Arsenal home form holds the key for Wenger
Monday, September 30, 2013
"If we win our home games, we'll be there," said Arsène Wenger ahead of Arsenal FC's meeting with SSC Napoli, and Rafael Benítez knows a test of character awaits his team.
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Arsène Wenger prepared for the visit of SSC Napoli by stating home form will be decisive in a formidable-looking Group F. "If we win our home games we will be there," said Wenger, whose opposite number Rafael Benítez knows a test of character awaits his team in north London after opening their account with victory over Borussia Dortmund.
Arsène Wenger, manager
We are in a tough group, if you look at the teams – Marseille, Dortmund, Napoli and us – they are all at the top of their league in big football countries. For us it's vital to continue our run, but you know as well that the importance of a home game will be decisive in a group of this quality.
Our home form will be important because we have taken three points away from home [beating Olympique de Marseille on matchday one]. We know that away from home we have good strengths as well, so I believe that our home form against all the three teams will certainly make the decision.
You believe 100% or you don't believe. I think in our job the most important thing is to have a good balance between ambition and humility. Ambition because of course we want to win, but humility as well because we know we have only played six games so to speak today about the title is ridiculous. But what we have done is what we want to do – continue to have the best ambition, but I think the team has a good humility and we are conscious that we want to improve.
I wouldn't like to be mathematical, but they say on average 10.2 points qualifies you. How we will make the 0.2 is a mystery, but that's what is generally needed. That's why I say the home games are important. Having won away from home if we win our home games, we will be there.
Saturday: Swansea City AFC 1-2 Arsenal (B Davies 81; Gnabry 58, Ramsey 62)
Szczęsny; Sagna, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny; Özil (Monreal 88), Wilshere (Jenkinson, 90+2) Ramsey; Flamini, Gnabry (Arteta 76), Giroud.
• Aaron Ramsey made the opener and then scored his eighth goal in as many games to earn a club-record 12th straight away win which opens up a two-point lead at the Premier League summit.
Theo Walcott (abdominal muscle), Santi Cazorla (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Abou Diaby (knee), Lukas Podolski (hamstring) and Yaya Sanogo (back) are all out with injuries. Tomáš Rosický is available after a hamstring problem but may not start.
Rafael Benítez, coach
It's the opposite thing [to the first game] – now we need to control the euphoria, we are going to play against a top side and we must show character, strength [and also] respect to a team that is top of the league and playing very well. I was expecting a strong [Arsenal] team because I think Wenger is the top coach in the Premier League, and then they signed top players so it's going well for them.
I said it before – he is a great manager, a great person. He is someone that knows the league in England and in Europe, and I think he is doing a great job and I hope that one year he can win it – although not this year, just in case.
My idea is always to take it one game at a time. Now my priority is the Champions League and on Sunday it will be Serie A. At the moment we have a strong enough squad to challenge for both.
Saturday: Genoa CFC 0-2 Napoli (Pandev 14 25)
Reina; Mesto, Albiol (46' Cannavaro), Britos, Zúñiga; Inler, Behrami; Callejón, Insigne; Pandev (Dzemaili 81); Zapata (Higuaín 59)
• Despite resting Marek Hamšík and initially Gonzalo Higuaín, two early goals by Goran Pandev (his first of the season) gave Napoli their third win in as many away games in Serie A this season and the Partenopei are still unbeaten after six matches.
• Striker Duván Zapata made his Napoli debut.
Striker Higuaín and defender Raúl Albiol will undergo late tests after suffering slight thigh injuries during Saturday's win at Genoa. "We will see," said Benítez when asked about their availability.
• Benítez guided Liverpool FC to a 5-3 aggregate victory over Arsenal in the 2007/08 quarter-finals, drawing 1-1 away before a 4-2 home win. However, he never managed to win at Arsenal in his six seasons in charge at Anfield. His record overall was W4 D5 L8 and in London W0 D3 L5.