Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

Wenger: we must rise to challenge

Gunners urged to banish away-day blues against elite

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal players owe themselves a good performance in a big game as they prepare to face Liverpool at Anfield this evening.

The Gunners have once again struggled against their main rivals this campaign and are now in a fight to maintain their record of always finishing in the Premier League's top four in all of Wenger's full seasons at the helm.

The 67-year-old insists he is still undecided over whether to end his 20-year reign as boss at the end of the season, with supporter unrest growing.

Arsenal were surprisingly beaten at home by Watford before slipping to a 3-1 loss at Chelsea and a 5-1 thrashing in their Champions League tie away to Bayern Munich.

That saw them fall off the pace in the title race and leaves them staring at a seventh consecutive round of 16 exit in Europe.

Having started the season well, recovering from a home reverse to Liverpool to go 19 games undefeated in all competitions, back-to-back 2-1 losses at Everton and Manchester City halted their title charge - and now Wenger wants a reaction on another big away day.

"They owe themselves a performance," he said. "They are quality players and I think on the day (at Bayern) it all went against us because we were 1-1 at half-time and in the second half it went against us.

"We lost Laurent Koscielny and then quickly conceded without having adjusted, we lost three goals - (in minutes) 53, 56 and 63. After that it was mentally very difficult.

"We responded at Sutton (a 2-0 FA Cup win), that was a tricky game and we want to respond again. We have an opportunity against Bayern after that to show we can cause them problems."

While turning the tide against the Bundesliga giants looks an insurmountable task, Wenger will be keen to address a wretched run against the current top six in the Premier League.

He has guided Arsenal to just three wins in their last 23 away games at Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Man City and Man United and believes victory at Anfield can help alleviate any psychological barrier that has developed.

"It is even more important because we have not done well recently in these kind of games," he said.

"For us, this kind of game like Liverpool is of course an opportunity that we want to take. We have to go and take it and not wait for the result.

"The result comes with an attacking attitude and that is most important. That we go to just start on a positive attitude - for the rest of the season it will have vital consequences."

Wenger, whose side are currently 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea having played one fewer game, is keen to focus more on beating Liverpool than fantasising about a memorable run to the title.

"We have to focus on our next game," he added. "Things can change quickly. To do a thing like that, you need exceptional rhythm in your results and Chelsea to fade. I think it's more important that we focus on winning and focus on our next game rather than dreaming about coming back to Chelsea.

"(Playing Liverpool) is always high intensity, very competitive. Anfield is a special place where the fans are behind their team.

"For us, after a little break, it's important to switch on quickly. We have seen that's not easy - Liverpool showed that against Leicester. After a break, it's important that you are ready. You lose a little rhythm of the competition and for us it's vital to start strongly."

Arsenal's chances will be boosted by a return to fitness for both Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey, while Danny Welbeck is in contention to start having been eased back following a second serious knee injury.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph