Mathieu Flamini tells Arsenal to focus ahead of games with Napoli, Manchester City and Chelsea
A tough run of games before Christmas awaits the Premier League leaders
Monday 09 December 2013
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini has warned Arsenal cannot afford to lose focus as they face up to a run of fixtures which will test just how far they have come this season.
The Gunners missed the chance to take full advantage of slip-ups by Barclays Premier League title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City when they were held to a 1-1 draw by a battling Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
There is, however, little time for Arsene Wenger and his squad to dwell on what might have been as they now face a trip to Napoli for their final Champions League group match before returning to tackle City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime. They then face a showdown with their west-London neighbours on December 23 as the festive fixtures get into full swing.
Flamini, who came on as a second-half substitute against Everton, feels Arsenal must focus on delivering another run of consistent displays as they look to maintain their five-point cushion at the top of the league heading into a hectic set of games.
"It is a great feeling (to be five points clear), but the championship is long and we still have a lot of teams to play," said the combative 29-year-old Frenchman, who rejoined Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer after being released by AC Milan.
"Now it is important just to focus on game after game, because we have another big match away to Napoli, and then play at Manchester City, so everything goes very quick in the championship, especially when you have so many games.
"It is going to be a busy period for us and we just have to focus.
"What would be good for us will be three victories, but we know it is not going to be easy because we will be playing three big teams with a lot of quality.
"This busy period is also going to be important for the players, that we can recover as soon as possible because we play already on Wednesday, but it will be interesting to see what happens after these three games."
Flamini added: "These are all big games, the ones you want to play in, and everyone is excited to be playing in them.
"It will be an interesting period for everyone and hopefully a good one for us."
Arsenal's immediate attention will now turn to securing their European progression, as they head to Italy three points clear at the top of Group F.
A draw against Rafael Benitez's men would be enough to clinch first place and with it seeding for the knockout stages.
Indeed, Arsenal could lose and still progress depending on the final scoreline at the Stadio San Paolo and Borussia Dortmund's result in Marseille.
Right-back Carl Jenkinson looks set to again stand in for Bacary Sagna, who is sidelined by a hamstring problem.
The 21-year-old feels Arsenal are up to tackling the test of character they will now face head on.
"We are definitely not looking at it in an apprehensive way," he said.
"I wouldn't say (these games will be) defining - it is a very long season, but they are three big games and of course you want three good results.
"We just need to continue playing well and hopefully the results will take care of themselves."
Jenkinson added: "When we play to our peak, I think we can beat anyone so it is important that we go and do that on Wednesday.
"It is going to be a tough game - they are going to be battling because they want to qualify just as much as us.
"But we will work hard and go out there with the confidence that we have from our recent results and hopefully come back with the result we want."
Arsenal were drawn against north-London rivals Tottenham in the third round of the FA Cup.
The two clubs and relevant bodies are set to discuss ticket allocation for such a high-profile match, with the away team entitled to 15% of the ground's capacity under competition regulations, which would mean around 9,000 Spurs fans making the short journey to the Emirates Stadium for a fixture which could yet be selected to be televised over the weekend of January 4/5.
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