Arsène Wenger says his team must aim to replicate their impressive defensive performance against Sunderland during the run-in to the season.

Arsenal withstood heavy pressure at the Stadium of Light on Saturday after Carl Jenkinson was sent off to claim a vital three points in the race for a top-four place.

With big games in three separate competitions on the horizon, Wenger is keen for his defenders to now build on their display.

“We deserved some criticism in some games,” he told Arsenal Player. “I believe that at the start it diminished the confidence of the team, but with performances like this I think the confidence will come back and that will be useful.

“Now we go into some very big games. We play in the FA Cup on Saturday. On the following Tuesday night we play against Bayern Munich, so you know at the back you will need top-class performances.”

Wojciech Szczesny made a string of fine saves at Sunderland, and Wenger feels the Poland international will only go from strength to strength now.

“He was great," the manager said. "Maybe he suffered a bit from a lack of confidence as well. When you concede goals, it affects you. People forget he’s still a young goalkeeper and 22 years of age for a goalkeeper is very young.”

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 Nik Brumsack 11 Feb 2013