ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his side to quickly get their Premier League campaign back on course by beating Swansea to "repair the damage" from the "accident" of being thrashed 6-0 at Chelsea.
The Gunners boss – who cancelled yesterday's scheduled press conference – remains at a loss to explain just why his men imploded on Saturday at Stamford Bridge in what turned out to be a nightmare 1,000th match in charge for the Frenchman.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta issued a public apology on behalf of the players for the "unacceptable" and "embarrassing" capitulation, which leaves Arsenal some seven points off the pace, albeit with the chance to close that deficit if they win a match in hand against the out-of-form Swans.
Wenger – who will have both defender Kieran Gibbs and midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain available following successful disciplinary appeals to the English FA – knows if his men are to stand any chance of salvaging what has largely been a promising campaign, then they must not lose focus again.
"We just came out of two convincing results at Bayern Munich and at Tottenham with a very solid defensive performance, so you have to think that (Chelsea defeat) was an accident. How do you deal with the accident? You repair them, you repair the damage and you go for the next one," Wenger said.
"An accident has happened – that doesn't mean that you are not a good driver. It just means that we have played about 40 games this season and it is not what happened on Saturday that reflects the quality of this team. We have 62 points that we earned hard with quality games and that is what we want to focus on – to get back to that quality.
"The season is always decided by how well you finish, so at the most important moment of the season it is vital that we stick together."
Defender Laurent Koscielny is out because of a calf injury, and so 19-year-old Spaniard Hector Bellerin, who was on loan at Watford, has been drafted in as cover.
However, Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both available.
The English FA last night dismissed Gibbs' red card against Chelsea, given in a case of mistaken identity by referee Andre Marriner, and instead transferred the one match suspension to Oxlade-Chamberlain – who had committed the handball in the six-yard box and indeed admitted his guilt at the time, but was waved away.
Arsenal then moved to have that offence downgraded on appeal, claiming the midfielder had not, in fact, technically prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity as the shot from Chelsea's Eden Hazard looked to be going just wide. That claim was also upheld.
Marriner, meanwhile, has been given a match to referee this weekend despite his blunder at Stamford Bridge, and will take charge of Southampton v Newcastle on Saturday. It was felt the 43-year-old, who apologised for the mix up, should be handed a swift opportunity to put the incident behind him.