“Yes, that is the difference,” replied Arsène Wenger. “When you are at 1-1 you have a choice. Do you keep the 1-1 or do you try to win the game, knowing that when you try to win the game, you can lose it as well?
“But then we know that when the confidence level of the team is there, they naturally go for the win because they are not happy with the draw.”
It took Arsenal 32 games to achieve 15 victories last season, this term they have done it in 20.
It is a telling statistic and certainly “the difference”.
Wenger’s men are four points clear at the summit of the Premier League table but, if you look closer at the top three, the number of losses, goals against and goal scored are almost identical. Arsenal have just won two more games (and subsequently drawn two fewer) than Chelsea or Liverpool.
|Arsenal: Diaby (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Podolski (hamstring), Sanogo (back), Ryo (hamstring)
Cardiff City: none
Saturday’s trip to Cardiff is a case in point. Manchester United were denied a victory there last weekend thanks to a Kim Bo-Kyung header deep into injury time. It can be shrugged off as “still a decent point” but it will not be enough to catch Arsenal right now.
That said, Manchester United are up to sixth and breathing down the necks of Southampton, the surprise package of the season. Should David Moyes’ men perform a leapfrog this weekend the top five could be described as the ‘big five’. Wenger is surprised it has taken 12 games for the major “forces” to properly move into position.
“Yes [it has taken time] but that’s because it's all very unpredictable,” he said.
“In the Premier League at the moment, it looks to be difficult to win everywhere. The difference in quality between No 1 and No 20 has shrunk. So it all will be down to consistency - as I've said many times.
“We have played 12 games. We play game No 13 on Saturday so we'll be one third of the way through the season. After that we'll have the first look at the forces present in there. It means you can go to the first conclusions [about] how this Premier League will be.”
Newly-promoted Cardiff will be content enough with 15th place as, points-wise, they are nearer the top 10 than the bottom three.
Malky Mackay led them to first place in the Championship last season and invested a reported £30 million in the summer. They have only accumulated three wins so far but have a handy habit of performing on the big occasion - beating Manchester City on the opening weekend then neighbours Swansea in the Premier League’s first Welsh derby before grabbing that late point against Manchester United.
“Their big scorelines have come in their biggest games,” said Wenger. “They look like they can find the resources to turn up and find something special to turn these games their way.
"We know, because of the results they have made at home, that it will demand a top-level performance at Cardiff on Saturday"
“I'm impressed with them I must say. They beat Man City at home and when they played against Man United at home just last Sunday, if you look at the numbers, their possession was 50:50. That means it was not a coincidence that it was a draw. The conclusion of the game was a fair result.”
The Frenchman knows his side will be seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table on Saturday night should they win in south Wales. But he feels this game is as tough as any in recent weeks - including Manchester United, Liverpool and last week’s opponents.
“It is a test, I agree,” he said. “But we are in a position where every game will be now. We played Southampton last Saturday and that was a very tough test. This is another one, in a different setting, but with similarities to Southampton.
“There are challenges, they last 90 minutes,” he concluded. “They are strong, they don’t give up. So we have to have the right focus.
“We know, because of the results they have made at home, that it will demand a top-level performance at Cardiff on Saturday.”
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