15th October: Wenger hopes the squad pick up where they left off

Evening Gooners. The club’s AGM took place at Emirates stadium today and for a comprehensive report of proceedings, including Arsene Wenger’s speech in full, head over to Arseblog News here.

On a busy day for the boss, he also held his pre-Watford press conference at the ground, saving everyone a trip to London Colney tomorrow  – now that’s efficiency right there.

In terms of team news there’s not a lot to add from yesterday’s update; Arsene says Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck are ‘progressing well’, with the latter due back no earlier than the start of January.

He also spoke about the squad’s need to ‘reconnect’ quickly after dispersing for the international break having just produced unarguably our performance of the season in beating Manchester United, saying:

We separated on a positive vibe. After, the task is to reconnect quickly because everybody goes to their national teams and has different worries. The target now is to refocus on what we want to achieve. We play against Watford who have conceded only one goal at home and defend very well. They are a very difficult team to play against so we have to focus to get a positive result on Saturday. The level of champions and people who want to fight at the top is urgency. Urgency is something that keeps you alert and we know what will be expected of us. We have to be conscious that it will be a different game but the level of urgency is a big part of success and that is what we work on.

I love that he used the phrase ‘level of champions’ there, because it suggests within the dressing room and in the manager’s mind, we are in a title fight for real this season. In previous years, the hope may have been there but I’m not sure the belief necessarily was for players, fans or indeed manager, considering the profile of our squads then, and the level of the opposition.

This year feels different though. We’ve won back-to-back FA Cups, have a squad with talent and experience, and no team in the Premier League looks nailed on for the title, as perhaps Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United have done in years gone by.

One big reason for us to believe we can go all the way is the mercurial Alexis Sanchez. Sure we’ve had good, great and even world class players in between but the Chilean, to me at least, is the best attacker we’ve had since Thierry Henry left and Arsene says the former Barcelona man is even better now than he was in his debut campaign:

He has a bit of a difficult start because he came back late [from the Copa America] and you could see that but now he is back to his level and even better than before. His overall game and finishing, contributing and assists is excellent. He works hard for the team and he finishes. His enthusiasm is contagious. He always gives you hope that he is going to do something and he always gets defenders on the back foot, provokes and that is top class.

Of course, Sanchez is very ably assisted by Mesut Ozil in the Arsenal attack and Arsene says the German schemer’s goal-scoring performance against United just before the international break has set the standard he must now regularly aim to reach:

You want Mesut to score as well in a big game and he did that against Man United. When you are an offensive player that is an important part of it. I believe there are goals in him and in that game he has shown it. I think it can increase the belief and the hunger of the team. On the other hand you have to show that you can come into every game with that focus.

And that’s the key – “focus”. We turned up and turned it on in a big game against a traditional rival on home turf, but we now need to reproduce the same mentality and performance against newly-promoted Watford at Vicarage Road to keep the pressure up on leaders City.

A bit brief but that’s all for today.

See you on Friday.

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