Exclusive Wenger quotes, classic goals, team news and a quiz. This is your pre-match briefing ahead of the West Brom game.
“It’s very important that we are ready for a fight and that we show that until the end of the season.” – Arsene Wenger
RESTORING SOME SERENITY
London Colney has been a noticeably happier place this week, following our 5-0 win against Lincoln City in the Emirates FA Cup.
Some may scoff that the result was the very least that was expected against a non-league team, but confidence rises and falls quickly in football – so when you win, you should enjoy it. That is especially true when that win sends you to Wembley for a cup semi-final.
It has certainly been a challenging time for Arsene Wenger and his players over the past six weeks, but now there is light at the end of the tunnel again.
“We wanted to be absolutely successful in this game because it opens the door to Wembley. It gives us a little bit of peace back after the big disappointment of Bayern,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.
“It’s true that it was a non-league team but I believe that they had some great results and nothing to lose. When you’re under pressure and you have to win, you have to turn up and get a result. We did that in a professional way and it’s good to go back to Wembley for a semi-final.
“That looks really exciting. In the FA Cup we have been very strong recently, so we have an opportunity to do that again.
“We now want to focus on the championship again and forget about the cup a little bit. We have a good month to come back in a strong position in the Premier League.”
With two thirds of the season gone, Wenger has had time to take stock and assess his side’s performance – and believes they are ready for the final push.
“We could not, until now, win the big away games and that is of course where we have not been good enough,” he said. “I would say the team did fight, has shown a great spirit and we have now an opportunity to come back and fight if we want to play Champions League next season.
“It’s very important that we are ready for a fight and that we show that until the end of the season.”
ADDING OIL TO THE ENGINE
One of the most encouraging aspects of the win against Lincoln was Mesut Ozil’s return to full fitness after a bout of ‘flu – and the clip of him racing back to barge an Imps player off the ball has gone viral on social media this week.
That moment typified a robust Arsenal display against a non-league side intent on making life difficult for their Premier League hosts, and underlined the hunger the World Cup winner has to get back to his best.
OP = Outfield Players
But while Wenger accepts Ozil will have a central role during the run-in to the season – he has previously said he “adds oil to the engine” – he insists the whole squad must play their part.
“Mesut has improved in many aspects [such as his physical game], and in his finishing as well,” he said. “He was ill and very disappointed by the fact we had gone out of the Champions League. But since he has arrived here, he has made very big strides forward.
“We have been focusing on everybody doing their job offensively and defensively,” he added. “I believe that, instead of just highlighting one player, it’s important that everybody does it when it’s wanted from the game.
“I think we have to focus on collective performance rather than to expect anything special from one individual. Even if it’s Ozil, I believe we have to focus on our fighting spirit, togetherness and the way we want to play football.”
AN AERIAL BOMBARDMENT
Arsenal know exactly what to expect at The Hawthorns on Saturday: an aerial assault from the most effective set-piece team in the Premier League.
West Brom have scored a higher proportion of their goals (47.8 per cent) from free kicks and corners than any other side in the top flight, and their total of 16 is comfortably more than the rest of the division.
Wenger admits his side have been prepared for a “menacing challenge” from the Baggies, but insists they are up to the test.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (ankle), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring - doubt)
West Brom: Phillips (hamstring)
“West Brom have strong deliveries and they know as well that they have to be very efficient on that,” the manager said.
“The best way for us is to take the game to them and not to be too much on the defensive side and not have too many set-pieces against you. I believe that overall we have been quite good defensively on set-pieces, but this will be a test.
“In the Premier League, away from home every game is a big away game. West Brom are in a very comfortable position, they are not under threat to go down, they have no special fear and they have talent.
“So of course, it’s a menacing challenge for us, but we have to make sure we are ready for it and that we believe in our game.”
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