Arsene Wenger has challenged his young Arsenal side to show they do indeed have the spirit of champions by getting their faltering Premier League title bid back on track with victory at relegation battlers Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday night.
The Gunners remain five points behind leaders Chelsea and dropped down to third place following a bitterly disappointing 1-0 home defeat by Newcastle United yesterday. Wenger was left as frustrated as the Emirates Stadium faithful by his team's inability to open up the well-organised visitors, with Andy Carroll's header on the stroke of half-time proving enough to take away all three points.
Arsenal also lost at home to West Bromwich Albion before the last international break, with lessons clearly not learned despite the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie all back in action for the misfiring Gunners. Wenger feels the trip to Molineux offers the players a swift opportunity of redemption.
We are ambitious, and that is why we have to get our spirit on this [Wolves] game, focus again and come back with points.
Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager
"We have to pick ourselves up," the Arsenal manager declared. "We are ambitious, and that is why we have to get our spirit on this [Wolves] game, focus again and come back with points."
Wenger told Arsenal TV Online: "I concede it was not one of our better days against Newcastle, but it was also very harsh to lose the game as well because they had one shot on target and we had a few chances. It was down to who made the first mistake. We got caught on a set-piece and that is where we were guilty."
The Gunners coach knows Emirates Stadium must now become a fortress, as it has in Europe. "At the moment, we are not happy with our home form," he said. "Our performance was not there to be a contender, that is why we have to improve our performances."
Wenger felt Fabregas was a "bit restricted" against Newcastle, having missed the midweek UEFA Champions League defeat away to Shakhtar Donetsk because of concerns over his hamstring, while conceding Van Persie was not ready for a return as the Netherlands striker came off the bench for the final half-hour having not featured since August because of an ankle injury.
Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is closing in on full match fitness following his elbow injury, and given the indecisiveness of stand-in Lukasz Fabianski which allowed Carroll to head home a deep free-kick from Joey Barton, the veteran Spaniard could come straight back into the side.
"In the number of games Fabianski has played, he has done very well," Wenger told BBC Sport. "However, he was too confident to get that ball without any challenge and that punished him."
Russian winger Andrey Arshavin will be hoping to start at Molineux after he looked sharp as a second-half substitute against Newcastle, but midfielder Samir Nasri is a doubt with a calf problem.
It has to be a clear goalscoring opportunity and you have to be the last man - it was not one and not two, so it is completely harsh.
Arsene Wenger on Laurent Koscielny
Centre-half Laurent Koscielny will, unless Arsenal win an appeal, serve a two-match ban for his late dismissal, when shown a straight red card by referee Mike Dean for hauling back Nile Ranger on the touchline.
Wenger lamented: "It was not only harsh, but not right. You look at the situation again, [Sebastien] Squillaci is completely covering Koscielny. It has to be a clear goalscoring opportunity and you have to be the last man - it was not one and not two, so it is completely harsh."
The Football Association confirmed Arsenal had launched an appeal against Koscielny's red card, citing wrongful dismissal.