Arsenal have wind in their sails, says Wenger

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 8:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 8:46am

Arsene Wenger believes momentum is with his Arsenal side as they step up their challenge to finish in the Premier League’s top four.

Arsenal currently lie fifth in the table ahead of the meeting with Norwich City on Saturday, but victory at the Emirates Stadium will lift them above Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur into third place.

The FA Cup semi-finals mean neither of Arsenal’s London rivals is in league action this week and, after a frustrating season, the sight of Wenger’s side edging closer to the the top two would strike an important psychological blow at a decisive stage of the campaign.

Arsenal’s recent progress is in stark contrast to their form in the first half of the season, when questions were raised about Wenger’s ability to revive his squad.

However, seven wins in their last nine Premier League games mean the Gunners are one of the form teams going into the final weeks, maintaining a familiar trend at the club.

“We don’t target the month of March,” said the manager. “Sometimes it’s a coincidence of results and sometimes a coincidence of fixtures.

“But I believe our team has always developed a way to play that makes them stronger throughout the season. That’s maybe one of the consequences of it - that we go from strength to strength.

“We should not forget that, in recent seasons, we have started with young squads who have learnt first during the season, or with squads who have been disturbed because we sold players and we had to rebuild a team. Of course it then takes a while to get into a good momentum.”

Wenger’s side could be strengthened by the return of Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Both players returned to training this week and were described as having a “90 per cent” chance of playing by Wenger.

Tomas Rosicky is doubtful with a hamstring problem, however, while centre-back Per Mertesacker is suspended following his red card at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

Mertesacker’s absence should mean a recall for Thomas Vermaelen, the club captain, who has found himself out of favour in recent weeks.

Wenger said: “He took it in a remarkable way [when he lost his place]. He is a great man and I didn’t make him captain by coincidence.

“I knew there is something mentally special there. He responds in positive situations and in less positive situations like when you don’t play.

“They know there could be rotation with the three centre-backs from the start of the season, depending on good and less good periods of any individual player. He took that remarkably well.”

Norwich beat Arsenal 1-0 when the teams met at Carrow Road in October, a victory that started a 10-game unbeaten run for Chris Hughton’s side.

That sequence of results helped Norwich to maintain clear water between themselves and the relegation places, but with just one league win since the turn of the year, they are now only four points above the bottom three.

Centre-back Michael Turner said: “We had a great result at home against them but we know going away it’s going to be very tough. We need to perform as we have done in recent away games and hopefully do well.

“I don’t see why we can’t go and win. We’ve got nothing to lose there, really. We are massive underdogs in the game and everyone will probably write us off. We’ve got to see it as a chance for us to go and express ourselves.”