The Frenchman and his players were abused by their own fans after Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat at the Britannia Stadium last season and must prove they have toughened up on their return
It was perhaps the lowest point of Arsene Wenger’s career as Arsenal manager – and there have been a few.
Just over 13 months ago, Arsenal slumped to an embarrassing 3-2 defeat to Stoke having been three goals down at half-time, with the result leaving them 13 points behind leaders Chelsea.
As the Arsenal team boarded the train to take them back to London, they were abused by angry fans baying for blood.
“Get out while you can, Joel!” screamed one man to Joel Campbell as the players were left in no doubt of the supporters’ feelings.
The worst of it, though, was saved for Wenger. The mobile phone video footage shows the Frenchman being loudly booed as vile swear words turned the air blue.
“F*** off and leave!” was the prevailing message and, although the method of communication would have made 99 per cent of Arsenal fans shudder, the majority at the time would also have agreed with the point.
It was the height of the #WengerOut movement on Twitter. Questions were being asked as to how the manager remained bulletproof in north London despite failing to win the title since 2004.
On Sunday, Wenger and Arsenal return to the Britannia Stadium looking to avenge last season’s humiliation with a victory that would put the Gunners back at the top of the Premier League table.
It has historically been a game in which Arsenal have struggled to cope with the physicality of the Potters, the passion of the home supporters, and even the predictably uncomfortable weather conditions.
It promises to be a sub-zero Sunday afternoon in Stoke but there is no room for a sub-par performance as they enter the game level on points with Manchester City and one point behind Leicester.
Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud are expected to be the only starters from the starting XI last season. They will travel with painful memories but in the knowledge that Arsenal are now a different proposition.
For a start, Mesut Ozil did not play in the last visit to the Potteries and is now the in-form player in the Premier League and the conductor of Arsenal’s attacks having provided 16 assists in the league alone this season.
They also have Petr Cech in goal providing not only world class saves but a calming influence and the experience of having won multiple title during his trophy-laden 11 years at Chelsea.
Arsenal must arrive with the mindset of champions, completely focussed from the start, prepared to battle and with their eyes on all three points rather than a draw. After they dropped two points in the dying moments of the 3-3 draw with Liverpool on Wednesday night, their title rivals will be watching for a reaction.
They beat Stoke 2-0 in September but will know that Hughes’ side have recorded wins over Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United at home this season without conceding a goal.
With a home clash against Chelsea next weekend, Arsenal are in the middle of a potential decisive run of fixtures in their bid for the title.
Putting last season’s Stoke shambles to rest would be the perfect way to show just how much they have moved on.