Arsene Wenger: We are title contenders
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his side are emerging as genuine title contenders this season, but he admits they need to improve their home form if they are to have any chance of landing the Premier League crown.
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The Gunners’ 2-1 win against Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday night gave them a tenth successive victory away from home, yet their form at the Emirates Stadium has been less consistent.
And Wenger accepts the need to address that flaw when they welcome Stoke City to North London this Sunday.
“If you look at the numbers, away from home we have been remarkably consistent. At home we want to create the same consistency,” Wenger said.
“I believe we have a chance [to challenge for the title] and what is most important is that my full energy is to make sure we grab that chance. It is too early to say who will be in the fight, who will not be in the fight.
“You are a bit cautious because these days you are very quickly in a crisis. One bad result and everyone questions your potential to be in there, so let’s be consistent. We know the four or five teams who will fight for the title, we know the names.”
Wenger went on to praise Olivier Giroud, as he suggested a summer of speculation linking Arsenal with strikers such as Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain has inspired the France international to start the season in fine scoring form.
“Every day when he opened the newspaper [in the summer], he saw another striker coming here,” Wenger said. “He never made a statement and just played. For me that is the best answer you can give as a football player. Don’t talk too much and show how good you are. That is the core of our job.
“He has improved technically in his link-up play and he has a huge physical presence. He is the type of striker who is very difficult to fight against. I’m sure he will have a great season.
“He has a belief and a positive mentality that comes out, a good self-esteem that is a very positive quality when you are a striker because you have to deal with a lot of pressure. It doesn’t affect him too much when he does score. He has a good mentality.”
Meanwhile, Wenger said that record signing Mesut Ozil has settled in well since his £42.4 million move from Real Madrid at the start of the month, but insists there is more to come from the Germany international.
“He has integrated well, he was well accepted. I think he is not at the top physically, but he needs time to adjust to the vigorous body challenges he will face in the Premier League,” Wenger said, before hitting back at the claims made by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez that Ozil struggled to cope with pressure of playing for a top club.
“He is 24 years old, has over 50 caps in Germany. When you play for Germany you are under a lot of pressure. He won the championship with Real Madrid. There is a lot of pressure in that, but I don’t detect that,” he said.
Elsewhere, Wenger may have Mikel Arteta available for the Stoke game on Sunday, after he returned to full training with his team-mates on Friday.
The Gunners boss reported no fresh injuries following his side’s Champions League exploits in Marseille.