WENGER ON A ROCKY ROAD

Emi­rates boss rub­bishes talk of Arse­nal’s dread­ful away form but the stats don’t lie (es­pe­cially their woe­ful record at the Bridge)

Irish Daily Mirror - - SPORT - BY NEIL MCLEMAN

ARSENE WENGER has dis­missed claims Arse­nal have a men­tal block away from home ahead of to­mor­row’s “acid test” at cham­pi­ons Chelsea. The Gun­ners have lost both games on their trav­els this sea­son, in­clud­ing a 4-0 hu­mil­i­a­tion at Liver­pool. The thrash­ing con­tin­ued a hor­ror run of only two wins on the road in 22 at­tempts against top-six ri­vals since 2013-14. Those re­sults have cost them any hope of win­ning the ti­tle – and seen their bot­tle re­peat­edly ques­tioned. Since De­cem­ber 2013, their away record is worse than that of West Ham or Swansea. Wenger ad­mit­ted the An­field rout gave the trip to Stam­ford Bridge added sig­nif­i­cance. “That should be an even greater mo­ti­va­tion for us to turn up with an even bet­ter per­for­mance,” said the Gun­ners boss. “It’s very im­por­tant, of course. No­body would deny that. If you cal­cu­late the po­si­tions in the top four then it will be de­cided by your re­sults against your di­rect op­po­nents.” The man who led the In­vin­ci­bles to an un­beaten sea­son de­fended his cur­rent side, who were un­beaten away in the league for more than nine months be­fore de­feat at Good­i­son Park in De­cem­ber. “If you look at my record, you will see I played two years without los­ing a game away from home in the Pre­mier League,” he said. “Last year, un­til we lost at Ever­ton, we hadn’t lost away from home for a whole year. “Af­ter that, we lost at Manch­ester City. It’s true it gave us a prob­lem of con­fi­dence away from home. But I don’t be­lieve in that. The pitch is 105me­tres long and 68m wide ev­ery­where, and never in my life could I ac­cept or un­der­stand that it’s dif­fer­ent away from home. “It’s just a ques­tion of how much you want it, it’s about foot­ball, it’s a good op­por­tu­nity to show that and that we have that qual­ity.” Stam­ford Bridge has not been a happy hunt­ing ground for Arse­nal in re­cent sea­sons, with de­feats in their last five vis­its. “Ba­si­cally, in last few years, Chelsea has had great teams so it was al­ways dif­fi­cult to win there,” added Wenger. “But our record against Chelsea has been good, we won at home last year, we won the FA Cup Fi­nal (above), on penal­ties in the Com­mu­nity Shield, so let’s fo­cus on the qual­ity of our game and not too much on where we play.” Per Merte­sacker, the FA Cup Fi­nal man of the match, called for a re­peat of the per­for­mances which earned the Wem­b­ley wins. The Ger­man said: “They have habits in their game and we need to read that well. That’s what we did, es­pe­cially at Wem­b­ley twice in three months. “Those who watched the games closely could see they have habits, es­pe­cially play­ing out from the back. We al­low them a lit­tle bit, but not too much, and stand on the right side of our po­si­tion. The key is to stick to what we have done. We have high ex­pec­ta­tions of our­selves.” Asked if Europa League goalscorer Alexis Sanchez is happy and mo­ti­vated to have a good sea­son, he added: “Ob­vi­ously he’s go­ing to be vi­tal. I think he’s happy to join in and just sac­ri­fice. That’s what he al­ways does.”

FACE OFF Po­lice dogs keep Cologne fans back Jan 20 2013: Chelsea 2 Arse­nal 1 Oct 5 2014: Chelsea 2 Arse­nal 0 March 22 2014: Chelsea 6 Arse­nal 0 Sept 19 2015: Chelsea 2 Arse­nal 0 Feb 4 2017: Chelsea 3 Arse­nal 1 9. Arse­nal ......... 14 13 -8 10. C Palace ......... 13 13 -11

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