Wenger ready for early challenge

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Arsene Wenger has no fears about facing champions Manchester City so early in the season – or on the day.
Arsenal take on Manchester City on Saturday in a 12.45pm start and do so in the knowledge they produced some of their worst football in early games last season.
Wenger’s side were beaten 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium, went down 5-1 at Liverpool and were humiliated 6-0 by London rivals Chelsea in March, in Wenger’s 1,000th match in charge.
But the manager says the kick-off times in those games were an irrelevance.
“At home, we have played well at 12:45. In the FA Cup, we had great games at 12.45. It is not the kick-off time, it is your performance, how you turn up,” said Wenger.
“At 12:45 or three o’clock – for me that is just talk, the rest is the quality of the performance that counts.”
“(We were worse) away from home, but I think the coincidence was that we played against very strong teams away from home at 12.45.
“I think it was more the quality of our opponents and the lack of quality in our performance that produced a result, not the kick-off time.
“I have heard that many times – would you rather kick-off at three o’clock or 12.45? It is two hours and 15 minutes, that does not produce a miracle in your physical recovery.
“Sometimes maybe, on our side, we go a bit too much overboard on that. I think 12.45 is a good kick-off time. I like it.”
Arsenal could give a debut to Danny Welbeck, for whom they paid £16m on transfer deadline day.
Wenger is confident his team can give an illustration of their growing progress and maturity with a positive result in a ‘very important’ fixture.
“We have now got the opportunity to show that we have grown as a team, that we are more mature and ready for the fight, so let’s do it,” he said.
“I don’t think that this game is very important for us mathematically because we dropped points away from home, but it gives us credibility and confidence to do well.
“The Premier League this year is very, very important for us and of course a game against Manchester City becomes a very important game.”

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