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Wenger looks for home comforts


Arsene Wenger wants the Emirates to become a fortress

Arsene Wenger wants the Emirates to become a fortress

Arsene Wenger wants the Emirates to become a fortress

Manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal players to translate their brilliant away form into making the Emirates Stadium a fortress - starting with Sunday's visit of Stoke.

The Gunners secured a club-record 10th successive away victory when they beat Marseille 2-1 in the first Champions League group match on Wednesday night.

Although the Emirates Stadium was rocking as Arsenal defeated north London rivals Tottenham 1-0 before the international break, the bitter disappointment of an opening-day 3-1 reverse to Aston Villa still remains fresh in the memory.

As the Gunners prepare for a first home match since the £43million club-record signing of Mesut Ozil, Wenger feels his side can start to consolidate a position of strength at Ashburton Grove.

"If you look at the numbers, away from home, we have been remarkably consistent. At home we want of course to create the same consistency," he said.

"I believe we have a chance [to challenge for the title] and what is most important is that my full energy is to make sure we grab that chance.

"It is too early to say who will be in the fight, who will not be in the fight. You are a bit cautious because these days you are very quickly in a crisis - one bad result and everyone questions your potential to be in there, so let's be consistent."

Stoke were also beaten on the opening day of the new Barclays Premier League campaign, losing 1-0 at Liverpool.

However, Mark Hughes' new-look Potters have responded well, securing two wins and a goalless draw at home with Manchester City last weekend as well as progressing in the Capital One Cup.

Wenger was never a big fan of the tactics Stoke often deployed to great success by former boss Tony Pulis.

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The Arsenal boss, however, feels Hughes - back in the Premier League after being sacked by QPR in November 2012 - has done well to oversee a smooth transition.

"It is always difficult to change the style of a team because you are judged immediately on the results. They look to have adapted remarkably quickly," Wenger said.

"For me it shows as well that Stoke have good players. When they are capable to adapt, it is always a sign of quality."

Wenger, though, maintains his men must be ready for whatever is thrown at them on Sunday.

"In the Premier League I believe all the top teams today are very, very focused in every single game," he said.

"What we have learnt in the last two years, all of us, is that every single game is a battle where you need to be at your best if you want to win it."

Theo Walcott scored his first goal of the new season with a fine volley against Marseille.

The England forward, though, could already have been up and running with the amount of chances which have come his way, particularly at Sunderland last weekend.

Wenger, though, was never concerned, so long as Walcott continued to do all the right things.

"I would have been worried if he didn't create any chance," he said.

"The players always need that and the fact that he scored certainly will get that out of the way and [he] will be scoring regularly because he created many chances recently.

"That is really in cycles, the finishing, and is the same for everybody."

Arsenal could have midfielder Mikel Arteta back in the squad for the first time this season as he recovers from a thigh problem.

Santi Cazorla, though, remains sidelined with his ankle injury, as does Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky (thigh).

Wenger feels when everyone is fit, there will be plenty of healthy competition.

"We are a squad, we cannot play with 11 players for the whole season," he said.

"Arteta is very influential and is one of the leaders of the team.

"At the moment with the number of injuries we have, we are a bit short and we have plenty of games in front of us, so it is good news."

Wenger added: "They will all get their share of games.

"You calculate in a squad the maximum the players can play is 70% of the games, so that is a lot of room for the other players as well."

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