We return to Premier League action against Hull City at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday - and Rob Kelly previews the game with the help of Arsene Wenger.
"We take our games seriously, we are focused on doing well and that is what we want to do again. We have a short recovery but we go into the game with the desire to win it again.” - Arsene Wenger
After 20 years in England, Arsene Wenger is more than accustomed to the issues that preoccupy his adopted homeland.
The weather and traffic are perennial talking points, and that was certainly the case on Friday as a combination of both led to a lengthy delay of the manager’s weekly press conference.
With the Arsenal boss stuck in a tailback for more than an hour and a half, training rightly took precedence when he finally arrived at a rain-soaked London Colney. His media duties were temporarily postponed.
“Yes [it disrupted our preparations], like it disrupted your press conference as well! We have to deal with that, it is nothing dramatic,” a relaxed Wenger said when he eventually took his seat in front of the cameras. “The players were late but they weren’t fined. It is the M25 that will be fined!”
It was the only hitch in what has been an otherwise satisfactory week for Wenger, who firstly saw his side clinch a last-gasp victory against Southampton before claiming a point in Paris to kick off their Champions League campaign.
|Hull City: Luer (knee), Dawson (knee), Odubajo (knee), Bruce (Achilles), Lenihan (knee), McGregor (back)
Arsenal: Ramsey (hamstring), Welbeck (knee), Gabriel (ankle - doubt), Mertesacker (knee), Jenkinson (knee), Walcott (knee - doubt)
Next up is a trip north to take on Hull City, a team the Gunners have not lost to away from home in the league since April 1915. Confidence will be further bolstered by a record run of 25 games unbeaten against newly-promoted teams, although that will be thoroughly tested by the Tigers.
The pre-season relegation favourites have been reborn under Mike Phelan, and their defeat of champions Leicester City on the opening day drew a line under a destabilising summer in the wake of Steve Bruce’s departure.
Wenger is well aware of Hull's threat, but feels his side are starting to hit their straps as the new boys bed in.
“Overall it’s been a positive week,” he said. “We have shown the right attitude and spirit, and I know we have room for improvement in certain areas of the game that we will work on. But overall it is positive, the results are positive.
“We take our games seriously, we are focused on doing well and that is what we want to do again on Saturday.
“We have a short recovery but everyone looks to have recovered well and we go into the game with the desire to win it again.”
ONE TO WATCH
The biggest players tend to score in the biggest games, and Arsenal were indebted to Alexis on Tuesday night at the Parc des Princes.
It had been a frustrating night for the Chilean until his late strike, but his calm finish for his second goal in three games rescued an invaluable point.
There is a sense that Alexis is starting to burn brightly again after another gruelling summer in which he won a second successive Copa America title - and he will feel buoyed by his personal record against Hull.
In four games against the Tigers, the forward has scored four times and claimed two assists - and Wenger is hopeful he can continue that run on Saturday.
“He is [coming back to his best],” the manager said. “He had a long rest, five weeks’ holiday and it took him a while to be fully fit physically but now he is back.”
It has been some start to the season for Hull City. Not many gave them much hope of survival after a summer that saw Bruce walk away and little in the way of new signings.
However, Mike Phelan’s steady hand on the tiller has righted the ship again and some shrewd signings, including David Marshall and Ryan Mason, have added meat to the bones of the squad.
|Arsenal have won five of their previous six visits to Hull City in the league, losing only once to them… in April 1915
Hull City’s last three Premier League matches have seen a goal scored in the 90th minute or later - the last two of which have changed the outcome of the game
Phelan has also given the Tigers the belief that they can cut it in the top flight, and their performances so far are evidence of that. Last weekend, for example, they fought until the last at fellow new boys Burnley and nicked a point with a late Robert Snodgrass free-kick.
Wenger is pleased for Phelan, formerly Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man at Manchester United, and feels he can continue to make a name for himself as a manager in his own right.
“He is doing very well,” he said. “You know his experience, he’s worked in big clubs, big competitions and has done really well. He’s a real football man who has given some stability to Hull and they are difficult to beat.
“I think sometimes the people behind the managers are real football people who do not have the same pressure but can enjoy working every day.
“It’s not especially that because you are a manager [you] have more knowledge than some people who work inside the clubs. What is important is the experience of the big games and the knowledge you get from the big games.”
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