Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker feels win over Crystal Palace was the first of many tests facing the Gunners over the next few weeks

Arsenal face matches against Chelsea, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund over the next nine days

Defender Per Mertesacker believes how Arsenal respond to the toughest of schedules ahead will be crucial to defining their potential this season.

The Gunners consolidated top spot in the Barclays Premier table by securing a 2-0 win at managerless Crystal Palace, where captain Mikel Arteta was sent off not long after scoring a penalty at the start of the second half.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger felt his team had given the needed response when questions had been asked in the wake of the midweek Champions League home defeat by Borussia Dortmund.

Chelsea head to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night for a Capital One Cup tie when both sides are expected to rotate their teams, before Arsenal host second-placed Liverpool next weekend and then head out to Dortmund, where defeat would leave serious doubts over qualification for the knockout stages.

Throw in a trip to Old Trafford and then the visit of surprise package Southampton, all before the end of November, and the need for consistency soon becomes clear.

"Palace was a good test for us and a good win ahead of the hard games to come in the next weeks," Mertesacker said.

"We wanted to come back quickly as possible as a strong unit.

"What we showed was good enough to respond here (against Palace), but there will be more tests to come and that will be crucial for the rest of the season.

"That we have started well showed for sure we have improved a lot over the last two years.

"We are in a better position. It feels much better now. We don't have to get anything back (on the other sides), so that gives us more safety and we feel much better."

Mertesacker added: "We want to surprise people more and more. That is what we need to do.

"We are in a strong and interesting position, so we are aware of it and will try to keep it - but that is the difficult thing, to keep it."

Germany defender Mertesacker - whose partnership with Laurent Koscielny is keeping club captain Thomas Vermaelen on the bench -feels Arsenal's continuity and the addition of players such as Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini has allowed them to hit the ground running.

"It took us a lot of time to settle in and adapt for a lot of players, but we did not lose anyone this season and I think that is a big advantage," added Mertesacker, who was one of several players signed on deadline day in August 2011.

"Everybody knows each other, how to cover each other, we have a much stronger squad."

Wenger believes a united work ethic has been behind his team's consistency in the Premier League, where they have lost just once and that back on the opening day.

"It is a good sign because it shows that the team can win when we are not completely flying," the Arsenal boss said. "We decided to work hard, especially defensively.

"Even until the end, Ozil fought very hard, played on the right, played like a full-back. It is good to see that everybody puts a shift in when it is needed."

Wenger accepts Arsenal will know more about what they can achieve after the toughest of November schedules.

"We have drawn only once and won all our other away games and we have more points ahead of everyone else, so that is not bad," he said.

"However, the disadvantage is that some teams have had heavier fixtures than we have had until now, and that is what is facing us."

PA

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'