Arsene Wenger points to importance of Arsenal home form

Arsene Wenger has warned Arsenal cannot afford any more below-par performances at Emirates Stadium if his men are to last the distance in the Barclays Premier League title race.

The Gunners head into tonight's clash against Everton aiming to keep within striking distance of leaders Manchester United, currently five points ahead.

Three defeats - to newly-promoted West Brom, Newcastle and arch-rivals Tottenham, when they were leading 2-0 - have, so far, not done major damage to Arsenal's title aspirations given unbeaten United's eight draws from 11 away games.

However, Wenger accepts should there be more failures to deliver maximum points under home advantage, then that could prove fatal to hopes of a first Premier League crown since 2004.

"We know to have a chance to win the championship we have to win our home games," Wenger said.

"Everton have lost only six games and we lost five, we are at the top of the table and they are at the bottom. The difference is they made so many draws.

"They have not bad results, but a draw in this league punishes you."

Arsenal head into what could well be a defining period of their campaign without influential midfielder Samir Nasri, who is set to be sidelined for at least three weeks after suffering a hamstring problem Sunday's 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round win over Huddersfield.

The likes of Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere will all come back into the side tonight, and Wenger knows the importance of a clean bill of health.

"You see now that to go for all the competitions, it is an important part of the season where you don't want to lose your players," the Arsenal manager said.

"I don't like it when the muscle injuries kick in and hopefully we do not get more because that is not a good sign."

Arsenal have a Wembley date with Birmingham in the Carling Cup final at the end of February.

While they remain fighting on all four fronts, Wenger accepts "history shows that it is extremely difficult" to sustain such progress.

However, the Gunners boss also admits: "It is very difficult to say to my players 'we do not go for this competition now' because we are in there and it is difficult to choose.

"We are not at the stage where we have to make a choice, but we want to go for everything."

Denilson also suffered a hamstring problem against Huddersfield, but, with his side already down to 10 men and all the substitutes used, played on.

The midfielder, though, is hopeful he will be back in a matter of days.

Nevertheless Wenger is now likely to see if he can recall a couple of players from their loan spells, like Jay Emmanuel-Thomas at Cardiff and Henri Lansbury, who is away at Norwich.

Reports in Poland, meanwhile, have suggested goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski may need surgery on his shoulder injury - which makes the return to fitness of former number one Manuel Almunia, who produced a couple of good saves against Huddersfield, a timely boost.

Centre-half Sebastien Squillaci returned to the side after a hamstring injury, only to get sent off for a professional foul which means he will miss tonight's game through suspension.

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