Arsenal v Chelsea: Arsenal have the resolve to come back from Manchester City mauling, claims Arsene Wenger

Wenger: 'If you want to win the league, you want to win the big games at home. It’s as simple as that'

With Manchester City’s relentless pounding of all in their path and Liverpool rocking along at four goals a game, Monday night’s meeting of London elites might still be definitive but not in the way we anticipated the last time Arsenal and Chelsea kicked a Premier League ball.

Jose Mourinho cast this fixture as the match everyone wanted to see, first against second in one of the great European leagues. That was nine days ago. City have subsequently augmented the six-goal immolation of Arsenal by easing into the League Cup semi-finals by way of Leicester and smashing another four goals on the road at Fulham.

Chelsea’s laboured home win against Crystal Palace, which prompted Mourinho’s heightened assumptions about the significance of tonight’s trip to Arsenal were further undermined by the calamitous League Cup exit at Sunderland. Yes, a victory tonight would see Chelsea draw alongside Liverpool at the top or take Arsenal back into the outright lead. But both sides enter the fixture clouded by doubts about their capacity to keep pace with Merseyside and Manchester, never mind set it.

The ever-shifting dynamic at the top is arguably more of a concern for Wenger, as the distance between his last title success stretches to a decade. In 2004, Arsenal’s Invincibles went through the season unbeaten, validating the philosophy and approach of guru Wenger. But already the seeds of Arsenal’s demise were being sewn. Mourinho was on his way from Porto to Stamford Bridge to manage a Russian pot of improbable wealth.


We are 10 years into the transformation wrought by the limitless roubles of Roman Abramovic, and subsequently the Abu Dhabi bullion boys at the Etihad. Finally, reinforced by his own signature purchase of Mezut Ozil from Real Madrid, Wenger was putting a robust case for the beautiful game as he understands it, the Arsenal aesthetic once more setting the Premier League agenda.

Suddenly, after three games without a win, two of those in the Premier League, Wenger can almost feel the ground shifting uneasily beneath his feet. Defeat tonight will leave Arsenal in fourth spot, not the landscape he surveyed on the last day of November when his team swept imperiously through Cardiff. In that urbane way of his, Wenger understands the doubts.

“At the moment everybody still questions us, even more after our defeat at City,” he said. “We haven’t won it for a long time. That’s why they question us. If you win the League Cup, it doesn’t change anything. It’s the Premier League that is the most important thing and we haven’t won it for nine years. Of course it doesn’t strengthen your belief. If you win it every year, you go in there and it’s just ours.

“It makes the challenge more interesting. It adds pressure but you cannot play in the Premier League without pressure. There are periods where the pressure is a bit bigger and periods where it is smaller. You have to live with that and resist that kind of stress.”

Wenger’s belief in the football values he espouses is absolute, as is his optimism, which, depending on outcomes, can appear myopic. Hence the positive spin he put on the defeat at City. That result, when coupled with the defeat at Old Trafford, suggests Arsenal have a problem winning the big encounters.

“People are only keeping in their mind the big matches that we lose. We have won some big games,” is his answer for this.

“What is at stake is if you want to win the Premier League, you want to win the big games at home. It’s as simple as that.

“We can have even more belief after the game at City. Despite the fact we conceded goals - that was a shock for us because we are not used to that – it was not all negative because we could have scored six as well. On the offensive front we have shown that we have huge potential.

“I believe that we should come out of that game even stronger in our belief, even stronger in our resolute attitude, because we have shown until now that we can be very strong defensively, and as well on the day we have shown that we can be dangerous against anybody. We have to show that against Chelsea.”

Following a return of one point from a possible six, Wenger finds himself having to make the case for his team where, for the most part this season, the table has made it for him. The question about Arsenal in big games won’t go away. The opportunity to do so against a manager he has never beaten in any competition is one, you sense, is privately acknowledged. 

Recent results, he said, “have been disappointing for us but I don’t think they have affected the morale. We have made good results until now because we have a good solidarity and togetherness, and I don’t see any sign of that dropping. I think even more that the players are focused to respond. It can happen in a season when sometimes you have a bit of a weaker period. How you respond to this is what matters. That is what we want to show.

“We have decided to fight until the last day of the season, and look back at the championship then to think we have given it our all. It is a promise we have made and that is where we can show we are really men, that we can commit to a project to the last day of the season.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Wes Brown is sent-off
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review