Enmity between Pulis and the Frenchman runs deep, but if Wenger does opt to share a glass of red wine with his host, he might discover they have a surprising amount of common ground.
Like Wenger, Pulis is danger of becoming a victim of his own success at the Britannia Stadium. After years of significant investment Stoke’s transfer policy has been scaled down this summer as the club prepare to balance the books.
Peter Crouch arrived for £10 million in the final hours of the August window last year but this time only around £2.5 million has been spent and there will be no flagship signings, such as free agent Michael Owen, unless fringe players are offloaded next week to raise funds.
Pulis has reached an FA Cup final and a semi-final, guided his squad into the
last 32 of the Europa League and maintained his record of never being
relegated as a manager but
Peter Coates, the chairman, has employed a more frugal approach to leave Pulis under no illusions that this campaign could be his toughest yet.
His relationship with Coates, whose family have pumped in over £60 million, remains as strong as ever and you only have to look at the plush new Clayton Wood training ground to get a sense of the astonishing progress made, just four years after the players were forced to change in portable buildings.
But it remains a balancing act as Stoke attempt to both improve their infrastructure and keep moving forward in the cut-throat environment of the Premier League.
“It’s been such an exciting journey and been on an upward curve all the time that you just hope you can keep it going and going,” Pulis said.
“Everything has a limit and a time where you have a little bit of a dip. You’re just hoping that it’s not going to be now. We’ll do our damnedest to keep pushing the club forward.
“When I eventually leave, I want to look back and be proud of what I’ve achieved. I’d like to think people would give me and my staff some credit for what we’ve done here. At the moment we’re striving to make big improvements, such as the academy.
“I’m a very lucky man to be doing what I’m doing. I enjoy it, Stoke City is my football club and I can’t look past it. I’m engrossed by it and everything that happens here.
“I get frustrated and annoyed but I think that’s good. If I was sat here thinking everything was rosy and cooking nicely then I think it’s most probably then time to go. I want to keep striving to improve the place.”
That Stoke can even entertain the idea of signing Owen is another sign of their evolution.
Players turned up their noses at the thought of a move to the Potteries in 2008 but now the likes of Crouch can be lured there and paid competitive wages.
However, the current squad is bloated and there are too many players not involved on Saturday afternoons.
Pulis is under instructions to trim the playing staff which means only Michael Kightly, Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu and Jamie Ness have been recruited over the past two transfer windows.
A deal to sign Tom Huddlestone, the
“At the moment we’ve bought in four players for not massive amounts of money,” said Pulis. “I’m hoping we can do business next week and bring in players to improve the team. Last year we were in the Europa League and signed players to cover three games a week. That has left us top heavy and we know we have to wheel and deal but I understand it.
“The family has put massive amounts of money into this club to take it where it is. They’re good people and understanding. They should be held in esteem for what they’ve achieved and what they’ve done. The blueprint should definitely be used for clubs both in and outside the Premier League.”
Pulis is already preparing to burn the midnight oil next week and it would not be a Stoke transfer window without the sight of a reporter from an excitable television sports channel stood shivering outside the training ground on the final day.
But first, Wenger. Pulis gets on with most of the
Wenger, however, has been a frequent critic of Stoke’s playing style – he once famously claimed they used “rugby-style tactics” – and it was through gritted teeth on Friday that he grudgingly acknowledged they are effective.
“I don’t particularly care whether he has a glass of wine with me afterwards or not,” said Pulis. “It doesn’t make any difference to me. I’m out there to win a game of football on Sunday, as is Wenger. It’s people who are competitive and if he wants to do whatever he wants to do then I respect that.
“Everybody talks about Arsène and myself before our games but it’s the players
who win or lose it for you. I’ve heard people say
“We’d had 23 years out of the Premier League so the chance to play clubs of this ilk at the Britannia will always be special.”