Arsene Wenger talks up 'very important' month for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger accepts Arsenal are embarking on a "decisive time" as they look to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with victory against Partizan Belgrade tonight and stay one step ahead in the race for domestic glory.

The Gunners went top of the Barclays Premier League after they beat Fulham on Saturday and Manchester United had their match at Blackpool postponed while Chelsea dropped another two points in the 1-1 draw with Everton.

After what he hopes will be negotiating safe passage out of Group H against the struggling Serbians, Wenger takes his men up to Old Trafford for next Monday night's live encounter.

The festive schedule is set to throw up some fascinating encounters as United head to Stamford Bridge the week before Christmas, while Chelsea are at Arsenal on December 27.

"December will be a very important month for us and for everybody," said Wenger.

"When you look at the fixtures, it looks like it is a decisive time for everybody at the same moment in this league.

"The fixtures of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal are all very big in December."

The Gunners should have already been in the last 16, after a 100% record from their opening three Group H games - scoring 14 goals.

However, successive away defeats at Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga means they must beat Belgrade, who have lost all their five matches, to secure at worst second spot.

Finishing top would require an unlikely victory for Braga in Donetsk, meaning Arsenal are therefore set for a clash with one of the seeds in the knockout rounds.

Wenger, though, is not concerned.

"If you want to win it, you have to play against these big teams," the Arsenal manager said.

"First of all, it is not a guarantee that we play Barcelona or Bayern in the next round - there are some other teams we can play and what happens, happens.

"What is important is not to focus on the teams we might play, we first have to be very pragmatic and qualify first. We will see then who we get."

Arsenal will have Laurent Koscielny available after the centre-half was given the all-clear following a clash of heads with Sebastien Squillaci in the build-up to Fulham's goal on Saturday, but his replacement Johan Djourou, who is carrying a thigh problem, will not be risked.

Holland forward Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, who both came off the bench against the Cottagers, are in contention to start.

Arsenal have been criticised for an apparent soft backline this season.

Russian winger Andrey Arshavin, who has six goals so far, believes the Gunners need to tighten up if they are to push on and have a successful campaign.

"We struggle all the time in defence. We have to score more than we concede. That's it," he said the Russian.

"It is very frustrating. We are trying to improve, but we can't.

"We don't just blame our defenders. Sometimes I can't run, and let defenders cross so the forwards score a goal.

"It doesn't always depend on defenders. As a team we need to improve defensively."

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker