Wenger: I expect even more from Arsenal
Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are capable of showing even better form as they aim to sustain a title challenge after going top of the Premier League with victory over Fulham.
Samir Nasri's brilliant double-strike earned a 2-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday and allowed Wenger's team to take advantage of Chelsea dropping points against Everton and Manchester United's game at Blackpool being postponed due to snow. It means the Gunners are one point clear at the summit despite failing to hit top form this season, yet Wenger expects more improvement in the months to come.
"At the moment we are where we are despite losing three games at home," Wenger said. "Every game is a cup final and if you are not ready you do not win.
"We have spirit and quality but face strong opposition, and it's down to consistency. We are far from winning the championship yet but we have the desire and fight. We are good enough to go on, that is for sure. Every single team struggles to be consistent."
Nasri opened the scoring early on after quick footwork in the penalty area left Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes on their backsides before he finished past Mark Schwarzer. Diomansy Kamara levelled before the break - with Laurent Koscielny suffering concussion in the build-up - and a shock appeared to be a possibility.
"I agree we looked vulnerable in the air at some stages but we finished the game with five strikers on the pitch," Wenger said. "So I expected to suffer on the corners in the air, but overall our defenders dealt well in the second half."
Nasri grabbed the winner with 15 minutes left when he weaved past centre-back Hughes and full-back John Pantsil before taking the ball around Schwarzer and finishing from a tight angle.
"They were two exceptional goals from Samir," Wenger said. "Touch, intelligence, special talent and calmness. He needed to be patient in both occasions and he did that well. At the start his game was about coming onto the ball but now he has variation. His game is improving and he is more efficient.
"It's difficult to compare him to other players but as a manager you want the best out of the player and I have been a strong believer in him. People questioned me when I brought him here but he is an exceptional talent and I think there is more to come from him."
Fulham manager Mark Hughes agreed Nasri was the decisive force. "That was the difference, Nasri is playing at the top of his form," he said. "There was little between the teams and we edged it in terms of chances but they have individuals, like top teams have, when the team doesn't function.
"He is an excellent footballer, has great feet and in those areas in the penalty box it's difficult to stop him."
Hughes was still satisfied with his team's performance and saw enough to suggest they can climb away from the relegation zone. "We took the game to Arsenal and at the end of the game most of the crowd were asking for the final whistle," he said. "We were guilty in the first period of overplaying in poor areas. But we got a platform and performed really well after that first half hour."
"We were pleased with what we produced. It gives me confidence that we will be okay."
Wenger was also full of paise for Johan Djourou who is re-establishing his place in the Arsenal side. Having come on for the concussed Koscielny Fulham failed to score again, a matter which owed a lot to Switzerland defender Djourou, who is still being eased back into the first team after spending a year out with a serious knee injury.
Wenger said: "He is doing very well, Johan. You know, he has been out for a year. As you have noticed, I rotate him a little bit because we do not want to lose him. A guy who has been out a year, you cannot play him three games per week.
"But, from the start of the season, he is as well going from strength to strength. In the difficult period of our team - when we had to defend in the air - he was dominant. And he has not only shown dominance, but personality as well. That's why I'm happy.
"He came here as a midfielder and we transformed him into a centre-back, and I believe he can be a very good centre-back."