“The first game can, of course, have an influence on the second one [when they are so close together]. But we are hugely focused on giving a strong response to show that it was an accident. I'm confident we will be hugely concentrated and go into this game with power.”
As Arsène Wenger freely admits, the remnants of Liverpool’s opening salvo at Anfield on Saturday were still apparent in that tame 0-0 draw against Manchester United in midweek.
So only Sunday can truly liberate Arsenal from the memory of conceding four goals in that horrid first 20 minutes last weekend.
But expect this game to be different.
We are ready to have a go. It will be a good sprint now and the way [to win] is to have belief that you can do it. That's the first thing.
For a start, Arsenal are at home and, after that midweek stalemate, they have now kept 11 clean sheets in their last 12 games at Emirates Stadium.
Secondly, it is in the FA Cup fifth round.
Call it 'the business end', call it 'squeaky bum time', this season is starting to turn toward the finish line.
On Wednesday, Arsenal play host to Bayern Munich as the Champions League returns. Both knockout competitions could open up if Wenger’s men can get past their immediate opponents - but, either way, the decisive part lies ahead.
With a sporting eye on Sochi, it seems apt to talk in Olympic terms - this period could determine whether Arsenal compete for the medals but the colour will still be decided significantly later.
Whatever your level of confidence, the team are in a strong position: one point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with 12 games to go and now facing three home games in eight days spanning three competitions. If the team can restart themselves immediately, momentum could be built quickly.
“That's it,” declared Wenger. “We are ready to have a go. It will be a good sprint now and the way [to win] is to have belief that you can do it. That's the first thing.
“Secondly we have to get back more confidence in our next games because we want to find that balance between defending well and scoring goals. We are a goalscoring team and it's important that we find that flow.”
The return of Mathieu Flamini after suspension will help. The manager was elusive on the matter in his press conference but the French midfielder is tipped to be one of a number of changes as Wenger juggles his resources amid the tightest of schedules.
Liverpool have nudged their noses back into the title race by following that win over Arsenal with a last-gasp comeback at Fulham in midweek. Steven Gerrard set up goals in both games and scored an injury-time penalty to secure victory at Craven Cottage. Wenger remains a fan, despite the changing nature of the Englishman’s attributes.
“He is a huge player, Steven Gerrard,” said Wenger. “He's always had a huge influence. If you look at the great results and great achievements of Liverpool over the last 10 or 15 years it's always Gerrard who has turned the game.
“That sort of talent doesn't vanish and remember he has more experience now. Yes, maybe he has less physical power than he had before but one compensates the other one.
“When players are intelligent they find a way to adapt to fewer physical resources and transform the knowledge they have into more efficiency on the pitch.”
|Arsenal: Cazorla (doubt – illness), Vermaelen (leg) Ramsey (thigh), Walcott (knee), Diaby (knee)
Liverpool: Johnson (ankle), Lucas (knee), Sakho (hamstring), Enrique (knee)
Wenger had a steely happiness in facing Liverpool this weekend so quickly after that horrible afternoon at Anfield. The manager wants this game.
Arsenal have been solid on home soil and the urgency of a cup tie might just pull them out of the understandable safety-first approach they took in midweek.
Only four sides have scored more than once against Wenger’s men in their last 31 Premier League games. Three of those fixtures - Villa (h) 3-1, Manchester City (a) 6-3 and Liverpool (a) 5-1 - had an extreme element to them. Only Southampton (a) 2-2 was more mundane.
“We have a very strong defensive record yet when we crack, we crack,” agreed Wenger. “But overall I must say defensively we have been very consistent and the real value of the team is the number of games that we have played [to get] that defensive record. On that front we have had a good stability.”
If Arsenal can regain their poise like they have after those other “cracks” then there is no reason to doubt the manager’s lofty ambitions for this season let alone this week.
We are still in the thick of three competitions.
It’s time to believe.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 14 Feb 2014