Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger 'obsessed' with beating Sunderland

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger has urged his Arsenal team to pounce on Manchester United's slip-up in the Barclays Premier League title race.

Wenger insists his "obsession" is beating Sunderland at Emirates Stadium tomorrow after United's midweek loss at Chelsea left the Gunners trailing by four points with a game in hand.

Victory against the Black Cats would pile pressure on Sir Alex Ferguson's side, who travel to Liverpool on Sunday.

Wenger wants his players to put Tuesday night's eagerly awaited Champions League showdown with Barcelona out of their minds and concentrate on domestic issues.

"The championship is very important. Personally, I cannot believe we play Barcelona next week because my obsession is really Sunderland," he said.

"The obsession is more than the Champions League because for me it's highly important that we take advantage of our situation in the Premier League.

"We battled everywhere since the start of the season against many specialist opinions that we have no chance at all.

"Now that we are in this situation, it would be very dramatic if we would not consider the importance of the game tomorrow."

Arsenal have experienced a tumultuous period over the last three weeks, with their stunning first-leg upset of Barcelona offset by defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final.

The loss at Wembley saw doubts over the team's temperament resurface, but Wenger insists their subsequent 5-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient in the FA Cup proves their character.

"I have learned a lot because every game teaches you things about your team," he said.

"I feel that we have gone through highs and lows and what makes the life of a team and a player is how you resist negative emotions and keep your attitude aligned with your goals.

"You could see on Wednesday night that this team is mentally very strong and hungry for success and we look forward.

"We want to grow stronger and stronger. How the team responded to Sunday's disappointment is remarkable.

"Some individuals were a bit more down after the final and we talked to them.

"Overall, we were not tremendously down because we have so many high targets in front of us that the team is highly focused.

"This team is top quality and hungry for success.

"We promised ourselves to give absolutely everything until the end of the season and that is what we will do."

Midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song will miss tomorrow's visit of Sunderland and face a race to be fit for Barcelona.

"They are still improving for the Barcelona game. They have a chance," said Wenger.

"Fabregas at the moment has a stronger chance than Song, but they have a chance."

Aaron Ramsey is included in the squad and could make his first Arsenal appearance since breaking his leg at Stoke in February last year.

Wenger is pleased to have him back from a productive loan spell at Cardiff and insists he is showing no lingering after-effects from the injury.

"Aaron has had to be very patient and he must feel very good to be back," he said.

"When you have a big injury before the age of 20 normally you come back and you develop normally.

"That is why the big question mark about him was whether he would be back fully fit physically.

"That is now sorted out in a positive way, the rest is just a question of playing games. He has dealt with the injury very well.

"Certainly he has been very down for a long period, but on the outside signs he has shown he is always highly motivated and determined to work hard."

Comments