Arsene Wenger has told his Arsenal side they “owe themselves” a good performance as they look to revive their faltering Premier League campaign away to Liverpool on Saturday.
The Gunners, who last won the English title in 2004, have yet again seen their bid for Premier League glory falter after an encouraging start that included a 19-game run where they were undefeated in all competitions.
With Wenger’s future uncertain — it’s still to be decided if he will stay with the north London club when his current contract expires at the end of the season — Arsenal face a tough fight to finish in the top four, something they’ve managed in every one of the French manager’s full seasons at the club.
Wenger, 67, has come under renewed pressure from what some Arsenal fans see as the stagnation of recent seasons for all the success the club has enjoyed since he took charge in September 1996.
His cause has not been helped by recent results, with a surprise defeat by Watford preceding a 3-1 loss at leaders Chelsea and a humiliating 5-1 reverse in a Champions League tie away to Bayern Munich.
Arsenal are now 13 points off top spot in the Premier League and on the brink of a seventh straight last 16 exit in the Champions League.
No wonder Wenger said of his team ahead of Saturday’s match at Anfield: “They owe themselves a performance.
“They are quality players and I think on the day (at Bayern) it all went against us because we were 1-1 at half-time and in the second half everything went against us.
“We lost Laurent Koscielny quickly and then quickly conceded without having adjusted, we lost three goals – (in minutes) 53, 56 and 63. After that it was mentally very difficult.
“We responded at Sutton (a 2-0 FA Cup win), that was quite a tricky game and we want to respond again tomorrow. We have an opportunity against Bayern after that to show we can cause them problems.”
– ‘Positive, attacking attitude’ –
Arsenal have a desperate away record against the other members of the current top six in the Premier League, with Wenger having overseen just three wins in the Gunners’ last 26 games at Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Wenger is well aware that victory at Anfield, where Liverpool will kick off just a point behind Arsenal, would be especially beneficial to his team.
“It is even more important because we have not done well recently in these kind of games,” he said.
“For us, this kind of game like Liverpool is of course an opportunity that we want to take. We have to go and take it and not wait for the result.
“The result comes with an attacking attitude and that for me is the most important. That we go to just start on a positive attitude – for the rest of the season, of course it will have vital consequences.”
Arsenal have a game in hand over Chelsea but Wenger said: “We have to focus on our next game
“We have a game in hand, things can change quickly. To do a thing like that, you need exceptional rhythm in your results and as well Chelsea to fade.
“At the moment I think it’s more important that we focus on winning our games and focus on our next game rather than dreaming about coming back to Chelsea.”
Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey are now both fit, while Danny Welbeck has recovered from a second significant knee injury.