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Season starts now for Everton


Wenger: We can cope with tough run

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts his side’s trophy-winning potential will be tested to the full as he prepares for a challenging run of fixtures in the Premier League and Champions League.

Saturday’s clash with high-flying Liverpool will be followed up with away games against Borussia Dortmund and Napoli in the Champions League, with domestic battles against Manchester United and in-form Southampton also on the horizon.

However, Wenger is in bullish mood as he prepares for a run of games that should give a clear indication of his side’s potential, urging his players to rise to the challenge and confirm they are ready to take on the best.

“It is an important period, of course, but I’m quite confident and you can see I am quite relaxed because I feel we will deal well with this period,” he said. “It is an opportunity for us to show our strength and I’m confident the players will be up for it.

“In this kind of game, you always find out about your squad, but I don’t have too much to find out. We are a very stable team and, since Jan. 1, 2013, we have taken more points than anybody else. I learned about my team in the spring period, when they had their back to the wall and had to win every game. I know how strong these guys are and how much they want it.

“The mood [at Arsenal] is very strong, very united and very focused. We know where the priorities are -- it is in the Premier League and Champions League. We are in a strong position in the Premier League and that’s why our mood is positive.

“Of course, we want to be title contenders and I think we are, Liverpool as well. There are four others, or five, who are title contenders as well.”

Ahead of the meeting with Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger said Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is beginning to unleash his side’s potential.

“He is at a massive club and in his first year he had ups and downs, but you could still feel even in the first year that he had a style of play to push through,” he said. “He manages that now in a more consistent way and you can see that the results are positive.”

Wenger accepts Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge pose a threat to his side, but he has a relatively simple solution to nullifying the potency of the Liverpool strike force.

“Our target is to have the ball and master the situation because we are dominating,” he said. “If we have the ball a lot, we don’t have to worry too much about our opponents. We keep these two players quiet as they are among the top strikers in the league.”

Wenger also addressed former Arsenal forward Andrey Arshavin’s criticism of the supporters at the Emirates Stadium at his prematch news conference, with the Russian saying the atmosphere was so poor that there was “no advantage” to playing at home.

“I believe that we had a difficult period at the Emirates last season when people were very sceptical about us,” Wenger said. “They were also sceptical about him [Arshavin]. It is up to us to get the crowd on our side. The crowd have been massively behind us, even in the games we have lost recently. This season, the crowd has a different attitude.”

Wenger confirmed that midfielder Mathieu Flamini will be out for at least another two weeks with the groin injury he picked up at Crystal Palace, while Theo Walcott faces a similar spell on the sidelines before his potential return.

Serge Gnabry, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also unavailable for the Liverpool game on Saturday, but Mikel Arteta will return from suspension.


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