“Let's be quiet but efficient. As I told you before, for the second part of the season we really want to make the Emirates a fortress and therefore it's vital that we win this kind of game.
“We have Fulham over the weekend - it's a derby. They always produce an efficient performance at the Emirates so we want to focus on getting three more points.”
Arsène Wenger is always quick to highlight the special nature of a ‘derby’. Of course, Arsenal hail from the north of the capital and there are much closer rivals – geographically and in the table – than Fulham, who hail from west London. But the manager is always wary on these occasions.
|Arsenal: Monreal (doubt - foot), Rosicky (doubt – broken nose), Ramsey (thigh), Arteta (calf), Vermaelen (knee), Bendtner (ankle), Sanogo (back), Walcott (knee), Diaby (knee)
Fulham: Stekelenburg (doubt – ankle), Amorebieta (doubt – knee), Briggs (groin), Etheridge (hip)
“It is because there’s always a special motivation for everybody and it is always physically more intense,” he said. “The focus is always 100 per cent. That's why it is more difficult.”
This will be Arsenal’s 200th London derby in the Premier League era and their 100th on home soil.
The overall record - W103 D55 L41 - and an average points-per-game of 1.83, the best in capital, would suggest the manager is being overcautious.
In fact Fulham have never won away at Arsenal in any competition, losing 22 of their 27 visits. But they have managed draws in their last two trips. And that is a costly commodity in a Premier League table packed into two distinct but tight groups.
Only eight points separate leaders Arsenal from Tottenham in sixth. Meanwhile the bottom 11 teams are covered by a mere six.
Fulham arrive in 16th, two points off rock-bottom Crystal Palace. The Cottagers have lost 14 of their opening 21 Premier League games, the joint-worst record in the division, and conceded 11 more goals than any other team.
Rene Meulensteen took over from Martin Jol on December 2 after a string of five defeats. The change has arrested their form to an extent with four wins in 11 games. But in that period they have conceded four to Manchester City, Everton and Sunderland plus six at Hull.
Let's make sure we turn up on full cylinders to get the win because anything other than that and, no matter how much the opponents struggle, we'll not get the points
Meulensteen has brought in two former Premier League managers, Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins, to assist him. The stakes are so high and the margins so thin right now that it is an understandable move.
“Curblishley [and Wilkins have] a lot of experience, said Wenger. “They can give good advice and have a reassuring presence as well. It's always good when you are surrounded by people like that.
“[They will be needed because] there's a gap that has been created recently in the Premier League.
“It's really the first time now that there's a split between the teams. You have 10 or 11 teams who fight against relegation and the other nine teams will fight now for the European places. How will the outcome be? Nobody knows because sometimes teams at the bottom can produce a run and can jump some places but we have a 11/9 league now.
“So, yes, although Fulham are [in a difficult period] at the moment, the derby has a special context and they are in the position where they have nothing to lose against us.
“So, once again, I would repeat myself in saying let's make sure we turn up on full cylinders to get the win because anything other than that and, no matter how much the opponents struggle, we'll not get the points.”Copyright 2014 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 17 Jan 2014