“Yes, it is a step up. It is [important] for us to be at the level of these games coming now.
“But I am quite confident and I think we have learned from the Dortmund game. Even if we lost there were a lot of positives because we controlled them quite well, a team who went to the final in a convincing way last year. Despite the disappointment, it should give us belief.”
You’ll be deep in the throws of your Christmas preparations by the time you read an Arsenal preview without a furrow in your brow.
It is not that Arsène Wenger’s side have big problems, on the contrary they top both their League tables – European and domestic – and before Tuesday’s defeat possessed the best-goals-per-game average of any Arsenal side in 40 years.
|Crystal Palace: McCarthy (doubt - match fitness), Parr (doubt - match fitness), Hunt (ankle), Murray (knee), Williams (ankle)
Arsenal: Wilshere (doubt - ankle), Walcott (abdominal), Sanogo (back), Podolski (hamstring), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Diaby (knee)
But even the manager accepts the real tests are upon us now.
The trip to struggling Crystal Palace on Saturday will be decided by reactions – the visitors to their first defeat since the opening day of the season, the hosts to the departure of manager Ian Holloway.
Then, on Tuesday, Arsenal host Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. The November menu is Liverpool (h), Dortmund (a), Manchester United (a), Southampton (h), Marseille (h), and Cardiff (a).
By then we will be a third of the way through the Premier League season and 90 minutes from the end of the Champions League group stage. If Arsenal can preserve their position until then we just might have a season on our hands.
The mood after the Dortmund defeat was entirely different to the one surrounding the 3-1 loss to Aston Villa on the opening day of season. (And, incidentally, credit to those Arsenal fans who waited in the rain to clap off the German side). Both came at home – you have to go back to March 3 for Arsenal’s last reverse on the road – which does beg the question as to whether Wenger’s men might be more comfortable away from Emirates.
Here was the manager’s reply: “I believe that the defeat against Aston Villa was under exceptional circumstances and didn't reflect the game. On Tuesday night, I felt that we were maybe a little bit victims of having wanted too much to win the game. The heart took over the head a little bit. We opened ourselves up in a position where we lost but that was not reflecting the real game. Honestly, our keeper had zero saves to make. Their keeper had not a lot to save as well. We looked a bit more dangerous in the second half but a draw would have been a fair result. Maybe we have been victims of losing a little bit cautiousness.”
This week, Holloway became a victim of Palace’s bad start. Having won promotion via the play-offs last season the effervescent manager said the top flight would be “like starting a marathon and they are 20 miles away”. Holloway’s departure was reportedly a rare case of proper “mutual consent”. Both sides clearly felt a second wind was needed.
Palace took the lead in Holloway’s final game against Fulham on Monday night but ended up losing 4-1. It was a fifth defeat on the spin. Their only victory came against Sunderland, the one side below them in the table.
“They had quite a decent game on Monday night,” said Wenger. “But Fulham scored exceptional goals and that was too much for Crystal Palace. These games in the Premier League nowadays are so tight that every game is down to details. That takes a little learning process maybe in the Premier League.
“Personally, I think what Ian Holloway has done at Crystal Palace is exceptional. It is very harsh on him.
“I don't want to speculate too much on how they respond. We [just] want to respond quickly. We have faced it already this season. I'm confident in the capacity of my team to respond very quickly in a very strong way. That is the target on Saturday.”