Stoke vs. Arsenal: Arsene Wenger Talks Real Madrid Transfer Ban, More in Presser

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2016

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger takes to the touchline before his team's English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has proclaimed both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will see their transfer bans overturned leading up to his side's trip to face Stoke City on Sunday.

There's been major speculation on the transfer activity at Arsenal, but it was the business of the Spanish sides that took precedence for Wenger on Friday.

Arsenal sit level on points with Leicester City at the top of the Premier League.
Arsenal sit level on points with Leicester City at the top of the Premier League.Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Both teams have been hit with two transfer-window bans for signing underage players from abroad, per BBC Sport, but Wenger appeared confident the La Liga duo would see their suspensions overturned, according to the Mirror's Hamish Mackay:

“They will appeal, they will cancel the ban and they will be allowed to buy in the next two transfer windows. That’s what will happen.”

The Gunners head to the Britannia Stadium after a last-minute Joe Allen volley prevented them from claiming all three points at Liverpool in midweek. Meanwhile, Leicester City's 1-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur saw them draw level at the summit.

Many have been waiting for the moment Claudio Ranieri's dark horses would crumble under the pressure, but even Wenger admitted their title challenge now seems genuine, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:

Mark Hughes' side host Arsenal after winning back-to-back home games against Manchester United and Norwich City, with the Potters having defeated the north Londoners in each of their last two clashes at the Britannia.

The most recent of those was a 3-2 win in December 2014, after which Wenger was jeered by his own fans boarding a train, a reaction Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker dubbed "inexcusable," per BBC Sport.

However, the Frenchman said he took no personal offence to the incident, per Mackay:

I took it as people were upset. I didn’t take it personally. I was sad and upset more by the result than the reactions of people. I can understand when you love a club you want the results to be positive. That problem will be more common now. I think it will be a problem in the next two-three years. I see it in France and many countries.

Arsenal's record at Stoke makes for a frightening read as far as the Gunners will be concerned. Sky Sports outlined a haul of just four wins in their last 21 trips:

Wenger said talisman Alexis Sanchez faces "two decisive days" in a bid to be fit for the Stoke trip and added he'd rather have his current stars back for selection than make more January signings: “I would prefer to have the players back from injuries. (Danny) Welbeck is two to three weeks away, and I am confident I will not find a better player than Welbeck on the market.”

Those comments come less than 24 hours after Arsenal wrapped up the signing of Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny, who arrived at the Emirates Stadium as the club's first recruit of the January transfer window.

Wenger's Arsenal are unbeaten in four games.
Wenger's Arsenal are unbeaten in four games.Jon Super/Associated Press

However, Wenger admitted he still needs time to assess what role the midfielder will play in his plans, having completed the move following injuries to Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla“I bought Elneny because he can play with a defensive player or be the defensive player. I need to know more about him to see whether he becomes a defensive or box-to-box player.”

Anything but a victory at the Britannia would leave the Gunners susceptible to falling from the top of the Premier League standings, with Leicester travelling to Aston Villa in a match they'd be expected to win.

Wenger's side are unbeaten in their last four games, but they can ill afford to let points evade their grasp on Sunday if they're to retain their place on the Premier League's highest perch.