We return to Premier League action against Hull City on Saturday, and ahead of the game Josh James sat down with Arsene Wenger to preview the match.
A TESTING WEEK
The flak has certainly been flying this week.
Criticism has been heading the Gunners' way from all angles following damaging back-to-back defeats against Watford and Chelsea.
It's a storm that we have had to weather. Arsène Wenger admits it's been a tough few days for everyone at the club, but that it hasn't distracted the team from focusing on the job in hand.
OP = Outfield PlayersGK = Goal Keepers
"The players have reacted this week by doing what their job consists of," the boss told Arsenal Player. "That means the quality of their practising and by being united. And as well, getting clarity as to why did we lost the game and analyse well what happened and why we lost the game."
So the past seven days have, at least, allowed the manager plenty of time to reflect on events at Stamford Bridge, and pinpoint exactly where things went wrong.
"I think the first goal had a huge impact on it because it allowed Chelsea to play what they are good at," he said. "They are good on breaks, on counter-attacks and we didn't create as many goal chances as we could have done with the number of possessions we had in the attacking third.
"I felt we lacked a bit of penetration in the final third. But it was quite an even game with some unexpected goals. Look at the saves made and the goal chance created on both sides, it was quite an even game."
Now the focus is on looking forward, and making sure that the painful lessons in defeat have been heeded.
"We want to respond well, we had a difficult week but we don't want to let it drag us down," he said. "We are conscious, the players are conscious, that we missed out this week and we want to bounce back with full power.
"The best way to do that is to focus on what is in front of you."
PLENTY TO PLAY FOR
Our next three matches cover three different competitions, and the trio of fixtures could scarcely be more diverse.
After hosting Hull in the Premier League this Saturday, it's the familiar trip to Bavaria to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, followed by the altogether less familiar proposition of Sutton United away in the FA Cup fifth round.
The manager says it's a "decisive moment" of the season, and wants the players to use the negativity and pessimism that has characterised much of the recent media coverage to their advantage.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (ankle), Xhaka (suspended), Bellerin (doubt - head)Hull City: Mbokani (illness), Dawson (calf), Hernandez, Davies (both hamstring), Mason (skull), Henriksen (shoulder), Keane, Odubajo, Luer, Lenihan (all knee)|
"I believe we have a united team who respond well to difficult results," he said. "Usually, we have done that recently and that’s what it will be about again.
"The players and myself are responsible for the performances on the pitch and the best way to respond to disappointed people is to produce a performance that people expect from us.
"On the other hand, we have not to forget that we are in a fight on all fronts: in the championship, in the Champions League, in the FA Cup.
"This is a decisive moment of the season and it is important as well that the fans are behind the team or we’ll have more problems. That is very important.
"This is not the time to go the way the media want us to go, but be behind the team and help the players to perform."
A side buoyed by recent impressive results against high-flying teams, and finding form under the guidance of a new manager, could hardly be considered the ideal next opposition after suffering successive defeats.
But that's the challenge facing us in Saturday's lunch-time kick off.
|We have won seven of our last eight PL meetings with Hull, drawing the other, and are unbeaten against them in 13 games in all competitionsAlexis has had a hand in six goals in three league games against Hull (five goals, one assist)Olivier Giroud has scored four PL goals from the bench this season. No Arsenal player has ever scored more than four substitute goals in a PL season|
Hull City have won four games out of eight since Marco Silva took over just over a month ago, and seem to have a renewed sense of optimism in their relegation fight.
Last week they beat Liverpool 2-0, just a few days after holding Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford, lifting them off the bottom of the table in the process.
Wenger doesn't believe it's been a sudden turnaround though, saying signs of the recovery were evident under the Tigers' previous boss.
"Look, certainly Silva has had a positive influence, but as well, I felt with Mike Phelan that they played good football," he said.
"They played well, but they lost a little bit of belief because they didn't have the results and it’s a little bit of a vicious circle. But the quality of the players when we played against them was there."
Phelan was still in charge when Arsenal beat Hull 4-1 back in September, but we have come up against Silva before.
Last season in fact, when he was in charge of Olympiacos and he masterminded the Greek side to a 3-2 win at Emirates Stadium. That should act as another warning this weekend.
"He has done well there," Wenger adds. "It’s always difficult to judge people but I think he did a good job at Olympiacos, he is doing a good job at Hull, so that means he has quality."
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