By Chris Harris
"That’s the key for us. [Hard-working strikers like Welbeck] give you the tone, like in a symphony. If that is right, the rest is right." - Arsene Wenger
There's nothing quite like a win at Old Trafford to warm the hearts of Arsenal supporters.
Nine thousand travelling fans and millions more around the world shared in the moment that propelled their team into the semi-finals of the FA Cup and ended a nine-year wait for a win at the home of Manchester United.
"I was very, very happy after the game - and I still am today," was Arsene Wenger's first comment when he sat down to discuss a galvanising week for Arsenal.
"Of course it was a great night," he went on. "We got some good memories from Old Trafford out of it, which we haven’t had for a long time. It was a must-win game on Monday night and it’s always interesting to see how the team responds to that.
"We had 9,000 fans there and that’s absolutely fantastic. You’re grateful for that and to think that they travel home happy is a very good feeling. To share that win with them is fantastic.
"We produced the performance that we wanted to away from home and, even when [Man United] came back to 1-1, it’s always a good test to see how our response will be. We found the resources to score the second goal."
Wembley will have to wait, of course. An even more daunting away trip lies on the horizon - at Monaco in the Champions League - but before that Arsenal host West Ham United in the Premier League.
Two Arsenal forwards have filled their boots in their last four appearances against West Ham - Olivier Giroud has four goals in that time while Theo Walcott has scored five and set up three.
But this week has been about another Arsenal striker. All eyes were on Danny Welbeck when he lined up against his old club at Old Trafford but he mastered the occasion, scoring the winner and stretching United's defence this way and that.
"It’s never simple to deal with that situation mentally because you feel a bit more under scrutiny," noted Wenger. "You feel the eyes on your personal performance a bit more.
"It was a very interesting night for Danny, because he kept it simple, he focused on the game and he scored the winner for us"
"That’s why I think it was a very interesting night for Danny, because he kept it simple, he focused on the game and he scored the winner for us. I’m convinced that he has shown in that occasion that he’s mentally very strong.
"I’ve seen many players fail against their old club. He’s one of the few you’ve seen succeed, and that shows you there’s something special in him."
Welbeck arrived at Emirates Stadium with pedigree - a Premier League winner and an England international. And yet he has exceeded Wenger's expectations, not least with a work ethic that endears him to his team-mates.
"That’s the key for us," said Wenger. "[Hard-working strikers like Welbeck] give you the tone, like in a symphony. If that is right, the rest is right.
"I knew Danny superficially and I’m surprised how complete a player he is, how good his mentality is, how ambitious he is as a player and how keen he is to learn, as well as how intelligent he is. I think he has everything in the locker to be a fantastic striker."
Wenger must decide whether to shuffle his attacking pack for the visit of West Ham, but he is definitely without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), while Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Gabriel (hamstring) are not ready to return. Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) could be available.
This has been a season of two halves for West Ham - nine wins in 18 before Christmas, two wins in 15 since then.
Sam Allardyce, one of Wenger's oldest adversaries, bought well last summer, adding Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia up front, plus Cheikhou Kouyate and former Gunner Alex Song in midfield.
"We know they are a tough opponent. We always do well at West Ham and they always give us a tough game at home"
The West Ham manager also has Carl Jenkinson in his squad, although the on-loan Arsenal defender is ineligible for Saturday's return to north London.
"It has been a fantastic move for him," said Wenger. "He has moved forward, he has played extremely well. I watch him every time I can on television and you can see that his confidence has gone up.
"West Ham have had a very good season until now," added the Frenchman. "They’ve played well. I watched their game against Chelsea [on March 4] again and they played very well and lost to an offside goal. Overall, that game could have gone both ways.
"We know they are a tough opponent. We always do well at West Ham and they always give us a tough game at home. We are on our toes, focused and will prepare well. That’s all you want before a game like that."
The feelgood factor is in full force at Arsenal and Saturday's atmosphere at the Emirates should underline that.
A fortnight ago an edgy, nervous home crowd watched a scratchy win over Everton while digesting a deflating Champions League defeat to Monaco - a night remembered for Arsenal's lack of game intelligence as they tried to turn 2-1 into 2-2 and lost 3-1.
"Every win makes you stronger and increases the confidence and belief of the team. That’s why it’s important to keep going"
This weekend, those same players can expect a rousing reception after judging Monday's FA Cup tie to perfection to make it 11 wins in 13 matches in all competitions.
"Yes, we have learnt [how to manage games better]," said Wenger. "But as well I believe we produced hard work and a team effort.
"We know we have the quality to win games and that’s our basis at the moment. Even against Monaco, we produced the effort. We maybe produced it in a naive way but the team is on a good track with team effort, hard work and solidarity. You earn your wins with hard work, and that’s what we did on Monday night."
That win at Old Trafford will do wonders for Arsenal's confidence. And, as their manager says, confidence and self-belief are vital components of any successful side.
"Every win makes you stronger and increases the confidence and belief of the team," said Wenger. "That’s why it’s important to keep going, not to have any weaknesses in the next game and go even stronger to show that despite the fact that you feel stronger, you are not easier [to beat]. We want to work hard and that’s the combination you have to find.
"You’re questioned very quickly about your ability but even more about your attitude. You do not want to become any easier with wins, but even more determined."
If Wenger's players heed those words, they should be too strong for West Ham this weekend.
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