Wenger: We are getting better
Arsene Wenger insisted on Tuesday that Arsenal have not abandoned all hope in the Premier League, and the desire to keep competing in the UEFA Champions League was their primary motivation.
Wenger has endured the darkest days of his 15-year Arsenal tenure in the early stages of the 2011/12 season, with the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri followed by a hugely damaging 8-2 humiliation at Manchester United.
The Gunners' problems have called Wenger's authority into question as never before and Arsenal already face a struggle to finish in the top four after winning just three of their opening eight league games.
However, despite a 2-1 defeat at north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of the month, Arsenal are currently on a run of four wins from five games and Wenger believes they have turned a corner.
"We're getting better gradually in the league," said Wenger, whose side face Marseille in the Champions League tomorrow. "We lost at Tottenham, but we've won our matches recently, including five in a row at home. We were very efficient away from home last season and hopefully that will come back.
"Of course we're not giving up on the championship. Not being in the Champions League would be a disaster. We've been here for 14 seasons in a row - only Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal have done that. So that shows how important the championship is."
Wenger confirmed that Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey was in the squad for the game at Marseille, despite having sat out Sunday's 2-1 home win over Sunderland with a hamstring complaint. Kieran Gibbs will miss out, however, after being withdrawn against the Black Cats with a stomach strain, meaning Brazilian international Andre Santos will come into the side at left-back.
Despite their travails in domestic competition, Arsenal have started their Champions League campaign in positive fashion and approach Wednesday's game two points behind leaders Marseille in Group F after a 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund and a 2-1 win at home to Olympiacos.
Like Arsenal, Didier Deschamps' side have also found solace in their European forays. A wretched start to the Ligue 1 season has seen them pick up one win in ten matches, but they have impressed in the Champions League, winning 1-0 at Olympiacos before an eye-catching 3-0 defeat of Dortmund.
"You know as well as I do that Marseille are not in their right place in the championship and they won't stay there," said Wenger. "Didier Deschamps is a true professional. He is strong mentally and he has a good team.
"They're going through a difficult phase. Confidence is something that goes quickly and takes a long time to come back."
Marseille's victory against German champions Dortmund last month was a fine counter-attacking display and Wenger expects Deschamps to set his team up in similar fashion for Wednesday's showdown at Stade Velodrome. "Dortmund are a good team. Marseille impressed me by the way they played against them.
"Marseille know how to keep things tight at the back and then counter-attack. They have a good ratio in terms of shots to goals, which shows how efficient they are. They have speed with [Loic] Remy and [Mathieu] Valbuena and a skilful passer in Lucho [Gonzalez]. They have a lot of ways to hurt you."