Arsene Wenger says that Arsenal’s superb 2013 should inspire belief that they can bring silverware back to the club as the new year begins with the visit of Cardiff City to the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal closed out the calendar year with victories over West Ham and Newcastle United to give them a win percentage of 64.8, the second highest in the club’s history. Now Wenger is targeting an even better 2014.
“It says a lot,” he told Arsenal’s website. “Unfortunately until now it has not been crowned by a trophy. But it is a basis to achieve a trophy and that long consistency must reinforce and strengthen our belief that we can deliver something special this season.
“That's what it can be used for but of course it is a remarkable achievement because Arsenal has an especially strong and long history. That tells you that these players are doing something special.”
After a first slight rocky spell of the season, Arsenal’s back-to-back wins in the past week have taken them back to the top of the Premier League at the halfway point of the campaign. But their hopes of staying there have been hit by a long list of fitness doubts heading into the clash with Cardiff.
Mesut Ozil (shoulder), Olivier Giroud (ankle), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Kieran Gibbs (calf) are all definitely ruled out, while Jack Wilshere (ankle), Theo Walcott (shoulder) and Tomas Rosicky (calf) all face fitness tests on their complaints. Wenger also confirmed that Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen were doubts having been suffering from illness.
The various ailments are likely to mean a first start since August for Lukas Podolski, who scored on his return to action against West Ham on Boxing Day.
In contrast to their opponents, Cardiff ended 2013 on a real low. The dismissal of manager Malky Mackay has led to much disruption off the pitch, while the team conceded two late goals to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory in the crucial match with relegation rivals Sunderland on Saturday.
Former assistant manager David Kerslake was in charge of the team for that disappointment and has admitted that he has no idea about how much longer he will hold the reins before a replacement is appointed. However, with Cardiff having picked up points from Manchester City and Manchester United already on their return to the Premier League, Kerslake claims the team is in confident mood heading to the Emirates.
"We've been competitive all season and we've had some great results against top sides," he said, according to BBC Sport. "They are a set of boys, very tight together, a real good team and they will go out and try and get a result in every game."
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC’s Premier League Extra Time, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.