'I hope 2013 will confirm we are a great team': Arsene Wenger lays out his Arsenal ambitions

Arsenal manager in optimistic mood heading into the new year

Manager Arsene Wenger hopes 2013 will be the year that Arsenal confirm all the promise the Frenchman believes his team have.

The Gunners head to Southampton on New Year's Day on the back of a thrilling 7-3 win over Newcastle, which was a fourth straight Barclays Premier League success.

Wenger has had to endure one of the most testing spells of his 16-season tenure at Arsenal this season, including a Capital One Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to npower League Two side Bradford. However, there is now genuine optimism for the second half of the campaign as the Gunners are now back within striking distance of the top four and ready to tackle Bayern Munich for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

"My hopes (for the new year) are that the win (over Newcastle) will give even more confidence, desire and ambition to our team, and that 2013 will confirm we are a great team," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

Theo Walcott bagged an impressive hat-trick against Newcastle and is relishing a chance to shine in his preferred central attacking role.

Despite the England international, 23, having yet to agree terms on a new contract with the Gunners, Wenger is glad to see Walcott enjoying his football.

"I have worked with Theo for seven years and the fact that he had an exceptional game against Newcastle will not influence me more or less - if he had played a disastrous game, I would still have wanted him to sign with the same intensity," Wenger said.

"It is good that he gets rewarded for his effort and for me that is more important."

Walcott will return to his old club tomorrow, along with midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was also on target against Newcastle.

Wenger is likely to rotate his squad at St Mary's, but could well opt to unleash Walcott down the middle once more.

"I like the fact Theo can play through the middle because it gives us more opportunities to do that and more possibilities to change from game to game. I will do it again," Wenger added.

Walcott came through the youth ranks at Southampton before joining Arsenal in a big-money move as a raw teenager in January 2005.

The England forward made a subdued celebration after he scored in the 6-1 win over the Saints at the Emirates Stadium in September, and is clearly relishing the opportunity to return to the club where he was the youngest player to appear in the first team.

"It will be a very tough occasion against Southampton, but it is one I am really looking forward to," Walcott said on Arsenal Player.

"It will be a very special moment for me and Alex, and also for some of the fans to see us come back to the club."

Despite some positive displays, Southampton remain in the relegation zone after they drew 3-3 at Stoke in a match they had led 3-1, and were only denied victory by a superb last-gasp strike by Cameron Jerome.

Wenger is expecting a tough test of his side's new-found confidence.

"They are not comfortable (opponents), Southampton. I saw them against Fulham, and they played very well against Stoke," Wenger told reporters.

"Southampton are a team that has learned in the Premier League now. Usually you find in February or in January a different team to what you see in August or September."

Arsenal raided the Saints again last summer when securing Oxlade-Chamberlain in a £12million deal.

It has looked another sound investment, as the 19-year-old has developed quickly and since won full England honours, playing at Euro 2012.

Wenger feels Southampton deserve praise for their player development.

"They have done a fabulous job - you also look at Gareth Bale and what he is doing now at Tottenham," he said.

"It is down to the quality of their scouting, the quality of their coaching and education."

Arsenal, meanwhile, are reported to have tabled a £10million bid for Atletico Madrid striker Adrian Lopez and will also look to offload fringe players like Marouane Chamakh and Swiss defender Johan Djourou - who is reportedly a player of interest to German side Hannover - during the January window.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee