Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has challenged his players to prove they can win matches against the top sides in the Premier League as they prepare for a clash with Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Monday.
Defeats against both Manchester clubs have diluted the Gunners impressive start to the campaign and even though they have a valuable victory against current league leaders Liverpool on their record, Wenger has conceded the moment has come for his players to prove they can overcome their title rivals on a consistent basis.
Last weekend’s thumping 6-3 defeat against Manchester City dented Arsenal’s hopes of ending their 10 year wait for a Premier League title triumph.
But Wenger is convinced he has a team that can live with the pressure when the tension is at its peak.
“We haven’t won it for a long time, that’s why they question us and of course we have to win a big game when it matters,” Wenger told reporters. “It adds to the pressure, but you cannot play in the Premier League without pressure.
“There are periods where the pressure is a bit bigger and periods where it is smaller. You have to live with that and resist that kind of stress. We have to prove people wrong because at the moment everybody still questions us, even more after our defeat at City.
“We have won some big games. People are only keeping in their mind the big matches that we lose. What is at stake [against Chelsea] is if you want to win the Premier League, you want to win the big games at home. It’s as simple as that.
“The Premier League that is the most important [competition] and we haven’t won it for nine years. Of course, it doesn’t strengthen your belief. If you win it every year, you go in there and it’s just ‘ours’. It makes the challenge more interesting.
“We have had three disappointing results in a row and that is enough, but we have been in much more difficult situations than this.”
The Arsenal boss went on to stress he was not surprised to see Jose Mourinho return to Chelsea last summer, as he believes the desire to be part of the English football culture proved too tempting for many of the biggest names in the game.
“I thought Mourinho would come back,” stated Wenger. “It is the same with players, they come to England then they say, ‘Maybe I’ll go to Italy or to Spain’, but they always come back.
“Why? Because this is a football country. The No. 1 football country in the world, that is why everybody comes back. There is something special in this country, something unique about the game. The foreign managers do not always like everything here, but they all like to come back.”
Wenger went on to stress the statistic that he has never got the better of a Chelsea team led by Jose Mourinho does not tell the whole story of their personal duel, though he accepts the Blues have held the upper hand in most of those clashes.
“I must say for a while Chelsea were stronger than us. You do not have to accept it but it was the reality,” he added. “Often the games have been close. “Sometimes they have equalised in the last minute at Chelsea and that's not down to a game plan. That just reflects the strengths of the teams.”