Wenger: Focus on Wolves, not Barça
Arsene Wenger emphasised Arsenal's desperation to win a trophy this season by insisting tomorrow's Barclays Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanders is more important than next week's UEFA Champions League clash with Barcelona.
The Arsenal manager is not contemplating resting any of his top stars against Wolves, who ended Manchester United's unbeaten run at Molineux last weekend. Arsenal were dumped out of the Champions League last season by a Barcelona side who outplayed them in a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium and then finished off the job with four goals from Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou.
However, three Premier League points, rather than revenge, are foremost in Wenger's thoughts. Wenger said: "I really do just focus on Wolves. We are so much focused on the Premier League that I cannot even imagine playing against Barcelona next week because it is out of my mind completely.
"There is no Barcelona in mind. There is Wolverhampton in mind. That's what is important to us, the championship. We fought so hard to be in this position now that the most important thing is that we focus on the Premier League tomorrow."
Arsenal, who last won the Premier League in 2004, currently sit in second place, four points behind Manchester United who play Manchester City in tomorrow's lunchtime fixture. However, Wenger's main concern is that his side move on from the psychological effects of the 4-4 draw against Newcastle at St James' Park last weekend, when Abou Diaby was sent off after a confrontation with Joey Barton.
Wenger met up with the squad for the first time today after they returned from international action and said: "I didn't see the players (this week). Basically it was good to go away but the damage could have been much bigger.
"As long as there were 11 against 11 on the pitch against Newcastle we were outstanding and people forget about that. We should get a lot of belief and positives out of that game. When we went down to ten we were a bit too nervous and we have to learn from that individually and collectively.
"We lost two points we should have got but mathematically we are one point closer to where we want to be. The players have a point to prove to themselves because they know they wasted two points. Personally I have a great belief in this team and they can be stronger than ever. They have gained in maturity.
"I like the attitude of this team and I trust the attitude. I don't deny that we lost our way a little bit in the second half and we want to learn from that. We have a good chance to show it tomorrow."
Wenger, who admitted he had not watched midfielder Jack Wilshere in action for England against Denmark in midweek, believes Arsenal's home form will be crucial. "Home games are vital and we want to be strong until the end of the season at home," he said.
"We can win everywhere, we have shown again at Newcastle that our potential to score goals away from home is massive. Let's just be consistent at home. But we have a good example with Wolves how strong the Premier League is. Any team is a real threat for anybody."
Diaby is suspended after his sending-off and Tomas Rosicky has a groin problem but Johan Djourou is fit and Denilson is again available. Striker Robin van Persie has recovered from the bout of flu which kept him out of Holland's midweek friendly against Austria. Wenger admitted he had spoken to Diaby about the incident at Newcastle when he pushed Barton and Kevin Nolan after a tough Barton tackle.
Wenger said: "I must say he (Diaby) had a few tackles that he remembers and that is why he responded in a way he should not have done and I don't agree at all with that, but you can understand why he responded like that. I have spoken to him about that straight after he came back home and he understands that. He is a very intelligent boy."