Wenger: Make a title statement
The Premier League title race is wide open and Arsene Wenger has told his Arsenal side to take a mental lead by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday night.
The Gunners remain top of the table after Didier Drogba’s stoppage-time penalty miss at Tottenham meant Chelsea dropped down to fourth following Manchester City’s win at West Ham on Saturday, which left them level on points with the leaders. Wenger said while the United clash was only worth three points like any other, he wants to see his men prove they are as good as anyone with a victory that would stand them in good stead psychologically for the rest of the campaign.
Wenger said: “It’s a big game for us because we know that we have to convince people that we can do well in the big games. We know as well that looking at the championship it’s an important place to win points. At the moment, we are in a strong position in the league. We go away for a big game. One or two of the big games, we need to win away from home. That is what is at stake for us.
“It’s more psychological for the rest of the season than a decider, mathematically. They have recent history going for them and, in fairness, they have always big teams. But we have built a team and slowly come up and now we have an opportunity to show we are ready for the championship title.”
Monday’s game will again pit Wenger against great rival Sir Alex Ferguson, and the Frenchman insists his former spats with the Scot should be taken in isolation.
“It’s always for me in the heat of the moment,” Wenger told Arsenal’s website. “I’m not somebody who bears grudges for years. I can forgive – indeed, sometimes I need to be the person to be forgiven – but I’m not somebody who thinks for 10 years, forever, ‘I will hate you’.
“Relations with people go up and down a little bit. Why? Because many things happen in the heat of the moment and you know it’s not for definite. I had [arguments] not only with him but with other managers.”
A decision on whether to play captain Cesc Fabregas, who is battling to be fit from a hamstring problem, will be left as late as possible, while Theo Walcott – who impressed when coming off the bench to inspire the Champions League victory over Partizan Belgrade – could make his first start at Old Trafford. Walcott has struggled to crack the Arsenal first team in recent weeks but Wenger insists his patience will be rewarded.
“Frankly I can understand that because for me Theo Walcott is doing well,” Wenger said. “For me he is not an impact player, he is a regular player. At the moment he does not play as often as he should but he will play soon. In fairness, Theo is fantastic. His attitude and behaviour has been absolutely great.”
Meanwhile, United veteran Ryan Giggs has claimed United’s inconsistent form should not detract from their unbeaten start to the season, which has been largely forgotten amid their seven draws from 15 matches.
“We are proud of the unbeaten record,” he said. “People have not given us the respect we think we deserve but that is probably down to the manner of our results. We have thrown away games we should be winning. But we have dug results out as well.”
Also deserving of respect are Arsenal, Giggs said. In particular, Giggs has noted the input of Samir Nasri, whose recent performances have allowed Arsenal to shrug off the potentially devastating loss of star man Fabregas.
“Nasri has probably been one of the best players in the Premier League this season,” said Giggs. “He has got balance and speed, can play on either wing or off the front. He is really versatile and has scored some great goals as well. He really seems to have come of age this year. Arsenal deserve a lot of credit for the way they have coped with losing a quality player like Fabregas and still carried on winning.” ( soccer news )