Wenger wants Gunners to be strong
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintains his Barclays Premier League leaders cannot use a hectic schedule as an excuse if they falter at Manchester City on Saturday.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta admits it will be a lot to ask for the players to properly recover from their midweek Champions League trip to Naples before they tackle City in a televised lunchtime clash at the Etihad Stadium.
Wenger, though, will demand nothing other than total commitment when his men look to open up a commanding advantage on their title rivals ahead of the showdown with Chelsea on December 23.
"To be completely honest, if you had given me the opportunity to do it, I would not have done it like that, but I do not complain," said Wenger.
"That is not an excuse for us at all, we have the fixtures we have.
"It is another opportunity to show we have the mental strength to deal with it.
"I am convinced we believe in ourselves anyway, no matter what happens.
"Let's not forget as well that if you are in City's position and they lose, then they are nine points behind, so they have more negative pressure than we have.
"We have a positive pressure that we can make a big difference with them, so let's look at it like them.
"We have an opportunity to go from (a lead of) five (points) to eight, that is fantastic - we have to look at it like that."
England forward Theo Walcott could be in contention to start against City, while full-back Bacary Sagna may also be fit following his hamstring problem.
German forward Lukas Podolski, meanwhile, stayed in London this week to step up his rehabilitation from the torn hamstring that has sidelined him since the second leg of the Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce in late August.
"He is available," Wenger said. "I feel he is still a bit short to go into a match of that level of intensity, but after this weekend I will consider him available."
Wenger has challenged his side not to lose focus following a 2-0 defeat to Napoli - which saw Arsenal qualify for the knock-out stages in second place - as the domestic fixtures come thick and fast over the hectic festive schedule.
"I don't deny that every game has a vital importance because of the influence on confidence, of the belief of the team," Wenger said.
Former Arsenal players Ray Parlour and Nigel Winterburn have this week recalled how the squad won the league and FA Cup double in 1998 after being "all drunk and all smoking" when socialising in a pre-season tour.
Wenger concedes life is very different for the modern-day footballer - something England midfielder Jack Wilshere found to his cost earlier this season when photographed holding a cigarette outside a nightclub.
"The physical constraints have massively changed," said the Arsenal boss.
"The players 20 years ago were as much winners as today. They had more freedom than today because the physical demands are much higher, and because the spying facilities of society has increased.
"Therefore it is much more difficult today to be anonymous.
"On that front the pressure on the players is much bigger than it was during Ray Parlour's time."
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