Arsene Wenger has conceded that the pressure is on his Arsenal side for what is a near-decisive match in their attempt to land a first Premier League title in 12 years. Arsenal go into Sunday’s clash at home to Leicester City in third place, five points behind the unlikely Premier League leaders with only 13 games remaining.
Just a few weeks ago, Arsenal led the way and appeared solid favorites to finish the most unpredictable of seasons by ending their long championship drought. But a run of four matches without a win, before last week’s 2-0 win at Bournemouth, has taken much of the wind out of their sails. And it has led to suggestions once again that Arsenal lack the consistency and mental fortitude to clinch the deal down the stretch. Wenger, though, claims Sunday’s pressure-filled occasion is one his team will relish.
“You don’t need to be a super mathematician to analyze that it is a very important game, maybe not a decisive one for the Premier League but it is not far away from that,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“We want to find a consistency in our results until the end of the season, because we have big game after big game now. I don’t deny pressure, It is this is the kind of game we want—the kind of game we relish. When you play at Arsenal Football Club, that’s what you want. I don’t deny [that the pressure is on us] but I take that in a very positive way and as an opportunity to show how strong we are.”
Wenger also hinted that Leicester might now start to feel the pressure for the first time, having opened up a five-point gap at the summit. A convincing 3-1 victory at the home of fellow title challengers Manchester City last Saturday led to many making the upstarts title favorites for the first time. Yet Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri continues to claim that the burden of expectation belongs on clubs like Arsenal, rather than his side, who were many people’s tips to be relegated at the start of the campaign.
“This time I hope the bookmakers are right,” he said. “They're just words, though, not points. Give me points, not words.
“The pressure is about the other teams. Arsenal have a lot of pressure, because they spend a lot of money every year. Why do we have pressure? Why must I feel pressure? We just continue to dream with our fans. I think we work so hard to achieve this level, we want to stay at this level. But there's no pressure for us.”
Leicester’s success has been helped considerably by their ability to field their first-choice lineup through almost the entire season. And that continues, with no major injuries for Sunday’s match. The same has not been true for Arsenal, who have again endured regular injury problems through the campaign. Those issues are easing, with Francis Coquelin now potentially set to make his first Premier League start since November. Danny Welbeck, who hasn’t played since April, is also now fully fit, although his lack of match practice will keep him out of competitive action for another week. Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky remain sidelined.
Match time: 7 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra