Arsene Wenger has called on Arsenal to prove the critics were "too quick to write us off" as the Gunners enter what will be a defining period of their campaign when they look to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League tonight.
Arsenal head into the match with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, where they will defend a slender 1-0 advantage from the first leg, on the back of an unbeaten 17-match run.
Sunday's 3-0 victory over Burnley in the FA Cup fifth round was a 10th clean sheet from the last 14 games as the Gunners once again displayed their renewed defensive security.
With England winger Theo Walcott and Croatia striker Eduardo now back in first-team action, while Emmanuel Adebayor and captain Cesc Fabregas should also soon be match-fit, there are plenty of reasons for Wenger to remain positive. "You judge a season at the end of the season and it is down to us in the coming months to show that we have the necessary quality and that people were too quick to write us off," declared Wenger, whose side are now just three points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa in the Premier League.
"We are quite solid defensively, but I believe it is down to achieving a good balance between attack and defence.
"We always have an offensive attitude and sometimes that is the best way so you do not come under pressure defensively. The confidence is much better than three games ago. We are scoring goals again and it is a good way to be going into such a big game."
Arsenal's preparations for the match were disrupted somewhat by a delay to their flight out of Luton Airport yesterday, when a replacement aircraft had to be chartered following a technical fault. The travel problems meant the official Uefa press conference at the stadium had to be cancelled, but the Gunners trained as normal at their Hertfordshire base before eventually getting off the ground.
Defender Kolo Touré has recovered from a calf problem and travelled, as Wenger reported no fresh injury concerns from the weekend although Russian Andrei Arshavin is cup-tied.
That could mean both Walcott and Eduardo are in contention to face the Italians. While a strong defensive display would secure safe passage into the last eight, Wenger maintained: "I do not think that is the way to behave as it is too dangerous. The positive thing about our home result is that we did not concede a goal, and we did not score enough to think we just have to defend. They will go for it because they know they have to score at least two goals and put us under pressure. It is down to us to be well-organised and to come out and play our game."
Wenger, though, accepts Arsenal should have already put the tie beyond the Italians after his team were guilty of some poor finishing a fortnight ago at Emirates Stadium. "We could have, but that is how it goes," he reflected. "They will certainly play differently, but I expect us to believe that Roma will be at their best and that is a challenge for us to be at our best."
Wenger, though, continues to have full confidence in his young side. He said: "We can win anywhere in the world. It is always down to the quality of your performance, our desire, our determination – and not too much on how big the occasion is."
Arsenal, meanwhile, have warned supporters attending the match they are "at risk" if they travel alone to the Stadio Olimpico. The north London club have printed a booklet warning the 3,400 travelling Gunners fans to avoid transport routes usually taken by the Italian club's notorious hard-line Ultra supporters.Reuse content