Wenger: Difficult for City to maintain form
Arsene Wenger has warned Manchester City their biggest tests are yet to come as Arsenal look to knock the Premier League leaders out of the League Cup tonight.
Big-spending City have romped to the top of the table, where they hold a five-point advantage over Manchester United following a 1-1 draw at Liverpool. Roberto Mancini's men are already being lauded as champions in waiting, many suggesting they could emulate Wenger's Invincibles team of 2003/04.
However, the Gunners boss knows full well such an achievement is no easy ride. "You have to go through the whole winter when you play in the Champions League - we did that.
"In the FA Cup as well, the semi-finals of the Champions League - to do that together is very difficult," said Wenger, who like his counterpart is expected to rotate the squad for tomorrow's quarter-final showdown. "It [an unbeaten league campaign] looks unlikely, but you never know. You can never really doubt.
"However, in the modern game you need a bit of luck - watching the game against Liverpool they could have been beaten. Overall hopefully for us not, because we want to get as close as possible to them and it is important to beat them."
Wenger added on Arsenal Player: "Financially it is impossible to compete with them. On the football pitch it is possible. Our squad has more experience and I am confident we can show that.
"We are still a young team. The success of this club is based on the development of young players and we still want to show that."
Tomorrow could see the return of Samir Nasri to face his former employers for the first time since a somewhat acrimonious £24 million switch to City at the end of August. Wenger, though, holds no grudges. He said: "I hope Samir gets a good reception.
"I don't know if he will play but personally I want every player who has played for us to be respected when they come back. Samir improved tremendously while he was with us. He has developed fantastically well from a non-scoring player to a guy who could make a decision."
Wenger added: "When we didn't reach an agreement over a new contract I prepared myself to face it [Nasri's departure]. But maybe more it was more a conjunction of [Cesc] Fabregas and Nasri that got more publicity."
Arsenal feel they have to make changes - with the likes of captain Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey all "in the red" in terms of match fatigue. Wenger, though, believes on-loan Israeli Yossi Benayoun, combative midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, England under-21 starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Korea Republic captain Park Ju-Young - who were both on target in previous rounds - can all rise to the occasion.
Nevertheless, whatever the result tomorrow night, the Gunners boss accepts Premier League success remains the number one focus. "When we you are in a competition of course you want to win it," said Wenger, whose side saw their season quickly unravel following a shock last-gasp defeat in last season's final against Birmingham at Wembley.
"The target is to finish in the top four though, it's as simple as that. What engages the whole future of the club is being in the top four."