Tuesday 17 January 2017

Wenger demands harder edge to Arsenal

Published 23/12/2010 | 15:04

Arsene Wenger accepts it is time for Arsenal to address their reputation as a soft touch against their main rivals.

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The Gunners' record when facing Chelsea and Manchester United is abysmal, losing 14 of their 18 encounters since 2007 and registering only two victories.

Chelsea visit Emirates Stadium on Monday night hoping to secure a sixth successive victory over their London rivals having scored 13 goals in their previous five games.

Tormentor in chief has been striker Didier Drogba, who has hit the target 13 times in as many appearances against Arsenal and has never tasted defeat in the fixture.

The statistics partially explain why the Gunners have failed to win the Barclays Premier League during that period, though Wenger refuses to pay them too much attention.

"Of course we have a point to prove given our record against the big teams," he said.

"You have to show that you are up to the level expected from you in these games.

"That's the obstacle to get over. At home in the big games, you want to win.

"We don't really think about the record because the statistics are history and every game is a new start.

"Every player has lost a game before he has won one. One day, he wins. We have to make sure for us that day is on Monday.

"Our statistics recently are against us because we have a very young team.

"But three years ago, we lost the small games and didn't lose the big games but still lost the championship so we have to combine both sides of it.

"We are in a strong position now and we know our home form against the big teams will be the decider for the championship."

Wenger believes developing greater self-confidence is the key to Arsenal taking the crucial step of finally beating Chelsea or Manchester United.

"We need to add that fraction of belief and transform the frustration we had in both games into commitment and determination," he said.

"It's good to feel that there is no difference between both teams but it's better to beat them and we are conscious that we have to add something that is a cold, determined attitude and belief that was missing a little bit.

"Having said that, at Chelsea and Man United this season, we conceded first to unbelievable goals so it's important that we are tight defensively against them."

Thomas Vermaelen will not be involved against the Premier League champions after being ruled out until January with his Achilles injury.

The Belgian centre-back has been out since August with the problem and a clearer picture over whether he will play a role in the remainder of the title race will emerge soon.

"Thomas has been out for a long time and we are hopeful he will come back in January," said Wenger.

"He's had a few setbacks and the decider on whether he plays a part this season is now because he is practising again.

"If he has another setback I don't know what the medical staff will do.

"But overall they look quite optimistic he will be back in January."

Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie are available to make their first start together since August.

Press Association

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