| 6.9°C Belfast

Arsene Wenger on the defensive over Arsenal's title chances

Close

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows not to expect an easy ride from Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows not to expect an easy ride from Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

PA

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows not to expect an easy ride from Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Arsene Wenger maintains only a collective defensive effort can propel Arsenal back into the Barclays Premier League title race.

The Gunners head to Sunderland, thrashed 8-0 last week at Southampton, boosted by a dramatic midweek victory away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, coming from behind with two goals in the final two minutes.

The final result in Brussels, however, masked somewhat a largely average display, with few lessons seemingly learned from recent domestic failings which saw Arsenal need a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 2-2 at home to Hull.

Defender Per Mertesacker believes the Gunners must not hide from the fact they 'lack a few things football wise' and need to improve overall confidence.

Wenger, though, insists it is too easy just to lay all of the blame on a backline which has been hampered by injuries, with centre-back Laurent Koscielny set to be out for at least a month with an Achilles injury.

"Until now we have been relatively consistent in our attitude and in our performances, but not efficient enough, neither defensively nor offensively," he said.

"If you look since the start of the season we have only lost two games, to Dortmund and Chelsea, but we didn't make enough points with our performances.

"It is improving by getting everybody to put a bit more effort in to the defensive work, and that starts not only at the back, but up front and in midfield by increasing the level of defensive activity through the team. We had to reshuffle the defence and (the players) getting used to playing together helps as well.

"We train very hard and the spirit is right. I believe more it is linked with confidence at the moment, but I cannot fault the attitude. It (the win at Anderlecht) will help to improve confidence and I am sure that if we focus on our performance, the rest will come naturally."

Wenger knows full well not to expect an easy ride at the Stadium of Light, irrespective of Sunderland's last result.

"When you go to Sunderland, you know to always expect commitment and fight for 90 minutes and we have to prepare ourselves for that," Wenger said.

"The result from last week will certainly have dropped their confidence and increased their resolve to defend well, and then you can get very few openings, so it is up to us to just focus on our own performance."

Premier League: Sunderland v Arsenal, Stadium of Light, 3.00pm

Belfast Telegraph