Saturday 17 February 2018

Wenger: Gunners have to 'switch on'

Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to pick up where they left off before the international break
Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to pick up where they left off before the international break

Manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal side to "switch on" quickly when they resume Barclays Premier League action against struggling Norwich at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The Gunners resume domestic duties at the top of the table from Liverpool on goals scored and tackle a team which by contrast has lost four of their opening seven league matches to sit in the bottom three.

Nevertheless, Wenger warned against any complacency.

"At the top level, one of the keys is to switch on and off when it is right," the Arsenal manager said.

"The quality which is needed after a long break is to switch on again in a very quick, fast and efficient way. That is what is at stake and I am confident we will do that.

"We have learned something in the last 18 months, that the Premier League has changed, that every single game is a potential danger for any team in the league and the recent results in the Premier League have confirmed that.

"Every team who are favourites today are on their toes because they know every game is a potential danger."

Wenger continued: "Norwich are much more dangerous (than last season) because they have (Johan) Elmander, (Ricky) van Wolfswinkel and technically they are very good in midfield.

"It is always a potentially dangerous game to play Norwich because they are a team with a good dynamic and are not scared to play. They showed that against Chelsea in the last game."

Despite Wenger's warnings, it would be a surprise if his team did not record a sixth league victory on Saturday, when star man Mesut Ozil is expected to recover from a minor knee problem but could start on the bench, with next week's Champions League encounter against Borussia Dortmund on the horizon.

Wenger certainly has plenty of options, with midfielder Santi Cazorla set to involved for the first time since the win over Tottenham on September 1 following his recovery from an ankle problem.

"You want all of your best players to play together in a very positive way, which is what will happen," he said.

"I am very happy with the team who have played until now, so we do not expect anything special (from the players coming back).

"What is important is that instead of focusing on one or two players, we focus on developing ourselves as a team and our team play, where there is still room for improvement. There is still the desire within the team to improve that."

Arsenal had most of their first-team squad away on international duty, with full-back Kieran Gibbs called up into the senior England squad alongside Jack Wilshere as injury cover.

Wenger sees no reason why the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both currently injured, and even defender Carl Jenkinson should also not harbour aspirations of making the final squad for Brazil.

Wilshere found himself in the headlines again last week for his comments of the future direction of the national team.

Wenger believes the 21-year-old combative midfielder will continue to grow on the pitch this season despite all of the added media attention.

"Jack is a fighter, he is very strong and has his feet on the ground," the Arsenal boss added.

"He has a very objective assessment of his performances after games and I don't think (he) will be carried away or put down by the media."

Wenger, who turns 64 on Tuesday, is in the final season of his current contract at the Emirates Stadium and it was reported earlier this week that he had agreed terms on a new deal which would keep him at the club until 2016.

Arsenal's board have always expressed their desire for Wenger - who is now the longest-serving manager in the English top-flight - to remain.

Wenger did not rebuke reports that provisional terms had already been put to him for an extension, but insisted his own future was not high on the agenda.

"Yes, I didn't deny (that a contract had been offered). I just said what I said at the start of the season and nothing has changed," he said.

"I believe that when you are manager at the club, you have to prepare for the long term always and act like you would stay forever.

"I believe that what is important is the next game."

Press Association

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