“That is part of being at the top level – you always have to prove something to yourself. And every big game is an opportunity to do that.
“Let's not forget that’s something what we can get out of this game.
“But let's be ourselves first and show our qualities. We should not think too much about where we play and who we play. Just be who we are.”
Arsenal travel to Manchester City on Saturday seeking to put nine points between themselves and the side who remain favourites for the Premier League title.
|Arsenal: Sagna (doubt - hamstring), Diaby (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Podolski (match fitness), Sanogo (back), Ryo (hamstring).Man City: Richards (muscular) Jovetic (calf), Nastasic (leg)|
On the same day it will be exactly three months since Wenger’s men went to top of the table with a 3-1 win at Sunderland. Such is their advantage they will stay there no matter what happens at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The Frenchman has been perfectly happy to see his side largely overlooked by pundits and bookmakers alike thus far. The only obvious evidence to support that outside view since the opening day of the season came during Wenger’s last visit Manchester in November. A strangely inhibited Arsenal conceded early on at Old Trafford and, try as they might, could not find an equaliser after the interval.
“In the first half it was like: 'where are they?',” recalled the manager. “I said afterwards that's what we can learn from the Man United game.
“But a team is not ‘set’. They grow. And sometimes they stop, learn from it and then grow again.
“It's what we want to show at Manchester City. We have learned from that [Man United game] and we can go again.”
A victory would be huge mentally. It would also buck all manner of statistical trends.
"At some stage they will drop points at home. [I'd] rather it be against us than somebody else."
Manchester City’s home record in the Premier League reads like this: P7 W7 D0 L0 F27 A2. They have scored in their last 57 Premier League games at home and, currently, they are most clinical side in the Premier League having scored with 20.6 per cent of their shots.
“That's what we want to disturb of course - their home form,” said Wenger. “At some stage they will drop points at home. [I'd] rather it be against us than somebody else.
“They've struggled away but because they have done very well at home they are still in the fight.”
This is the first domestic confrontation between Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini. Arsenal won a friendly in Helsinki 3-1 in August but the previous competitive clashes between the pair came in the Champions League. The Spaniard was the manager of Villarreal when Wenger’s team met them twice in quick succession in the Champions League half-a-decade ago. The stand-out memory is Jens Lehmann’s last-minute penalty save at El Madrigal to put Arsenal in the Champions League final in April 2006.
“It was a special night for us because we suffered a lot at Villarreal and, with the distance we have now, you realise they actually had an unbelievable team. They had Juan Roman Riquelme of course but, as well if you look at all the players they had and the career they made after, it shows you that they were fantastic.
“It was a very tight night. We had matchwinners with Lehmann and he [saved] that famous penalty. It was really a fantastic achievement to go into the final in 2006.”
Arsenal’s pursuit of a similar European success has been one of the issues ahead of this game.
Much has been made of the tight turnaround between the defeat at Napoli in midweek and this game. An away game in Europe followed by another trip at 12.45pm on a Saturday is the shortest gap in games that Arsenal will experience this season. The magnitude of both encounters makes it more difficult. But on the eve of the game Wenger was taking a “no excuses” approach.
"Remember we're still top of the table and our defensive record is absolutely fantastic. That's a good basis to go into the game."
“It's a bit short but that's why you have a squad and that's why you plan all these games,” he said. “Since we played Hull, we've rotated and we'll do it again on Saturday.
“Remember we're still top of the table and our defensive record is absolutely fantastic. That's a good basis to go into the game.
“Forget the fixtures. Just think about the next game and put in a quality performance."
That, of course, is essential.
For Arsenal it is Manchester City (a) on Saturday then Chelsea (h) nine days later.
As Wenger put it, that’s two opportunities for his side team to prove something to themselves.
Let alone everyone else.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Copyright 2017 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.