Arsenal home form is crucial says Arsene Wenger


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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his side's form at Emirates Stadium will dictate whether they can mount a sustained challenge for the Barclays Premier League title.

The Gunners head into tomorrow's showdown with leaders Chelsea unbeaten so far this season - kicking off their European campaign with victory in Montpellier before battling to a draw at Manchester City, then sweeping past Southampton 6-1 and thumping Coventry by the same scoreline to reach the last 16 of the Capital One Cup.

After a goalless draw on the opening day with Sunderland, Wenger has challenged his side to make Emirates Stadium a fortress as they look to last the distance this time around.

"If we do well at home against the strong teams, it will of course have a big impact on our chances in the league," said Wenger.

"We have played one [big team] where we got some belief, against Manchester City away.

"Saturday it is another one, but it is a different one because we are at home."

Despite Arsenal earning praise for their performance in last weekend's 1-1 draw at City, which they could well have won but for Gervinho blasting over from a good position in stoppage time, Wenger maintains it is "still a bit early" to be talking up any side.

"You will know more about us after 10 games or 15 games," he said.

"I believe in our potential, but we have to show that we are capable to deal with all kinds of problems that consistency demands.

"We will certainly know a bit more about us on Saturday afternoon - but much more about us after 10 or 15 games."

After a slow start with successive 0-0 draws, Arsenal have now hit nine league goals, conceding just twice.

Wenger, though, knows the likes of Lukas Podolski, Gervinho and Olivier Giroud, who finally opened his Arsenal account with a goal against Coventry in midweek, cannot afford to be wasteful tomorrow.

"We had a difficult start on that front because we played Sunderland and Stoke and could not score. After that when we started to score, you felt in every game we had the chances to score," Wenger said on Arsenal Player.

"For us it is more about converting the chances we have into goals. Our conversion rate from goal chance into goals is very important.

"In big games the number of chances is reduced, so it is important to put them into the net." Chelsea head to Emirates Stadium top of the table from Manchester United by a point with four wins and a draw, as well as on the back of a convincing midweek cup win.

New full-time Blues boss Roberto di Matteo is looking to reshape his squad, having brought in Belgian starlet Eden Hazard in a £32million deal over the summer.

Hazard, 21, is a player Wenger knows well, and previously had tried to sign for Arsenal.

"I am not surprised at all that he goes to Chelsea and straight away is one of their stars because everybody knew about him," Wenger told a press conference.

"Let's not forget that all the big budgets in England were after him."

Wenger feels Chelsea remain a potent threat, even if Arsenal's long-term tormentor Didier Drogba is no longer leading the attack.

"Chelsea have rejuvenated because they bought some very young players with maybe a more technical style, (they have) gone a little bit more creative," he said.

"Until now it has worked well for them so it is a good challenge for us to beat them."