Arsenal face 'moment of truth', says Wenger

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger believes his Arsenal players, beaten 3-1 at Bolton Wanderers last Saturday, are in excellent condition to respond to that setback by emerging from a potentially decisive 12-day spell that starts at Fulham tonight with all their ambitions, including winning the Premiership, intact.

"It is our moment of truth," Wenger said yesterday. "Don't hide. And in front of the obstacle, you must jump. And the players are ready to jump - and they have a fantastic leap. And if they are not ready, then we have no chance to do it. But I know they will try - and I am confident."

After this evening's visit to Craven Cottage, Arsenal face Tottenham Hotspur at home in the north London derby on Saturday, Porto away in the Champions' League next Wednesday and then visit Chelsea on the following Sunday.

Arsenal are sixth in the Premiership, 13 points adrift of the leaders Manchester United, and could find their season is ruined before Portsmouth visit the Emirates on 16 December; but Wenger clings to his belief that nothing, including the title, is beyond them. "It is the most important period of the season so far for us," he said. "We have to keep going like we do..."

As he has often claimed, Arsenal had also suffered from decisions that went against them at important moments in recent away defeats, notably at West Ham United and Bolton where it was "a miracle" that Kevin Davies was not sent off.

Though upset at his team's points total, he is not disappointed by their quality and said he had no plans to buy in January. "We have a very good squad and we can play at the top of the league and it is just [a case of] how much we keep going," he said. "I don't deny that, at the moment, we don't have enough points, but it is not down to the fact that I want to buy. I do not want to buy. I want these players to perform, and this team to perform, at the full potential. It is in there and it is up to me and them to get it out.

"We don't have any basic problems apart from the fact that we don't have enough points," he said. "But quality-wise we are OK, and when you have quality you have a chance. If this team takes off, we can beat other teams by four or five goals. Wait until the end of the season to judge us.

"We want to go as far as we can and maybe it is higher than you think. I have seen the other teams and there is no team that is not reachable in England... Last year, at this time, Chelsea were out of reach, but that is not the case this time. I do not know if Chelsea are inferior, or all the other teams are better."

Wenger added that after reviewing the defeat at Bolton, he felt Arsenal were neither out-muscled nor out-played and were just punished for their mistakes.

Thierry Henry, Tomas Rosicky and Robin Van Persie will return to the squad at Craven Cottage tonight where Wenger is expected to pick an attacking team in a 4-4-2 formation. Julio Baptista, struggling with the pace of the Premiership, is not included. Wenger said, however, that he is confident the Brazilian will make a big impression in time.

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