Arsenal have lost three of their last away games, two of them disastrously at West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace, and Wenger knows that they need to turn it around this Monday night. By the time Arsenal play on Monday, they could be 10 points behind Manchester City in fourth, but with two games in hand.
Wenger admitted it has “not been very enjoyable” at London Colney this week as the team tries to pick itself up from Monday’s disappointment, which is why the return of those two senior players is so important.
“From the last game, I believe that we have a chance of getting Petr Cech back in the squad,” Wenger said at his press conference on Friday morning. “Laurent Koscielny is joining in today. If their tests are positive, they will come back into the squad for Monday’s game.
Koscielny and Cech will both be tested before the trip, and after Arsenal’s defensive collapse at Selhurst Park it is imperative that they are both back in the team. “They have an eighty per cent chance,” Wenger said. “At the moment it’s pretty good, but sometimes the 20 per cent can play a villain’s part in the final preparation.”
Wenger demanded that his players respond to Monday’s disaster, which saw the away fans turn on the players and on Wenger himself, in the best possible way. While he could not promise a win, he wants his players to believe in him again.
“In football, you have to accept that the risk is part of it and that you can win, lose or draw,” Wenger said. “What you want - the real response - is to play with total commitment and with total belief in what we do.”
What Wenger wants is belief and confidence, rather than caution, as Arsenal try to rescue their season in the final weeks. “To play with restriction and a little bit of a handbrake on doesn’t help the performance,” Wenger said. “We are under pressure to deliver and the best way to do it is to play with freedom and accept the risk. In football, when you want to play, you have to accept the risk that things can go wrong. They have more chances to go wrong if you play with a little bit of restriction in your game.”
It might sound optimistic but Wenger knows that atmosphere can shift quickly from negative to positive, just as it has gone in the other direction recently. For Wenger the solution is the same: more confidence, more belief and more spirit.
“Under difficult circumstances, the confidence can drop and can be a bit contagious,” Wenger said. “Therefore it’s important to rebuild. The energy in a team can change in three days. It can come back as well very quickly. We had a good game against West Ham, five days later we had a bad game at Crystal Palace. That can come back very quickly and we have to focus on that.”