Arsène Wenger admits belief at Arsenal on the wane
The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has bemoaned his players' lack of conviction ahead of tonight's crucial Premier League game with West Ham United.
Arsenal can close the gap on the Champions League positions with victory this evening but Wenger has identified a mental block afflicting his team, something he desperately hopes will not affect them tomorrow.
Theo Walcott said on Sunday night that some of the players did not believe in themselves, after their second consecutive league defeat in which they gifted their opponents an early 2-0 lead and could not recover.
"I agree with him," Wenger said. "The players come out and think, 'We could have done better'. But when you look at the first half [against Chelsea] we lost goals we shouldn't lose, You cannot lose 50/50s in big games. You can say what you want but you have to go with a mentality in big games based on belief and total commitment."
Wenger says there might be too much respect from his players towards their opponents, especially after seeing how meekly they started against Chelsea on Sunday and Manchester City the previous weekend.
"The attitude of the players is fantastic," Wenger said. "They want to do well and are focused, maybe a bit too respectful in the big games of other teams. Every time we start to show what we can do it is when the game is already lost. That is what we have to change."
This season Arsenal have taken one point from five games against the top three, and Wenger agreed this was a trend. "This season you have to say yes," he said. "You want to win your big games and turn up with a committed attitude. Last year we could win big games and on Sunday you come out of the game and think, 'What is happening?' What the last two results have created is that we cannot waste any points now."
Victory tomorrow night would leave Arsenal just one point behind Everton and four behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Although tomorrow night's opponents have just two away league wins all season, West Ham will have a threat in Mohamed Diamé, the powerful midfielder with a £3.5m release clause. Wenger is a known admirer. "He has a great presence in the games," he said. "I've seen him in games where he's had a big impact, he can drive the midfield."
Diamé would certainly improve Arsenal's flimsy midfield. Mikel Arteta is still out, as is Francis Coquelin, with a hamstring strain. Abou Diaby will have a late fitness test. Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should both be back after illness.
Odds Arsenal 4-9. Draw 7-2. West Ham 13-2.
Kick-off 7.45pm. Highlights 10.30pm, Sky Sports 1.
Referee A Marriner (West Midlands).