Gunners centre-back wants side to build on Bayern win when Everton come to town
LONDON: Per Mertesacker admits Arsenal must build on their crucial Champions League victory over Bayern Munich and develop more consistency if they are to sustain their Premier League title challenge.
A victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday would move Arsenal to the top of the table, 24 hours before current leaders Manchester City face neighbours United in Sunday’s cross-town derby.
Yet despite a largely positive start to the campaign, Arsene Wenger and his men have come in for criticism for some underwhelming displays, particularly in Europe.
But since a shock loss to Olympiakos, the Gunners have recorded back-to-back, three-goal Premier League victories over Manchester United and Watford before inflicting a first defeat of the season on German champions Bayern, who were beaten 2-0 at The Emirates on Tuesday.
Wenger’s side have shown their quality in recent weeks, but Gunners centre-back Mertesacker insists the challenge now is to maintain those standards. “We want to play a part in the title race. We need to have a certain consistency otherwise it will be difficult,” said Mertesacker. “But if you get good wins against the good teams then it breeds confidence.”
Arsenal’s efforts to string together a run of good results will not be helped by the loss of Aaron Ramsey to a hamstring injury. Ramsey hobbled out of the Bayern clash and Wenger expects the Wales midfielder to be out for at least a month.
Everton, on the other hand, have not beaten Arsenal away from home since January 1996; a statistic manager Roberto Martinez is keen to change. “This is a very important period of the season for us, between now and the next international break,” said Martinez. “Facing Arsenal away from home is a fixture in which we don’t traditionally do too well. It’s an incentive for us to change that round.”
Costa refuses to change style
Portrayed as a pantomime villain in some quarters, Chelsea striker Diego Costa has said he will not be changing his aggressive style of play to win new friends ahead of his side’s trip to high-flying West Ham United.
The Brazil-born Spain international has gained a reputation for provoking confrontations since his arrival at Chelsea last year, when his 20 goals helped them win the Premier League.
He recently served a three-match ban after being found guilty of violent conduct during last month’s 2-0 win over Arsenal, a punishment that Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said was evidence of a “witch hunt” against his player.
Costa, who has struggled for goals this season, said his priority is helping his side, not being the good guy. “Some people seem to think football is like theatre, and that everyone has to play the good guy,” he told the BBC. “But I think that you transform when you cross the white line, you’re not the same person as off it. I give no quarter and I ask for none. Out there I’m going to fight for my team and do the best I can.”
Chelsea have made a poor start to the season and are in 12th place, 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, going into the London derby. However, Costa says rumours of discontent in the Chelsea dressing room are off the mark. “Things aren’t going so well for the team right now, but it’s not because of the changing room,” said Costa. “The atmosphere is great.”
Aston Villa v Swansea
Leicester v Palace
Norwich v West Brom
Stoke v Watford
West Ham v Chelsea
Arsenal v Everton
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2015.
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