Stoke V Arsenal at bet365 Stadium : Match Preview

By
13 May 2017

Imbula free to leave if right offer comes in, says Stoke boss Hughes

Stoke will listen to offers for their record signing Giannelli Imbula, boss Mark Hughes has revealed.

Imbula, who joined from Porto in January 2016 for B#18.3million, last started a Premier League game in December and the 24-year-old French midfielder has been linked with Roma.

Hughes said on Friday: "It is fair to say with G it hasn't quite worked out as any of us would want and if there was interest in him, we'd consider that.

"We haven't had any interest - as far as I'm aware it is all speculation - but we'd look at things (if there was interest). It would have to be something we felt was correct.

"Sometimes players can come to clubs and find it more difficult and the Premier League is a different league as well. He has struggled with that to a certain extent.

"He probably hasn't progressed as well as we would have liked and that has been a frustration for him and for us."

Hughes also said Stoke were not, contrary to some reports, targeting Charlie Taylor, the Leeds defender who is the subject of interest from West Brom and was fined by his club this week for refusing to play against Wigan.

"It's not something we are looking to pursue. We're aware of the player, but he's not one of our targets," Hughes said.

The Welshman was speaking at his press conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with Arsenal.

It is a fixture that has tended to have considerable edge over the years and one which Stoke have a fine record in, losing only one and winning four of their previous eight home league meetings with the Gunners.

This time around, fifth-placed Arsenal go into the match looking to keep up their pursuit of a top-four finish.

Asked if his players would like nothing better than to end Arsenal's chances of making the top four, Hughes said: "I don't think it gets as personal as that. We just like to upset teams that maybe sometimes expect to win.

"Our record stands comparison to anybody against Arsenal. It is our last home game, our fans will be totally behind us and the fact that it is Arsenal will add to the mix, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, is ready to put his faith back in Hector Bellerin as the Spanish full-back is set for a recall.

The 22-year-old has been relegated to the bench in recent weeks as the Gunners look to salvage their Premier League season by gatecrashing the top four.

Bellerin has started just one of the last six games despite his style appearing to suit Wenger's change in formation.

He was singled out for criticism by Arsenal fans during the 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace last month and now the former Barcelona youngster, who has been linked with a return to Catalonia this summer, is likely to come into the team for a vital game at the bet365 Stadium.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been operating as Wenger's right-sided wing-back but limped out of Wednesday's 2-0 win at Southampton with a hamstring issue.

And Wenger insists he has no concerns with calling on Bellerin, saying: "He's an offensive player.

"He started as a right midfielder and was transformed into a full-back.

"Look, he's a player who has a fantastic mentality. He went through a difficult period when he came back from his ankle injury, but I never questioned his attitude. He has great spirit."

While Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to sit out the game this weekend, it is understood his hamstring problem is not long term.


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