Wenger ready for acid test at Etihad as Arsenal prepare for City with Saints win
21:30 GMT, 16 September 2012
Can Arsenal mount a serious title challenge this season Ask Arsene Wenger around 6pm next Sunday. The Gunners continued a promising start to the season with a 6-1 home demolition of Southampton to maintain their unbeaten opening.
The signs are prevalent. They have eight points from their opening four games, with the only goal conceded the result of a goalkeeper error from Wojciech Szczesny to let in Danny Fox on Saturday.
At the double: Podolski scored a stunning freekick (below) in Arsenal's win over Southampton on Saturday
At the double: Podolski scored a stunning freekick in Arsenal's win over Southampton on Saturday
That, together with some trademark scintillating attacking football – led by their new ringmaster Santi Cazorla – has prompted whispers of a sustained title assault.
But Wenger is refusing to get carried away by his side's impressive start. Rightfully, the cautious Frenchman says he will learn more about what his side can achieve this season after Sunday's visit to the Etihad Stadium.
'It will be important to see how we do against the bigger teams,' admitted Wenger. 'It will be interesting. It will be a test against Manchester City, but for us the most important part will be to maintain our level of performance that we showed against Southampton and go from game to game.'
Indeed. We will have a much clearer picture of whether Arsenal can end the trophy drought that now extends back to their FA Cup triumph in 2005 in the next two weeks.
Before next weekend's trip to the Premier League title holders comes their Champions League opener against French title-winners Montpellier.
After City comes a Capital One Cup clash against Coventry followed by the visit of European champions Chelsea to the Emirates.
Wenger said: 'We will know after 10 games if we have a chance to win the league – I think we have a chance.
'But do we develop well, do we keep our attitude I think we have a chance but at the moment I don't know how strong our opponents are. We've not played against any of the title contenders yet.
At the double: Gervinho scored a brace as Arsenal ran riot against newly-promoted Southampton
'We won the championship in 2004 and we played against Chelsea in December the following season and I finished the game thinking: “We've just played against the new champions”.'
At the moment, Arsenal are not missing Robin van Persie as much as many predicted they would. And when asked if his side were a more potent proposition with their talismanic striker, Wenger added: 'We will only know if we're a better team in the future. Van Persie scored 30 goals and when you score 30 goals everyone gives you the ball. It's as simple as that.
All white on the night: Wenger's side will travel to Manchester City on Sunday
Arsenal (4-3-3): Szczesny 5; Jenkinson 7, Mertesacker 7, Vermaelen 7, Gibbs 8; Coquelin 7 (Ramsey 67min, 6), Arteta 8, Cazorla 8; Oxlade-Chamberlain 8, Gervinho 9 (Walcott 75, 7), Podolski 7 (Giroud 75, 6).
Subs not used: Mannone, Koscielny, Santos, Arshavin.
Scorers: Hooiveld 11, og, Gervinho 35, 71 Podolski 31, Clyne 37, og, Walcott 88.
Southampton (4-5-1): K Davis 4; Clyne 6, Fonte 5, Hooiveld 5 (Yoshida 28, 5), Fox 6; Puncheon 6, Schneiderlin 5, Ward-Prowse 7, S Davis 5 (Ramirez 46, 6), Lallana 6; Lambert 5 (Rodriguez 76).
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Richardson, Chaplow, Mayuka. Scorer: Fox 45.
Referee: Kevin Friend 7.
Man of the match: Gervinho.
'Our game at the moment is a little bit more diversified but let's see how we deal with that in the big games. We have to go from game to game.
'Last year, we had a very bad start but were quite strong as a team for a big part of the season but this year we have had the luck and started better.
'Last year we were already out of the title race in September so that was difficult mentally. Let's see. The vibes coming out are that we look like a real team and we enjoy to play together and that's a good basis.
'We have a spirit, a desire to play together and the strength of depth. As well, the vibes coming out that you feel, I feel, the supporters feel. You don't cheat that.
'But it's very fragile that feeling. You have to take care of it. That's the impression I get at the moment.'