Arsenal must be ready for 'fight' vs. Chelsea striker Diego Costa - Wenger
Arsene Wenger has told his players to be ready for a battle against Diego Costa on Sunday when Arsenal host Chelsea in the Premier League.
Costa was at the centre of controversy during Chelsea's 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in September after clashing with Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista, who was sent off for retaliating against the Spain striker after a scuffle.
The Spain international was charged with violent conduct and banned for three games by the Football Association, while Arsenal won an appeal against Gabriel's red card.
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Although Costa could miss Sunday's meeting between the two sides with a bruised shin, Wenger said his team must be prepared to deal with the challenge he presents.
"We have to focus on our own performance and forget a little bit about Diego Costa," Wenger said. "But we have to be prepared for a battle because Costa gives you a fight. After that, it's down to the referee."
Wenger criticised referee Mike Dean for being "weak" and "naive" after the loss at Stamford Bridge, saying he should have sent Costa off twice for hitting defender Laurent Koscielny in the face and the clash with Gabriel.
Costa has managed to get under the skin of more defenders than just Gabriel in his stint at Chelsea, and Wenger said his side must show discipline and maturity on Sunday as they look for their first league win in five years against their London rivals.
"We are convinced that our points and our record are certainly linked to our discipline," Wenger added. "On the day (at Stamford Bridge) we suffered because I think we were a bit unlucky with the decision of the referee.
"But overall on the longer distance I believe we have a very strong record on discipline in the Premier League and we want to maintain it."
Arsenal sit top of the table, ahead of Leicester City on goal difference, while Chelsea are only 14th after their dreadful first half of the campaign saw Jose Mourinho sacked and replaced by Guus Hiddink on an interim basis.
This is still a big game for Arsenal, who haven't beaten Chelsea in the league since a 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in 2011. And having beaten both Manchester clubs at home this season, Wenger said his team have the experience needed to overcome Chelsea as well -- even if Costa plays.
"We have certainly improved our battling potential through big solidarity, through great togetherness," Wenger said. "We have more experience in the team. And one of the advantages to having experienced players is they know that sometimes it's just about battling and not only about playing well."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.