Wenger wants progress to continue

Arsene Wenger feels tomorrow's trip to Chelsea will provide the perfect test by which to measure Arsenal's recovery.

The Gunners head to Stamford Bridge on the back of seven wins from eight games, which has moved them up the Premier League table, to the top of their UEFA Champions League group and into the last eight of the League Cup. Wenger, though, also knows full well that hard work could be severely dented with a poor away performance tomorrow lunchtime.

"First of all a win would of course install us among the top teams in the league, but what is very important is that it would strengthen the belief inside the team and would continue our progress," said the Arsenal manager. "I feel we are getting stronger and Chelsea is a big test - a test of strength, of resolve, of commitment, and that is what we expect tomorrow."

Chelsea is a big test - a test of strength, of resolve, of commitment, and that is what we expect tomorrow.
Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager

Wenger had used his address to yesterday's Annual General Meeting to launch an impassioned defence of his young team, calling on the fans to stay united behind the board's vision for success.

The 62-year-old Frenchman, who has been in charge for 15 seasons, maintains he "spoke from the heart" and is positive for the challenges ahead. "I just spoke honestly about how I feel about the situation inside the club and how I feel the team is," he said.

"Of course you could feel concern among our fans with the start to the season we had. There are worries and I just wanted to promise that we would give absolutely everything to continue our progress and our improvement. I feel that is happening and I feel there is a deep desire within the team."

Title not over yet
Arsenal could close to within three points of the top four with victory tomorrow, and Wenger accepts Champions League qualification is the "minimal target". However, the Gunners manager also refused to throw in the towel on the title itself just yet.

"Of course at the moment we are far from Manchester City - 12 points - so today we have to get back to a shorter distance before we can say we will fight for the title," Wenger said. "What is important for us is to first get back in a fighting position closer to the top."

He added: "Who would write off the title after nine games? People who do that have nothing to do in this job if you don't believe that you have a chance. But we have to be realistic at the moment, we are not in contention for that.

"However, there are only nine games played so what is important is to fight, to get in there. No team has won the championship after nine games. It is impossible, no matter how much you know football, to predict who will win the league after nine games."