Monday 19 February 2018

Wenger thrilled by Gunners' progress

Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images
Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger believes that Arsenal's thrilling win against Chelsea can prove to be a defining moment in the development of his new squad due to the self-confidence it will give the players.

The Arsenal team celebrated ecstatically in front of their own fans at Stamford Bridge after Saturday's 5-3 victory and, although Wenger stressed that they had won nothing yet, he acknowledged the symbolic importance of defeating one of their main rivals. He said that the moment held particular significance as it was the club's first really big win following the summer departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

"There was uncertainty about whether they can win a big game," he said. "For us it was a massive test. First, to see if we can compete in terms of quality with top teams as nobody knew before the game and secondly to see if we were capable of winning when we play well. And we did.

"I knew we had the potential to do well but it is important as well because I am not the only one who has an influence on the team. The environment does as well. If you read every day you are bad, at the end of the week, you will start to believe it.

"You want the players to be happy. There is a need for us to communicate with our fans again and that was a good chance. We wanted that. After that, we have won nothing. We must just use it as a springboard to go further towards our target. The players know that."

Arsenal will be aiming to extend a sequence of five straight wins when they play Marseille in the Champions League tonight, with Wenger facing a major dilemma over whether to rest key players. He will make a final decision this morning but the memory of last season, when he rotated players and Arsenal eventually faced Barcelona in the last 16 due to qualifying as group runners-up, is not far from his mind.

"I did it away from home, at Donetsk, and got punished," said Wenger. "We paid a heavy price. We want first to qualify but you could finish first (in the group) and still play Barca. I am tempted to stick with the same team. Sometimes if you take a team on a roll there is no need to change it. When a team is on a positive experience, why not?"

Thomas Vermaelen is in contention to start, but Abou Diaby has suffered a setback following his ankle surgery and will be out for another three weeks.

Marouane Chamakh is also unavailable tonight due to a knee injury, leaving Ju Young Park as the obvious alternative if Wenger chooses to rest Robin van Persie. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Arsenal v Marseille,

Live, TV3/Sky Sports 2, 7.45

Irish Independent

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