By Rob Kelly
“If it is not a decisive moment in the league, it is a very important moment in the league. I think all the confidence we have gathered and the tactical knowledge we have can be brought out in these types of games. Let’s focus on the Liverpool game because that is a big one.” - Arsène Wenger
There is a sense that the 2015/16 Premier League season is only really getting started now - that for all the drama and intrigue of the past four months, things are about to step up a gear.
With a two-point lead at the top of the table, Arsenal are well placed for the next push in this marathon effort, but the next two weeks will test them to the fore.
Successive away games at Liverpool and Stoke are followed by the visit of the champions, Chelsea, at the end of the month.
It may be a daunting fixture list, but the Gunners can feel confident after building up a head of steam with a run of six wins in seven games.
“If it is not a decisive moment in the league, it is a very important moment in the league," Arsène Wenger told Arsenal Player. “I think all the confidence we have gathered and the tactical knowledge we have can be brought out in these types of games.
“Let’s take one at a time and focus on the Liverpool game because that is a big one. We are prepared and we are focused and I believe that it is down to us to go there and play to our full belief that we have at the moment.
|Liverpool: Origi (knee), Ibe (hamstring), Coutinho (hamstring), Lovren (hamstring), Sakho (knee), Henderson (ankle), Skrtel (hamstring), Rossiter (hamstring), Sturridge (hamstring), Ings (knee), Gomez (knee)
Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee), Coquelin (knee), Cazorla (knee), Alexis (hamstring)
“There is a desire to do well and to do it together. Sometimes the desire to do well is individual and not always shared with everybody. We feel as a unit we want to do well therefore we have to show that in every single game.”
Wednesday night’s opponents, Liverpool, have well-documented injury issues but have been rejuvenated under the charismatic Jurgen Klopp - however, Wenger is convinced his side are ready to meet the challenge they will pose.
“[This] is an opportunity,” he said. “We have shown many times our character this season and we have done that on a Wednesday night at Olympiacos and against big teams at home.
"It is another big test but that it is where you want to fully respond and have full commitment.”
ONE TO WATCH
Wednesday night’s game will see two of the Premier League’s most attacking full-backs, Hector Bellerin and Alberto Moreno, go head to head.
The Liverpool man has created more goalscoring chances than any other defender this season, while his Arsenal counterpart is bang in form after claiming two assists against Sunderland.
Bellerin was a revelation in his breakthrough campaign, and while young players are often predicted to suffer a difficult second season, he is making his look easy. Even more encouragingly, Bellerin's partnership with Joel Campbell on the right flank appears to be getting stronger with every week.
“There are some players who move up, up, up every year,” Wenger said. “His attitude and spirit [are important] and he is a focused player who wants to get the best out of himself.
“That is how I explain how he is doing better and better. He always wants to learn and that tells a manager that this guy can go higher up.
“When you speak about Bellerin you forget a little bit about Joel Campbell who works hard for the team. He is efficient, scores goals and gives assists. He has been a very positive surprise for us, too.”
Klopp’s arrival in the Premier League has been greeted with great fanfare, and the force of his personality has certainly captured the hearts of Liverpool fans and headline writers alike.
|Liverpool v Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in Premier League history (5)
The last nine Premier League meetings between these clubs at Anfield have seen 35 goals scored (3.9 per game on average)
Arsenal have scored the first goal of the game on 14 occasions in the Premier League this season; more often than any other team
The German is an inspirational touchline presence, and has been implementing his famed ‘gegenpressing’ approach, which requires his players to win the ball high up the pitch.
While results have been mixed - highs like victories at Chelsea and Manchester City have come alongside disappointing defeats at Watford and West Ham - there is clear evidence of a philosophy being introduced.
It may be the early days of the Klopp reign, but the challenge is bound to be fierce on Wednesday night - as Wenger acknowledges.
“I believe he has a personality that has an impact,” the Arsenal boss said. “I think he learns to know his squad like every manager that comes in and he has done well.
“Brendan Rodgers did a good job at Liverpool and he a bit unlucky because he was very close to the Premier League title and, after creating so much hope, the season after is always tough.
“Now it is Jurgen Klopp who wants to bring his own mark and it is based on pressing with very high energy levels so let’s see. They are a big club and their expectations are very high.”