London derby: ‘Response of players key to Arsenal success’

Gunners boss Wenger hopes to tighten grip on third place in EPL when West Ham visit


Afp March 13, 2015
The London derby comes five days after the Gunners recorded a memorable FA Cup victory at Manchester United to set up a Wembley semi-final against Reading or Bradford. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON/ BURNLEY:


Arsene Wenger believes his players’ mental strength will determine whether Arsenal can finish the season on a high.


Wenger’s side will attempt to tighten their grip on third place in the Premier League when West Ham visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The London derby comes five days after the Gunners recorded a memorable FA Cup victory at Manchester United to set up a Wembley semi-final against Reading or Bradford.

And next week, the North Londoners will attempt to overturn a 3-1 deficit when they travel to Monaco for a Champions League last 16 second-leg tie.

If Wenger’s players can retain the Cup and finish in the top four, they will have successfully built on their efforts of last season when the FA Cup final triumph over Hull marked an end to the club’s nine-year trophy drought.

But should they fall short and finish the season empty-handed and outside the top four, the criticism frequently directed at Wenger will be heard once again.

The Arsenal manager accepts the pressure on his team is greater now but says it is down to the players to respond positively. “We can only help so much, 99 per cent is down to the individual,” said Wenger.

“We can push them over the line with the one per cent we can give, but 99 per cent is them having the responsibility to make their own life.”

Wenger added that there was a verdict on everything, and that kind of stress has increased, making it much more difficult to deal with than it was a few years ago.

“Twenty years ago you could lose a game and people would say, ‘Next time Arsenal will play better’. Today you lose a game and it is always a crisis. It’s not easy for the players to deal with that.”

Wenger also insisted his team selection against the Hammers will not be influenced by the looming Monaco game despite his side’s tiredness.

West Ham are likely to be without striker Enner Valencia, who cut his big toe after an accident at home.

Hammers manager Sam Allardyce said: “Enner has had an accident at home and has cut his big toe quite severely on a broken cup.

“We’re not exactly certain but we think it will be too soon for him be considered for the game at Arsenal on Saturday.

“It was a freak accident at a time when we could have done without it due to our lack of available strikers.”

Centre-back Winston Reid is out with a hamstring problem but Alex Song is expected to be fit to face his former club.

Hart warns City to beware Burnley threat

Joe Hart has warned Manchester City to learn the lessons of their past encounters with struggling Premier League clubs as they prepare to face Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday.

City surrendered a 2-0 advantage to draw 2-2 with Sean Dyche’s team on December 28 and have also dropped points against QPR, Everton and Hull, all of whom are in the bottom seven in the table.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side beat Leicester 2-0 in their last outing on March 4, but were made to work hard by the lowly Foxes before James Milner scored in the 89th minute to seal the points.

“Last week, we played Leicester, who are bottom of the league and had to fight for a 2-0 win — it will be the same at Burnley,” said City goalkeeper Hart.

“That is just how it is in the Premier League, and as soon as you let that get to you, it will crush you.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March  14th,  2015.

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