Exclusive Wenger quotes, classic goals, team news and a poll. This is your pre-match briefing ahead of the West Ham United game.
‘You always have a little psychological edge when you come back’ - Arsene Wenger
It would be premature to suggest that the feelgood factor is back, but there were green shoots of recovery on Sunday.
OP = Outfield Players
One-nil down in the first five minutes, then 2-1 down moments after clawing back the deficit… that might have seen off a less committed side but we found the resources to keep Manchester City in check and within reach in the scrap for Champions League places.
A point is rarely enough but our indomitable spirit at the weekend can serve as a foundation for this busiest of months.
“You always have a little psychological edge when you come back, rather than when you’re caught back,” agreed Arsene Wenger.
“It’s more difficult. We refused to lose the City game and overall I think it’s encouragement for the final part of the season. It will have a positive impact on our confidence.”
“We have game after game now and it’s important for us to get on a run and keep faith in what we do.
"Of course we need to fight together in every single game. It’s all in our hands now and it’s how we respond, how we maintain that kind of focus we had against City that will define the end of our season.”
MUSTI AND GABBY
No one epitomised that spirit and focus more than Shkodran Mustafi - and Gabriel wasn’t far behind.
Brought together at half-time by Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles problem, our centre backs just about kept Sergio Aguero quiet and contributed to a vital second-half clean sheet.
Mustafi, of course, got forward to power in the second equaliser - a division-high 14th headed goal in the Premier League this season.
“I would say the record is down to the fact that we keep going, to the fact that we maintain the pressure on the opponent and that the team is very determined, united, no matter under what circumstances,” explained Wenger.
“That’s why maybe as well two or three accidents we had in recent games were a bit shocking. Overall if you look at the season, we are the best team in the league at coming back and scoring late goals. I put that down to exceptional spirit in the squad.
‘THEO’S MORE DETERMINED’
The other scorer on Sunday was Theo Walcott.
He nonchalantly rolled in his 18th goal in 31 appearances this season to inch ever closer to his best ever club tally - 21 in 43 games in 2012/13.
Once again Theo sniffed out an opportunity after drifting into a central position and his manager feels he has made significant progress.
“I think this season he has found more determination, a more aggressive attitude,” said Wenger. “He always had great quality in his runs, the quality of his receptions have always been very strong.
“I would say for many years he had not always an adjusted finishing quality, but he’s improved a lot on his finishing and that’s why he scores more goals.”
There’s a reunion with City at Wembley in 18 days time, but right now a London derby with West Ham is the more pressing matter.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (plantaris), Koscielny (Achilles), Cech (calf), Ramsey (calf - doubt), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring - doubt), Lucas (thigh), Ospina (knock - test)
West Ham: Cresswell (knock), Reid (groin), Antonio (hamstring - doubt), Obiang (ankle), Ogbonna (knee), Sakho (back - doubt), Tore (knee)
Our last encounter was one of the season’s most enjoyable, a swashbuckling 5-1 win at the London Stadium that featured an Alexis hat-trick so good it overshadowed a brilliant strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Alexis’ third goal, lifted over goalkeeper Darren Randolph after an outrageous dummy, summed up a team in fine fettle. How we’d love to scale those heights again in the next two months.
“I would say that our confidence was high, our flow was good,” said Wenger. “West Ham struggled with confidence at the time and we took advantage of it.
“But West Ham have done better away from home than at home. They’ve struggled a bit at home, after moving into their new stadium. They lost Dimitri Payet during the season as well. The Premier League is difficult but when you look at their team, they have quality players.
“Andy Carroll is a great striker. He’s played for the national team, he’s very strong in the air, has a very strong body and is very determined. The best way to keep him quiet is to keep the ball in their half, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
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