Arsenal buoyant for title bid

2011-01-21 14:58

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal face Wigan at the Emirates Stadium knowing they have an outstanding chance to step up their title challenge after safely negotiating their passage into the FA Cup fourth round.

The Arsenal manager hailed his side’s hunger and spirit after they overcame a stubborn Leeds United side in the midweek third round replay, confirming their recent wobble is now behind them.

The home draw in the first meeting with Leeds followed by the League Cup semi-final first leg defeat at Ipswich had raised concerns about the Gunners’ ability to sustain their challenge for silverware before the league win at West Ham steadied nerves.

Now they face struggling Wigan at the start of a run that sees Arsenal play four of their next five Premier League games at home with a trip to Newcastle interrupting visits of Everton, Wolves and Stoke.

With the second leg of the Ipswich tie and a home meeting with Huddersfield in the FA Cup lined up prior to the Everton clash, Arsenal are in the enviable position of being able to enhance their prospects of success on home turf.

With four trophies still to play for – Barcelona arrive in London for the Champions League last 16 tie on February 16 – the mood at the club has been lifted and left back Kieran Gibbs insists all are targets.

“All of the trophies are as important as each other,” Gibbs said. “It’s not because we haven’t won things for a number of years but we have got a squad of players who want to win things.

“If you look at the players who have been here for five years, they will say they think about the run without trophies. But there are a lot of players who haven’t been here for that long.

“They have come in and shown that they want to win. I think that with that quality, we can end the drought. We have got the squad depth to go for everything – I just hope that the squad can stay injury-free.”

Gunners manager Wenger has revealed he has doubts over the fitness of Marouane Chamakh and Denilson and both will face late tests while Abou Diaby and Lukasz Fabianski are still out.

Wigan lie third bottom going into this game and manager Roberto Martinez has grown frustrated at his side’s inability to turn draws into wins and pull clear of the relegation zone.

“We’ve lost one of our last seven Premier League games, but we haven’t been able to cash in the points that we deserve,” he said. “We need to try and kill games.

“It’s our third game against Arsenal in seven weeks. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing for us, but we’re ready for the challenge.

“We always go into games to try and win. When you play against Arsenal you need to be aware of your work off the ball. You can’t allow them too much time on the ball.

“We are improving all the time. There’s nine teams separated by nine points. I’m very confident (Wigan will stay up).

There is a real togetherness and desire in the squad. I’m really excited about the next 16 league games.”

Striker Franco di Santo (ankle) is available but Victor Moses (shoulder) is still two weeks away from a return while James McCarthy could feature for the first time since October after returning to training following a serious ankle injury.

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