We return to Premier League action at Manchester City on Sunday, and ahead of the game Chris Harris sat down with Arsene Wenger to discuss the match.
"A defeat should not hit the confidence we have. It should just hit the pride we have." - Arsene Wenger
They say all good things must come to an end, so that includes long unbeaten runs in the Premier League.
Our 14-match streak, which rose from the ruins of an opening-day defeat to Liverpool, was stopped in midweek by their Merseyside rivals.
It should have been different. We had enough control - especially in the first half-hour - to stay within touching distance of Chelsea. Instead, the gap is a rather more worrying six points.
OP = Outfield PlayersGK = Goal Keepers
This week’s Premier League lesson: when you’re ahead, don’t give your opponents hope of a comeback. Slam the door in their face instead of leaving it ajar.
“Yes [we gave Everton hope],” said Arsene Wenger. “Maybe at 1-0 we eased off a little bit. Was that down to our physical levels or them responding a little bit? I don’t know but I feel sometimes we rushed our game a little bit and didn’t continue to play the way we want to play.
“You could see that three games out of four away from home [took its toll] and it was a difficult week. But I cannot fault the attitude and that’s what we want to keep from the game. We know we are on a long-term target and that we have to go through some disappointments. We have to live with that and recover and prepare for the next one.
“We have done extremely well, but what is important in football is that you respond and that we focus to do better in the future. It’s a bit difficult to accept the result on Tuesday but many teams can drop points at Everton. We are a strong team away from home and that’s what we want to show straight away again at Manchester City.”
Yes, Manchester City. There aren’t many tougher fixtures than a trip to the Etihad but, according to Petr Cech, it’s better to play a big game after a big disappointment. The goalkeeper describes City away as “probably a perfect game for us”, and his manager agrees.
“Look, the perfect game is the next one - always,” said Wenger. “When you’ve had a defeat, I think a defeat should not hit the confidence we have. It should just hit the pride we have and that makes us respond well.”
ONE TO WATCH
Speaking of Cech, he’s gone about his business this season with his customary competence and quiet efficiency. But there’s one thing that will sting his pride.
This time last year our No 1 in the No 33 shirt broke David James’ Premier League clean-sheet record with his 170th in the top flight. He went on to win a fourth Golden Glove award after keeping 16 shut-outs in total last season.
They've been harder to come by this term. Cech has four but we’ve conceded one goal in each of our last seven league matches - and the 34-year-old has never gone eight games without a clean sheet. The Etihad would be a fine place to keep that record intact.
“Yes, of course [that hurts his pride] and I think that at the moment that’s where we can improve and that’s what we want to focus on,” said Wenger. “We have to keep more clean sheets than we do at the moment.
“But Petr has done extremely well. In a team like ours you have one or two saves to make in every game, and that means he has needed talent, of course, but as well focus and concentration to do that, to stay in the game when it looks like you will not be involved a lot. He has, in every single game, made one or two decisive saves.”
There are bumps in the road in every season and Wenger thinks Cech - with four Premier League titles to his name - can be a calming influence in difficult times.
“His experience helps because he has seen that before,” he said. “Experienced players [like Petr] can adjust the level of disappointment and provoke as well the response that you want, without the players forgetting how good they are.”
Everton exposed a chink in our armour but we can travel north with optimism this weekend.
Wenger is unbeaten in six games against City and we turned a corner at the start of last year with a 2-0 win at the Etihad that is still considered a blueprint for how to win big games with a disciplined, counter-punching approach.
|Arsenal: Mustafi, Debuchy (both hamstring), Ramsey (toe), Welbeck, Mertesacker (both knee), Cazorla (ankle), Akpom (back)Man City: Gundogan, Kompany (both knee), Aguero (suspended)|
Every new game throws up a new challenge, of course, but Wenger will want his team to emulate that 2015 display by drawing City’s sting and showing intent in possession.
“We must defend well without forgetting to have a go every time we can when we win the ball back,” he said. “We need a complete focus of everybody defending well together but, as well, we can’t be timid with the ball. We had two good games against them last year and that’s what we want to do again on Sunday.”
City are without the injured Ilkay Gundogan and Vincent Kompany… and the suspended Sergio Aguero. So is losing him like us losing Alexis?
“Yes, they are similar types of players,” said Wenger. “But if you look at their squad, you cannot feel too sorry for them.
“They have one or two important players out but we have gone into our games for a while now without Cazorla, Ramsey… we have many players who are out as well. It’s part of being at a big club.”
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