“Yes, it is a little bit [of a change in dynamic] because it can put more or less pressure on you,” said Arsène Wenger on Friday.
“But at the end of the day we know we take care of our future if we take care of our own game. We did it always when we played before [the other teams] and we have to remain the same when we play after them.”
While the build-up to the game against Manchester United has been filled with the return of Robin van Persie with the newly-crowned champions, the game itself gained an added dimension on Saturday afternoon when Tottenham dropped points at Wigan.
Arsenal have revived their season by playing before their main top-four rivals. It was back in March when Wenger’s men last kicked off at the same time as Chelsea and Tottenham, while Sunday’s game with Manchester United is the final fixture before May.
The intervening April has been good to Arsenal. Should they exceed Chelsea’s result against Swansea on Sunday lunchtime, Wenger’s men will spend a fourth week in the top three. Before this stretch they had never lasted a fortnight in the Champions League places this term.
The Stamford Bridge side have done exactly the opposite but their mettle is being tested now. Sunday’s game is sandwiched between two legs of the Europa League semi-finals. After that Chelsea play Manchester United and Tottenham.
These facts are important, of course, but not immediate.
And for the last month or so Wenger’s quotes have of been of the “take-each-game-as-it-comes” variety. It was the same ahead of Manchester United.
But then the Arsenal manager, while highly articulate with the media, is always happy if the best reading in your daily newspaper comes in the results section.
“The compulsory thing is to keep the attitude and the focus that we have shown in the last 10 games,” he said. “We need total focus, commitment and willingness. That's what is requested to achieve what we want to achieve.
“This is a good test for us. Since we have won at Bayern, the confidence in our team is higher but we have to show, locally, that we have improved. We suffered at Old Trafford so it is a good opportunity to show that we have improved since then.”
"We need total focus, commitment and willingness. That's what is requested to achieve what we want to achieve."
Of course, most teams have suffered at the hands of Manchester United this season, not least their cross-city rivals who have had to relinquish the crown they snatched so dramatically last season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side secured their 20th title on Monday night and, although critics have suggested this is not a vintage version, the table tells a different story.
“They've won it in a discreet but secure way,” said Wenger. “They have been quietly efficient and the most consistent in the League. They've had 27 wins - that is quite impressive. They've been remarkable, especially at home, which they always are.
“It has been relatively clear and easy for Man United because the other teams dropped off. Man City are way behind the total they had last year. But you have to give credit. It's never a coincidence, the number of points they've made. They have been the most consistent and you have to congratulate them for that.”
Robin van Persie has been crucial to their success. The move from Arsenal last summer will mean he is the focus of attention this weekend, particularly as the home side will keep the tradition of forming a guard of honour for the champions in the game after the title is secured.
But Wenger is happy to maintain the institution and has called on the home fans to demonstrate the qualities they hold dear – namely class and respect.
“I am proud to be part of a culture that does this,” he said. “In life it is about ‘do as well as you can’ and if someone is stronger than you then respect him.
“It will not be easy. But we knew for a while now that we will not win the title.
As for Van Persie’s return, he said: “I can only reiterate that I want the player to be respected like everybody else. I have always said that for every single player who left, even some of them in much more controversy than Robin van Persie.
“But,” he added, “I'm looking forward to our performance on Sunday more than anything else. You focus on your own team and it's an interesting opportunity for us to achieve something special on Sunday. We want to take this opportunity.”
The suspension of Olivier Giroud means Wenger will employ one of Gervinho, Theo Walcott or Lukas Podolski as his centre forward. Apart from that the manager can pick from the same squad that eked out a victory at Fulham last Saturday.
That win was testament to a defensive stability that has seen Arsenal leak just three goals in their last seven games. But the manager knows they will have to be on the front foot this Sunday.
“We had 72 per cent possession at Fulham,” he concluded. “But I admit it was a bit conservative possession. Usually we have an attacking possession, that's what we want.
“We wanted to protect our lead that day but we will come back to our traditional way on Sunday.”
Arsenal: Giroud (suspended), Fabianski (rib), Diaby (knee)
Man United: Scholes (knee), Young (ankle), Fletcher (illness)
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