By Rob Kelly
“Our job is to make sure that we have a go until the last game of the season, until the last minute of the season, forget what other people believe and show that we are capable of dealing with this kind of pressure, as well as showing that our ambition is not artificial but real.” - Arsene Wenger
Even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans would accept that their side find themselves stuck behind the eight ball in the title race.
With six games remaining of a tumultuous season, the Gunners are 13 points behind leaders Leicester City, albeit with a game in hand.
“The perception is that the league is over,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “That perception can still have twists and turns until the end of the season.
“Our job is to make sure that we have a go until the last game of the season, until the last minute of the season, forget what other people believe and show that we are capable of dealing with this kind of pressure, as well as showing that our ambition is not artificial but real.
“The only little chance we have is to give absolutely everything in every single game, starting on Sunday against Crystal Palace.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (leg)
Crystal Palace: Gayle (muscular), Hangeland (leg), Chamakh (groin), McArthur (ankle), Appiah (knee)
“I believe the quality of our performances recently have been very strong and we want to continue to build on that.
“Of course there’s the short term, and we have to look behind us as well. Everybody will fight like mad to be in a Champions League spot, so we absolutely need a fantastic run until the end of the season.”
Crystal Palace make the short trip across London having finally claimed their first win of 2016 last weekend against Norwich, before a midweek draw against Everton at Selhurst Park.
It has been a trying period for Alan Pardew’s side, and with their Premier League status not yet secure for next season, Wenger expects another intense derby eight days on from the Gunners’ 3-3 draw against West Ham.
“Palace are a strong side,” he said. “They got a few injuries at an important part of the season - after that they lost confidence.
“Football has so many ingredients it is hard to identify when you are not inside the team what is right and what is wrong. Barcelona played 38 games this season and look unstoppable and then suddenly one week they lose three games.
“Who could predict that? The charisma around the team is linked with the confidence as well.”
ONE TO WATCH
Having predicted in pre-season that Mesut Ozil would be named Player of the Year, the German’s nomination this week came as no surprise to his manager.
Wenger kept faith in the German even during the tough early stages of his time in England, and he has been rewarded with a stellar campaign that has seen Ozil score six times and claim 18 Premier League assists.
The World Cup winner has also been working on his body language at the behest of his manager and staff, and Wenger says the results are clear to see.
“He was perceived to be a bit nonchalant, or a bit ‘who cares?’” the manager said. “That’s not his mind. Your body language is produced by the whole childhood and the way you have behaved until your 20s.
“To show that you can fight, being a champion is a combination of exceptional talent but an exceptional attitude as well, certainly now more than ever before.
“He has added that to his game but I think there is still some way to go. I think he can still improve on that front and it will only make him better and stronger.
“He’s at an age where you realise that time passes. After 25, the accelerator is there. The next step is 30 and that always creates a little shock and urgency in the minds of players.”
It has been quite a journey for Emmanuel Adebayor since leaving Arsenal seven years ago, via Manchester, Madrid and now back in London again.
|Arsenal have won 10 and lost just one of their 13 Premier League games against Crystal Palace, including winning the last six in a row
Crystal Palace have taken fewer points in London derbies (4) than any of the clubs from the capital this season
The Gunners have conceded just eight goals in their last 14 Premier League matches at the Emirates
The 2007/08 campaign, when he scored 30 times in 48 appearances, was arguably the zenith of his career, and while he has not reached those heights since, he remains a fearsome competitor.
Adebayor has only scored once in 10 games for Crystal Palace, but his pace, power and aerial threat mean he will have to be closely watched on Sunday. And having been on target twice in his past three visits to the Emirates, he has the ability to cause big problems this weekend.
“He is a player with huge offensive potential,” Wenger said. “He is always fired up against us but we had a great contribution to his career because when I took him he was not playing at Monaco. He came here and did very well.
“He is a fantastic striker. One day he will look back at his career and will see that Arsenal had a huge influence on it.
“One way Adebayor excels is through the heading of the ball. His ability is to catch the ball on crosses and he can score. He is quite quick with the balls over the top, which means on counter attacks he can be dangerous as well.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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