“It's funny you say that because I had exactly that feeling too. What we can add this year is to make the Emirates a fortress.
“We know away from home, whether it is in the Champions League or the Premier League, we can always find the resources to get the result when it's really needed. At home, slowly we are getting there but we have still something to work on.”
Arsène Wenger was knee-deep in Arsenal’s statistics from 2013. Actually, wallowing may be a better word, here’s why:
• Overall record: P54 W35 D8 L11 F93 A50.
• The second best win percentage in the club’s history.
• Eight more victories than in 2012, conceding 17 fewer goals despite playing two more games.
• But… more victories away than at home – 18 to 16.
|Arsenal: Walcott (doubt – shoulder), Rosicky (doubt – calf), Wilshere (doubt – ankle), Monreal (doubt – illness), Vermaelen (doubt – illness), Giroud (ankle), Ramsey (thigh), Ozil (shoulder), Gibbs (calf), Sanogo (back), Diaby (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee).
Cardiff City: Bellamy (knee).
OK, that last one is not necessary a bad thing. Indeed the 1-0 win at Newcastle last time out was among the most satisfying domestic successes of the year. But still you feel you are missing a trick if you are not stronger on your home patch.
That Tyneside triumph sent Arsenal back to the top at the end of a month that was predicted to undermine them. In the end, Wenger’s men did not have to beat Manchester City or Chelsea to stay at the summit but both of those sides could takeover if they fail to put away Cardiff at Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day.
But Wenger is wary of games played with weary legs and this is Arsenal’s fourth fixture in 11 days.
“It's always unpredictable [in these games],” he said. “What you would say is that all the teams at the top have more homogeneous squads maybe and they can take advantage a little bit of that if they have not too many injuries. It is an opportunity to make maybe a little difference with the other teams because it's difficult to manage to go through and win all these games.
“Yes the League did stretch out over Christmas [as eight points now straddle the top five] but let's not forget how quickly it can change. Liverpool were top on Christmas Day and they are six points behind now. If you have a little blip when you are in such a big hunt, then everybody can take advantage of it. That's why I insist so much on consistency.”
Wenger announced a number of injuries at his early morning press conference on the Tuesday. Olivier Giroud (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (calf) joined Mesut Ozil (shoulder) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) on the sidelines. Tomas Rosicky (calf), Nacho Monreal (illness), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Theo Walcott (shoulder) and Thomas Vermaelen (illness) were all classed as doubts but the last three trained, as you can see from our picture galleries on Arsenal.com. There is optimism the other two will be available as well.
"It's important for us to come back after the Newcastle game and have the right focus. We expect a tough opponent and need to focus to produce a great performance."
However the absence of Giroud leaves Wenger with an interesting choice up front.
“I have to think about the best possible solution for the team because we have other uncertainties,” he said. “Whether it is Podolski, whether it is Walcott, whether it is Bendtner - whoever plays up front the most important thing is the balance of the team.”
Cardiff have parted company with Malky Mackay since Arsenal won 3-0 in south Wales just over a month ago. They have taken just five points from a possible 18 since then and now reside two places out of the relegation zone.
“Yes but they have given a hard time to everybody,” insisted Wenger. “So it's important for us to come back after the Newcastle game and have the right focus. We expect a tough opponent and need to focus to produce a great performance. We want to take advantage of the fact that we took six points away from home. So it's important now to continue our run at Emirates Stadium.”
Too true. In fact, it may well be crucial if Arsenal are to back up their statistics in 2013 with silverware in 2014.
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