We return to Premier League action against Swansea City on Saturday, and ahead of the game Chris Harris discussed the clash with Arsene Wenger.
“Consistency in your focus… that’s the difference between a champion and someone who is not a champion.” - Arsene Wenger
A CHANCE TO CLOSE THE GAP?
Leicester v Chelsea. Everton v Manchester City. Manchester United v Liverpool.
For those of us who scour the fixture list for chances to close the gap, this weekend looks like an opportunity. Fifth place on Friday could feasibly be second place by Monday.
We have to win our own game first, of course. And that will depend partly on whether we can replace our recent ‘start slow, finish fast’ trend with a consistent intensity across the 90 minutes.
OP = Outfield Players
Perhaps it’s human nature to suffer a dip from time to time, but Arsene Wenger needs his players to train their brains to give it everything from the first whistle - regardless of the opposition.
“The preparation of the whole week sets the tone, and then the quality of the expected difficulty of the game as well,” said the boss.
“Then it’s a case of how big your ambition is to be at your best personally, to achieve something with the team that is special. That needs the consistency in your focus, and that’s what is the difference between a champion and someone who is not a champion.
“Ideally, we want to start strong and finish strong. Preston was a typical FA Cup game and always subconsciously when you come out of the Christmas period, you think it will be a bit easier in the FA Cup. It’s not.”
|Arsenal: Bellerin (ankle), Coquelin, Debuchy (both hamstring), Mertesacker, Gibbs (both knee), Walcott (calf), Cazorla (plantaris)
Swansea: Narsingh (calf), Taylor (cheekbone), Barrow (knock), Montero (hamstring)
If the seriousness is there, the results will follow and the gap will close. Wenger’s aim is to sit back and enjoy Sunday’s live fixtures with the job done in Swansea.
“When you look at the fixtures, you always have that feeling every week [that it’s an opportunity] because the Premier League is so difficult,” he said.
“You will always feel that it’s down to us not failing. Let’s focus on the process. We have five months in front of us and it’s very important that we feel like we’ve given absolutely everything to finish at the top.
“It’s very important that we focus on the process, what we can improve, how much better we can play in the next game and how we can win the game. After that, we look around us and never in the reverse. We can’t look around us and forget about how much is demanded from ourselves.”
ONE TO WATCH - ALEX IWOBI
It’s a big ask for Alex Iwobi to keep Mesut Ozil out of the side, but there’s no doubt that he aced his audition in the No 10 role.
Iwobi provided what inspiration there was in a flat first half at Preston, and he was immense after the break. Young players are routinely bedded in on the flanks, so it’s unusual to see a lad of 20 exerting such influence from a central role.
“That’s what we forget,” noted Wenger. “The trick about him is that you forget how old he is when you seem him play. You never imagine that he’s 20 years old.
“I believe as well, looking back where he was one-and-a-half years ago and where he is today, what is very interesting with Alex Iwobi is that he is consistently moving upwards.
“He can provide, he can get into positions between the lines, he turns very quickly and can drive the game forward. He has very fast decision-making and you always feel that he can accelerate the process whenever he gets the ball. That is a very interesting quality. He has a huge availability. He passes and moves and always wants the ball.
“He had a little dip this year that was more physical, but his passion for the game, his love for football gives me a very strong basis to continue to develop him. I think we’ll see much more from him.”
Swansea are on their third manager of the season after Paul Clement replaced Bob Bradley, who in turn replaced Francesco Guidolin.
|We have never failed to score in five PL games at the Liberty Stadium (10 goals)
Olivier Giroud has scored 12 goals from his last 17 shots on target - and 10 in his last eight starts
Alexis has scored or assisted 30 goals in his last 31 PL appearances (20 goals, 10 assists)
The Swans hinted at a revival with a battling 2-1 win at Crystal Palace that took them off the bottom of the Premier League, but the next six fixtures look daunting. As well as us at home they have Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea away.
“In the Premier League it’s difficult,” said Wenger. “When you’re fighting not to go down, of course [it’s tough] but it’s as well an opportunity for [Clement] to be responsible in the Premier League. I think when you have an opportunity like that at his age, you don’t turn it down.
“The difference between coaching and managing is more about resistance to stress, to pressure and being used to being in the frontline. It’s more on the psychological front than on the technical front.
“But we have to make sure we keep our season on track. We play away from home in a Premier League game so we want to focus on being at our best. We have played many away games recently and this is another one that is very difficult.”
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