Arsenal’s first victory over Chelsea in two years could have released the psychological handbrake that had slowed down his side, manager Arsene Wenger hopes.
The comfortable 3-1 win last night stopped a run of five consecutive defeats against their London rivals and should fuel the Gunners with the belief that they can push Manchester United hard for the title in the second half of the season.
“Two years ago we were battered by Chelsea. Last year we felt we were getting closer and this year at Chelsea and at Manchester United we came out more frustrated because we felt we were in the game and there was no real difference,” Wenger said.
“Maybe we played a bit with the handbrake. It was a slow learning process.
“(Cesc) Fabregas said maybe we were playing a bit scared to win.
It was a strong word, but maybe there was something in there; you didn’t see that against Chelsea.
“We have a more mannish dimension to our team, that’s for sure. We are not bullied any more. People used to say that.
“I feel over the past two years we have matured, but this championship is very difficult to predict and we have to prove that we can now be consistent.”
Consistency has been Arsenal’s problem this season, with five defeats already, and Wenger is aware that all the doubts could return if they underperform at Wigan Athletic tomorrow.
“It can be a pivotal moment, but we have to respond straight away at Wigan in another game that we want to turn up and take points from,” he said.
“But we know that to beat the big teams at home will definitely have an important impact on the outcome of this league.”
Arsenal are two points behind unbeaten United, who play Birmingham City later tonight.
“I’m satisfied that we’re in December and we’re in touch with United; we are not very far away,” said Wenger, whose side are in the League Cup semifinals and sensing a first trophy in more than five years.
“I hope that the victory over Chelsea convinces them that they are on the right way and gives them more hunger to improve.”