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Szczesny urges Gunners to 'step up' when it counts

After a result against Manchester United on Sunday that prompted joy and frustration in equal measure, one question continued to linger around the Emirates. Would Arsenal really have delivered the same performance if they had still been in with a chance of winning the Premier League?

The evidence of the pivotal two-month period since the end of February, when they were eliminated from the Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup while dropping 13 points in the title race, suggests not. Wojciech Szczesny hinted at a similar answer when he admitted that the 1-0 win victory was helped by the team playing freely after falling nine points adrift of United. "We played with the handbrake off because there was less pressure on us," he said. "We enjoyed our game and that made a difference.

"Realistically, the championship chances were already over but we wanted to play for pride and show we are good enough to challenge Man United. We showed we were a better side and we deserved to win.

"We've shown in the big games at home we can produce terrific performances. We beat Chelsea, Barcelona and Man United."

"We have to prove we can step up," he said. "We believe we are good enough to make that extra step to win the league. Let's show everyone we are capable of doing so. Manchester United have been more consistent and they didn't drop silly points like we did in the last couple of weeks. That's why they are top of the table.

"It's frustrating because all the way I've believed we're the side that were going to win the league. It's frustrating to see other teams fighting for it."

With a sixth consecutive season without silverware looming, Arsene Wenger's position has been under more scrutiny than ever. That was summed up by a split front page in the latest Gooner fanzine which pictures Wenger in the dock of a courtroom that has the club's new majority owner Stan Kroenke caricatured as the judge. On one side, a group of supporters hold the famous banner 'In Arsene we trust', while another offer the alternative message 'In Arsene we rust'.

Wenger has said he should take the blame for the team's shortcomings but, said Szczesny, the players must now shoulder their share of responsibility. Szczesny also dismissed the notion that it was time for Wenger to move into a different role as "ridiculous". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent