“It is a time to stick together. The season is always decided by how well you finish. And of course the finish is under our control.”
Having gazed at our navels for a few days, it is time for everyone associated with Arsenal Football Club to lift their heads again.
The 6-0 defeat at Chelsea was probably the most disappointing result of the season so far.
But it alone can not make the season disappointing.
The title looks over the horizon right now but the glint of silverware will become visible if Arsenal beat Wigan in just over a fortnight’s time and reach the FA Cup final. Meanwhile, back in the Premier League, automatic entry to the Champions League needs to be nailed down.
|Arsenal: Koscielny (calf), Walcott (knee), Ramsey (thigh), Ozil (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Ryo (hamstring), Diaby (knee)Swansea: Bartley (hamstring)|
Unfortunately, “accidents”, to use Arsène Wenger’s word, have been a part of Arsenal’s season. We started off with one against Aston Villa on the opening day. It did not stop the side recovering to lead the Premier League for three months.
The team’s powers of recuperation have been creditable and they will need to respond against Swansea at Emirates on Tuesday night. Wenger believes the supporters - so joyous at White Hart Lane and then so despondent at Stamford Bridge seven days later - will do the same.
“The crowd knows that it is a very important game and I'm confident that they will be behind our team.
“I think they have acknowledged since the start of the season that the team's attitude was absolutely spot-on and that they have given absolutely everything.
“Even though we missed a game on Saturday I believe, over the season - in difficult games, in Champions League games - this team has turned up with complete focus.”
Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are available after claims of mistaken identity and wrongful dismissal respectively were upheld following the game at Chelsea.
With Manchester City due at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, Wenger will make certain changes.
“There will be some refreshment because we have some players who have given a lot,” he said. “But in other areas it's not so possible.”
"The crowd knows that it is a very important game and I'm confident that they will be behind our team"
Swansea had a triumphant 2013 in which they won the Capital One Cup. But at the start of 2014 they parted company with Michael Laudrup and are now looking over their shoulders. If their season had started on New Year’s Day the Swans would be in the relegation zone, two points adrift of safety.
“The Premier League is difficult and as soon as you drop your standards a little bit you're in danger,” said Wenger. “It happens to many clubs because the fight [to avoid] relegation is very hard.”
While Saturday’s reverse demonstrated a major weakness in Arsenal’s campaign - sizeable defeats at title chasers - the game at the Liberty Stadium in late September showed their strength - squeezing maximum points out of tough venues outside the top six.
“It was a quality game and we had a convincing second-half performance,” recalled Wenger. “Ramsey scored, Gnabry scored and I remember it was a top-quality game with a high speed from goal to goal and box to box.”
After the most difficult, undermining weekend, Arsenal need a simple, safe three points and a display that re-ignites their confidence.
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