Tomas Rosicky has called on his Arsenal team-mates to show their title rivals Manchester City next weekend that they can be as clinical in the Premier League as they were in another impressive European display on Tuesday night. The Gunners all but secured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a 5-1 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk at the Emirates Stadium, the Ukrainians having won both of their previous Group H matches.
Arsène Wenger's side set a new Champions League record of 14 goals in their opening three games and would probably need just one more win to make sure of top spot, which brings seeding for the knockout rounds.
Domestically, though, Arsenal have not maintained their early-season form, with the squad hit by injuries to key players such as their captain, Cesc Fabregas, who returned from a hamstring lay-off to score from the penalty spot against Shakhtar, as well as the England winger Theo Walcott, the Dutch striker Robin van Persie and the Belgian centre-back Thomas Vermaelen.
Following successive defeats before the international break, Wenger feels his side have restored their confidence with back-to-back wins at the Emirates. However, Arsenal's title credentials will again come under scrutiny at Eastlands in Sunday's televised showdown with the big-spending City.
But, says Rosicky, that means there is no better opportunity to show just what the team are made of. "We are already five points behind in the [Premier] League, but against Shakhtar... we were clinical in front of the goal. That is what we were missing, for example, against Chelsea.
"If Chelsea have one chance, they kill you immediately, so I am happy that we showed we could. We were very productive, almost every chance we got, we scored – but it's about showing it in the Premier League as well."
The Czech midfielder added: "Everyone realises how it is. We cannot always say 'We are unlucky'. It doesn't work like that. It is time to prove we can win those games. We need to finally show it on the pitch – and we have a great opportunity to do it on Sunday."
Rosicky, 30, knows it will not be easy against City. "They are a tough team if you see them play. They are tactically very good," he said. "Sometimes they are not so entertaining, but they are a little bit similar to Chelsea – they play great in defence, they are very solid at the back. We need a good performance and we need to be clinical."
Meanwhile, Fabregas has followed up his goal on his first appearance since mid-September by warning City they cannot buy the spirit of champions, even though Roberto Mancini's team are now just two points behind the leaders Chelsea as the Italian's unprecedented spending spree starts paying dividends.
Fabregas insists that building up a side capable of challenging for honours is not only about money. "Everyone chooses their own politics and everyone decides how to win," said the Spaniard. "They have a lot of money. They are taking advantage of it, and that's it. It is not our style, but we respect everyone's decision."
But he warned: "You cannot buy the spirit in one year. You need a few years to get everyone together and to get to know each other well, and it's not easy. You don't make a team in one season or two. We have our style, we have the football we want to play and we want to try to win every game like this, whether it is against the richest club in the world or the poorest."
Much of the Gunners' attacking threat against Shakhtar was channelled through Fabregas and Jack Wilshere. The 18-year-old, who was sent off for a studs-up challenge on the Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic at the weekend, made headlines for the right reasons on Tuesday with an all-action display, which was capped by a well-taken second-half goal.
Wenger believes the English-Spanish duo can develop a formidable partnership at the heart of his young side. Fabregas at 23 is already a World Cup winner and he believes Wilshere can only get better, given the right support.
"We are trying to help him and he is developing really well, but let's not put too much pressure on him," said Fabregas, who should know about such pressures as he holds the record as Arsenal's youngest first-team player, at 16 years 177 days. "Jack is just 18. He knows he was wrong, but sometimes these things happen.
"I remember being sent off at Everton for violent conduct against Tim Cahill when I was only 18. You learn from it."
Wilshere will serve a three-match ban for his red card, so Abou Diaby and Denilson are in contention to come into the starting XI against City.Reuse content