Bacary Sagna demands Arsenal focus on Fulham match
The Gunners returned to winning ways in midweek with victory over Fenerbahce
Friday 23 August 2013
Bacary Sagna has called on his Arsenal team-mates to quickly turn their attentions from Champions League success to getting their Barclays Premier League campaign up and running at Fulham on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger's men answered their critics in the best way possible by taking a huge step towards securing a place in the lucrative group stages of Europe's elite competition once again with an impressive 3-0 play-off first leg win at Fenerbahce.
There is, however, little time for the Gunners to revel in that achievement ahead of a televised lunchtime encounter at Craven Cottage, where Arsenal will be out to banish memories of their opening-day nightmare defeat at home to Aston Villa.
"We knew it was a big game and that we had to perform," said full-back Sagna, who could move to the centre of defence to cover for the suspended Laurent Koscielny, the France defender who suffered a head wound in Turkey.
"We did it well so now we have to think about Saturday at Fulham.
"The pressure was here because we know it is very important for the club to qualify for the Champions League, also for the players as well and the fans.
"Arsenal are used to qualifying for the Champions League for many years now so want to do it.
"We are in good shape now, but we have to be professional as we play this weekend."
Full-back Kieran Gibbs set Arsenal on their way to victory with a goal at the start of the second half, before Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud secured a comfortable lead ahead of the return leg in London next week.
Gibbs believes the Gunners can use the result as a springboard for the challenges ahead.
"In terms of putting us in a good position, it [the win] has given us a bit of togetherness," he said.
"I think people have seen now what the team is capable of and we have to take this now into the [rest] of the season."
Wenger, meanwhile, may have ruled out going back in for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, but the Arsenal manager revealed he expects the stakes in transfer "poker" to be upped over the closing 10 days of the window.
Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema are both reported targets as Wenger looks to dip into the £70million Emirates Stadium warchest ahead of the September 2 deadline.
Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a knee injury against Aston Villa which could sideline him for up to three months.
However, Wenger hopes captain Thomas Vermaelen will soon be in contention again following his back problem.
"He is out running. He's on the pitches again, but there's still a good few weeks to go for him to get his fitness," the Arsenal boss said.
"We have Nacho (Monreal) back and Thomas soon back so that's all good news for us."
Wenger does not expect Koscielny to be set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but the defender will not feature at Fulham because of his red card against Villa last weekend.
"He is like a boxer who had a hard fight the night before; lots of blood around his eye and a deep cut," Wenger said.
"He is suspended for Saturday anyway, but let's hope he recovers for next Tuesday [second leg against Fenerbahce].
"It will be short because the cut is very deep. Hopefully it will be alright."
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