Vigilance vital in EPL 'jungle'

Despite winning streak, Wenger reminds his players not to surrender to complacency

LONDON • On the back of a run of seven consecutive wins, Arsene Wenger is urging his players to keep their wits about them when 17th-placed Middlesbrough visit the Emirates stadium today.

Arsenal lie second on the Premier League table - only behind Manchester City on goal difference - and he has warned them against the perils of complacency.

"We live in a jungle where everybody wants to eat you, and you have to survive by keeping your vigilance," the French manager said yesterday. "That's what competition is about. Every day you have to fight again to survive. I believe that humility is to understand that you start again from zero.

"I feel there is more to come from our team. We have the squad and we have to show that we have the quality. To maintain that in the team for 10 months will depend on the players, on me and also on injuries."

He is optimistic that the club is seeing progress in the number of injuries that have been so problematic in recent seasons.

"I believe we have improved tremendously on the muscular injury front in the last two or three years," he said. "Last year we were a bit unlucky with the knocks we got, and the joint injuries we got.

Middlesbrough's Alvaro Negredo, a former Manchester City striker, shows his frustration after missing a chance to score against Tottenham on Sept 24. After losing their past seven matches, the Teessiders are seeking their first away league win agains
Middlesbrough’s Alvaro Negredo, a former Manchester City striker, shows his frustration after missing a chance to score against Tottenham on Sept 24. After losing their past seven matches, the Teessiders are seeking their first away league win against the Gunners for more than 15 years. PHOTO: REUTERS

"We have done much better and hopefully we can continue that."

He revealed that striker Danny Welbeck (knee injury) is recovering fast and should be ready to return in January, while Olivier Giroud (toe) is expected to be in contention for Tuesday's League Cup tie against Reading.

Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) is pushing for contention next weekend at Sunderland.

Wenger also said there is no truth in the talk that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are delaying signing new contracts because they want huge pay rises to compensate for the fall in value of the pound.

"We are always in touch," said the manager. "Mesut Ozil is 28 years old and in the prime of his career, so of course we want him to contribute to the success of this club in the future. They are happy at the club and I want them to commit to the club because they believe they are in the right place."

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka insists he will stick to his principles as he battles to end the northeast side's worst run of results since he took charge almost three years ago.

The Teessiders took five points from their first three games on their return to the Premier League after a seven-year absence. However, they are winless in the last seven matches and are seeking their first away league win against the Gunners for more than 15 years.

"This is the type of game we have been working towards over the past two years when we've been in the Championship, because Arsenal are an amazing team," said Karanka, who revealed Grant Leadbitter has returned to full training as the club captain nears a comeback following hip surgery in May.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ARSENAL V MIDDLESBROUGH

Singtel TV Ch103 & StarHub Ch228, 9.50pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2016, with the headline 'Vigilance vital in EPL 'jungle''. Print Edition | Subscribe