Stamford Bridge will be the scene of what is arguably the biggest game in the top five European leagues this weekend and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hopeful that Arsenal can build on their Community Shield success over a Chelsea side managed by long-time rival Jose Mourinho.
Wenger and Mourinho have enjoyed a fractious relationship in recent seasons – clashing on the touchline at Stamford Bridge last October before the Frenchman claimed his first win over the Chelsea boss in 14 attempts at Wembley in August when his north London side won the Community Shield.
Chelsea have won four of their last seven EPL clashes with the Gunners, the other three ending in draws.
Following a midweek Champions League defeat at Dinamo Zagreb, Wenger has challenged his players to bounce back against the champions amid media talks about his confrontations with Mourinho.
“People come to football to watch football, all the rest is a bit secondary,” explained the Arsenal boss, who could still be without Per Mertesacker due to illness.
“What you expect from these games is high intensity, full commitment and you want to prepare for that and play with full focus.
“For me what is important is that Arsenal win the game. It can sometimes be a mental block for the players or a team when they do not beat a team, so on that front it was good to win the Community Shield, yes.
“I don’t use the early kick-off as an excuse. I knew time would be short and I took the [selection] decisions (in midweek) a little bit linked with that,” Wenger cites about the game that will kick off at 12.45pm Nigerian time on Saturday.
“We must forget cheap excuses and focus on the performance of the day. We are in a position where we can perform.”
A sluggish start to their title defence sees Chelsea go into Saturday’s meeting 17th in the Premier League – with Wenger set to recall Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin after they were rested for the trip to Croatia.
“It is a big game but let’s not forget it is the start of the season. These players have a strong mentality and want to put things right,” Wenger added.
“I stand up for my selection and take full responsibility for it – we can repair what happened. Every defeat hurts but every defeat is an opportunity to respond,” the former AS Monaco manager stated.