient and we developed one way. It is not the only way, I respect every other way as long as the referees get the rules respected. [But] I saw some footage last Sunday; you cannot say any more it is football, it is rugby on the goalkeepers [rather] than football.”

Stoke subsequently embraced the accusations levelled against them, with “1-0 to the rugby team” becoming a popular chant in the Potteries.

Tony Pulis Arsene Wenger

Pulis, meanwhile, has positively revelled in his role as the underdog and offered plenty of soundbites down the years that have served to further rile Wenger, while amusing the neutrals.

“Wenger is moaning like a drain because it doesn’t suit Arsenal,” he said after seeing a fixture schedule questioned.

He would later go on to say: “I’ve got nothing against foreign managers, they are very nice people. Apart from Arsene Wenger.”

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Pulis has found a way of getting inside Wenger’s head, of getting the Frenchman to question himself and his tactics before a ball has even been kicked – with Stoke still benefiting from the seeds he sowed as their impressive unbeaten run on home soil against the Gunners continues.

He will be hoping to enjoy similar success at The Hawthorns on Saturday, with battle plans that will unquestionably include tried and tested methods against Arsenal already drawn up.

Wenger, meanwhile, needs to start facing his demons, with the north London natives growing restless as calls for change mount in intensity.

Victory in the Black County will not silence the critics or exorcise his ghosts, but it would allow him to sleep a little easier through the international break and potentially offer the last word in what could be a final showdown with Pulis the poltergeist.

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