By Rob Kelly
Neil Banfield has challenged his side to draw a line under their disappointing end to 2011 and kick off the New Year in style.
The Gunners host Sunderland at London Colney on Wednesday and will be keen to get back to winning ways after successive defeats to Aston Villa and Chelsea.
Despite an encouraging display against the Blues, Banfield insisted his players must show their ruthless side against the Black Cats and turn possession into points.
“Part of being a top player is being a winner, and they have got to want to win every game - we make no bones about that,” he told Arsenal.com.
“Playing nice football but not winning is not acceptable: you have to win. You must make sure you turn possession into victories. That’s not just about taking your chances, but being tight at the back as well.
“[After the Chelsea defeat] we looked at the DVD of the game and the stats and there were a couple of individual mistakes and we could have been a bit more clinical in front of goal. If that had been the case, it could have been a different result. We need to keep our belief and go again.”
Banfield will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s 4-2 victory against Sunderland, but is mindful that his side face a tough test of their credentials.
“With Martin O’Neill there now, we know it will be a hard game. They have some good young players and I expect it to be a young squad, but I am looking forward to it,” he said.
“Last time we had a tough game against them. They play good football and attack you, but we are ready to get our season back underway.”
The New Year is traditionally a time of change, but Banfield is hoping for more of the same in 2012 after seeing a host of players make the step up into Arsène Wenger’s squad over the past 12 months.
“Getting players into the first-team squad is what my job is all about,” said Banfield. “I hope we see a continuation of how things have been going.
“We have seen the likes of Manny [Frimpong], Jack [Wilshere] and Wojciech [Szczesny] coming through, so hopefully we can continue producing players for the Arsenal first team.
“Also, if you look at the Fulham match, two players in their team – Stevie Sidwell and Philippe Senderos – used to be here, while in the previous game, against QPR, Armand Traore, Matthew Connolly and Jay Bothroyd were playing.
“There’s a sprinkling of players in the Premier League [who started at Arsenal]. Our aim first and foremost is to get them into our first team, but if not then we want to give them a good career.”
Arsenal.com will bring you live Twitter commentary from the game and match highlights will be available 'on demand' from Thursday afternoon on Arsenal Player.Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source