Wenger throws down gauntlet to Gunners

Wenger throws down gauntlet to Gunners

Published Jan. 20, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal players to show they have what it takes to break back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League by beating Manchester United on Sunday.

The Gunners have slumped to successive defeats at Fulham and Swansea to derail their drive up the table, with the gap to Chelsea at four points ahead of this weekend's fixtures.

Wenger feels a confident display against United, who thrashed them 8-2 at Old Trafford earlier this season, would be the perfect response.

"You want to play big games, and this is a big game that comes at a moment when we want to convince people that we are capable of coming back into the top four. There is no better opportunity than Man Utd to show that," the Arsenal boss said.


"We are really frustrated because we made the minimum of our last two games, we were twice leading and in the end we lost them both.

"We play a big game, yes, but another thing that is important is to come back to winning habits.

"We were on a very strong run before that, and we lost that run in a way that is difficult to accept because everything went against us in the two games - but we have to accept that and win our game on Sunday."

Wenger insists he never reads anything into big scores, with a depleted Arsenal side swept aside at the end of August just four days after an energy-sapping Champions League qualifier second leg in Udinese.

He said: "Every game is a new life, you can do well you can do bad. We just want to take this opportunity to do well.

"The result in August has nothing to do with that, we cannot wipe it out. That will not be an excuse not to beat them. It is over.

"You focus on what is in front of you and you try to do as well as you can.

"What is important is our determination and focus and that we are ready to give everything to win it."

Wenger refused to dwell on what another defeat could do to Arsenal's ambitions should results elsewhere go against them, with Chelsea at Norwich and leaders Manchester City hosting third-placed Tottenham.

He said: "If you imagine a catastrophe, you can always make life difficult. You can go the other side, they could lose, we can win.

"That is why we love [the league], it can go bad or you can play well. If you play well it has more chances to go well [overall].

"It is just important that we keep our belief in our game, in our players, and that we go into the game with that belief."

It was not that long ago the rivalry between Wenger and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was at boiling point as the two clubs battled for Premier League supremacy.

While the Frenchman now faces a new challenge to take his young side forwards, the 62-year-old maintains his hunger burns as deep as ever.

"I always feel the same pressure because I always want to win the next game," Wenger said.

"I am on earth to try and win games so I always feel big pressures before the games - but it is positive because you always hope to do it and have the confidence to do it."

Arsenal could be without former captain Thierry Henry on Sunday, as the on-loan New York Red Bulls forward battles to overcome a calf problem suffered in last weekend's 3-2 defeat at Swansea.