Wenger thrilled by Arsenal progress
Published 05/04/2015 | 22:56
Manager Arsene Wenger is convinced something is finally happening at Arsenal again - and everyone can "smell" it.
The Gunners romped to a 4-1 win over Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off, which was a seventh successive Barclays Premier League victory and moved them up into second place.
While Manchester City could reclaim second by beating Crystal Palace on Monday and the title looks out of reach as Chelsea remain seven points ahead with a match in hand, there is no doubt when Wenger has all of his squad available Arsenal are capable of giving anyone a run for their money.
Although there was disappointment at failure to progress in Europe following elimination by Monaco, the prospect of an improved league finish and successful FA Cup defence remains very much on the agenda.
Wenger, who was often criticised over the direction of his team following almost a decade without a trophy, feels finally things are starting to come together.
"We have a good mentality and good cohesion in the team," he said.
"There is something happening, that shows you that they are ready to fight for each other.
"You can see that, you can't cheat on that, people smell that.
"It of course is a good basis, and defensively we are getting better."
Following a poor start to the campaign, Arsenal were expected to struggle to sustain a place in the top four.
Wenger, though, will not get complacent.
"I am old enough to know that things are never as comfortable as they look, but what is true is that it's in our hands. How well we deal with the situation now will be important," he said.
Wenger has his sights set on getting as close to Chelsea as possible, with the leaders set to come to the Emirates Stadium on April 26.
"I am a competitor and what that means is you have to go as high and as far as you can. When you go home if somebody was better than us, then 'well done', but we have to have given our best until the end and that is what I would like to do," he said.
"Let's give everything to do it and see what happens.
"We are in a good position, with four games at home and only three away.
"We are on a good run, so I would say that it will be down to how we can maintain that focus and level of urgency between now and the end of the season."
After failing to make the most of their positive start on Saturday, Arsenal had to soak up some pressure from Liverpool, with Raheem Sterling failing to capitalise when put in on goal.
The Gunners finally broke the deadlock through the unlikely source of full-back Hector Bellerin, who slotted home a fine left-foot curling effort on 37 minutes.
It proved the catalyst for an onslaught, with Mesut Ozil's free-kick and a rocket by Alexis Sanchez on the stroke of half-time effectively ending the contest.
After Arsenal's tempo dropped, Liverpool reduced the arrears with a penalty from Jordan Henderson, but following the dismissal of Emre Can for a second yellow card, Olivier Giroud cracked home a late fourth to cap a memorable afternoon's work.
Wenger admits he has been impressed by the work-rate of both Bellerin and defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin, who were each drafted into the first-team as cover for injury, but are now an integral part of the side.
Asked if either man was in his thoughts at the start of the season, Wenger said: "Honestly, no. But my job is to remain open-minded and make decisions when you have to.
"(I picked Bellerin against Liverpool) because of his pace.
"I thought (Daniel) Sturridge would play and then Sterling would have gone on the flank.
"Because of his low centre of gravity, Sterling changes direction very quickly and Hector is short as well."
Wenger added: "I think you also have to give credit to players who get less, such as Coquelin.
"In the first half he broke up many attacks in a convincing way.
"But honestly I couldn't say that in my head (at the start of the season) Coquelin was one of the first-choice players."