London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal must maintain the standards they set in beating Stoke if they are to last the course in the Premier League title race.
Wenger’s side recovered after falling behind to claim a 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday that moved them to the top of the table ahead of Chelsea’s meeting with West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
And the manner in which Arsenal held their nerve to secure the two-goal victory needed to go above previous leaders Chelsea confirmed to Wenger that his team are growing increasingly resilient.
“We finished second in the league last year but I believe we have improved,” Wenger said.
“We have to show that on a longer term. I believe that we have created confidence.
“I think we are ambitious but what is at stake is to keep urgency levels very high, humility levels very high and togetherness very high.
“We have to show that in every single game now. Then we will see where we stand.”
With little to separate the title contenders so far, Wenger is intrigued to see if Arsenal can make the most of their impressive form and win the Premier League for the first time since 2004.
“At the minute there is no difference anyway with the other teams, but we are in there at the top. No matter what the results will be. So that’s good – we are in the fight,” said Wenger, whose side will surrender pole position if Chelsea avoid defeat against Albion.
“Psychologically it is difficult to win when everybody expects you to win. I believe we want to build a momentum and everyone expects you to win the game, you want to win it. Especially at home.
“When you analyse last year, last season at home we did very well against the top five and we dropped points against teams in mid-table.
“Certainly that is our challenge this year, to continue to do well against the top teams but as well in these kind of games, like Stoke today, where you have to win and we dropped some points last year.”
– Nice Christmas –
Charlie Adam put Stoke ahead from the penalty spot after Granit Xhaka fouled Joe Allen but Arsenal recovered through Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi.
However, Shkodran Mustafi limped out of the game after just 23 minutes and Wenger admitted the loss of the centre-back is likely to be out for at least three weeks.
“It’s a bad one. The minimum when you get out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days out. That means he’ll have a nice Christmas!,” Wenger said.
“I would not have played him today if he had any problems. I had Hector Bellerin on the bench. I could have played Rob Holding or Gabriel.
“I checked three times and there was no problem. I don’t know why it happened.”
Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes there were positives for his side to take ahead of a run of games that includes meetings with Chelsea and Liverpool.
“Arsenal are an exceptional side and a lot of teams have suffered at the hands of them,” Hughes said.
“Today I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, we went with a positive outlook, we are not trying to say we deserved to win but we will take the positives out of it from the performance not the result.
“We have two big away games coming up against Chelsea and against Liverpool so we will take the positives from here and also the elements we need to work on.”
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