Wenger admits United game is 'psychological' test for players
If there is one statistic to make Arsene Wenger cringe even more than being reminded that Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005, it is their recent record against Chelsea and Manchester United.
Since April 2009, it reads: played 10, lost nine, drawn one, goals against 22, goals for five. It is a sequence so abysmal that Wenger's explanation of Arsenal simply being beaten by "better" teams is inadequate.
Psychological factors are surely also at work and that is why, in the development of Arsenal's young squad, tonight's match has assumed a significance that goes beyond the impact on the table.
Wenger even acknowledges it could prove to be a turning point for his team. "It's more psychological for the rest of the season than a decider mathematically," he said.
"People are sceptical about our results. We know we have to convince people we can do well in the big games. We have built a team and now we have an opportunity to show we are ready for the title."
Wenger also highlighted some statistics that were in Arsenal's favour -- notably that they have won more games this season than United and have an almost identical defensive record. He also pointed out that, after tonight, Arsenal already will have played away against United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
"If you look at the facts since the start of season, they are a team that has more draws, we win more games, so that means we go there to win," he said.
"We are in a strong position. Away from home we need to have one or two positive results against the big teams and then, if we manage to beat them at home, we have a massive advantage."
Tonight's build-up has been dominated by a spiky exchange between Patrice Evra and Samir Nasri, with Evra claiming that Arsenal are in crisis and Nasri saying that United are now a different team without Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.
It all comes at a time when Wenger's relationship with Alex Ferguson is better than at any point in recent memory.
"Relations with people go up and down," Wenger said. "Why? Because many things happen in the heat of the moment and you know it's not for definite.
"I'm not somebody who bears grudges. I can forgive -- indeed, sometimes I need to be the person forgiven." Wenger will not take a final decision on the fitness of Cesc Fabregas until shortly before kick-off, with Nasri, Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin van Persie all likely to be competing for three positions behind Marouane Chamakh in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation. (©Daily Telegraph, London)