Maybe it was with a certain irony, given the revelations of last week and the insight into dressing-room bust-ups, that Petr Cech yesterday accused Arsenal of lacking "fight". The Chelsea goalkeeper also went on to state that if Arsenal lose at Stamford Bridge on Sunday "they are out of the title race completely" and while Arsène Wenger refused to accept that publicly – what else could he do? – he pretty much agreed.
"We are not in the title race but the best way to get back into it is to win," the Arsenal manager said. "You cannot say, when you are 10 points behind, that you are favourites to win the championship. You just have to believe we can, and I know we can beat them."
Wenger must feel like he has been firefighting all season and yesterday he had to also meet an accusation from Sir Alex Ferguson that Arsenal have been in "disarray". "Disarray? I don't feel we are," he said. "You know better from inside your family what is going on than from outside where people make their own conclusions. Man City are a good side and maybe Man Utd can see that on Sunday."
Losing at Eastlands last Saturday was the last thing Wenger needed the day after he stripped William Gallas of the captaincy and stopped him boarding the team bus because of his outspoken behaviour. But Wenger feels there has been a strong response from the French international who has, he said, risen in his estimation, and the estimation of his team-mates and Arsenal supporters. "Your attitude can always gain you credit or you can lose credit and in the kind of attitude he has shown he's gained credit," Wenger said. "When you take [the captaincy] away anything can happen."
It meant that Wenger felt able to declare that, yes, he would be reading Gallas's recently published autobiography which has been at the centre of much of the controversy over his criticism of team-mates and also, of course, his former club Chelsea who he accused of offering him "laughable" wages and spreading "lies" about him.
Wenger also dismissed the claim by Chelsea that Gallas had threatened to score an own goal if he wasn't allowed to leave in 2006. "I never believed that story," Wenger said. "You cannot imagine that anyone would do that." Still Gallas can expect a hostile reception at Stamford Bridge and Wenger said he would have a simple message for the defender. "Focus on what you do," he said. "Personally I don't think it's very difficult [to do that] and, let me tell you, I've had a lot of stick in my career. He's a strong character and he has a good opportunity to show that on Sunday."
There was good news yesterday for Arsenal on the injury front with Wenger declaring that Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Bacary Sagna are all fit to face Chelsea.