Arsene Wenger wants Arsenal to quickly switch their attention back to the Premier League and Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa, which comes just four days after a triumphant outing in Europe.
Arsenal travelled to Olympiacos in the Champions League in midweek, needing victory by any scoreline other than 1-0 or 2-1 to progress, and they qualified in style with a superb performance and a 3-0 victory.
Olivier Giroud netted all three goals for his first Arsenal hat-trick, prompting Wenger to label his compatriot as among the top strikers in Europe.
Despite being effusive in his praise for his players, Wenger was quick to warn of the need to continue to apply themselves in pursuit of their top-flight aims.
“It’s very important after Wednesday that we show we can focus on the Premier League,” he said. “It was a fantastic performance that got us through in the end. We are in a strong position.
“We need to move from one competition to another with the same level of performance and focus.”
The clash at Villa Park will see Wenger come up against fellow Frenchman Remi Garde, whom he managed at Arsenal between 1996 and 1999.
And Wenger spoke highly of his former player, as Villa and Arsenal prepare to face each other for the first time since the Gunners’ convincing 4-0 victory in the FA Cup final back in May.
“He is intelligent. We are competitors so let him do his job,” Wenger said. “We know a bit about Aston Villa as we played them in the Cup final.
“They’ve added some French players so they’re a bit more French. These players didn’t play a lot until recently. Remi knows them well, he started them recently at Southampton so I know what we’re expecting.”
Arsenal come into the game sitting second, two points behind Leicester City, while Villa – who are attempting to recruit former Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole – are bottom, seven points from safety despite a creditable 1-1 draw at Southampton last time out.
“Of course, it’s tough because we need to win and we have struggled to win games,” Garde told Villa’s official website. “But I am still passionate about this job. I try to find all the solutions for my players to win the games.
“Every game is a different challenge. That’s what we like about this job. We know there is no easy game, even in the cup. Everywhere you go it’s difficult because everyone wants to win.
“You get addicted to this pressure. It’s such a good feeling when you finish a game with points and happiness. We work hard to get that.”
Garde confirmed on Thursday that Leandro Bacuna and Rudy Gestede are fit to play after coming off at St Mary’s Stadium, although there are doubts about the availability of Micah Richards (knee).
There are no changes to Arsenal’s lengthy injury list, with the likes of Mikel Arteta (knock), Santi Cazorla (knee), Francis Coquelin (knee) and Alexis Sanchez (hamstring) all still sidelined.
Key Opta facts:
– Aston Villa have gone 14 games without a win, the longest run without a victory in their league history.
– Arsenal have lost just two of their last 14 Premier League away games (W10 D2 L2).
– Eight consecutive home games without a victory equals Aston Villa’s longest ever run in the league set in March 1921 and matched in October 1987.
– Petr Cech has kept 168 clean sheets in the Premier League – just one behind the all-time leading goalkeeper in this category, David James (169).
– Olivier Giroud has scored in each of his last four appearances against Villa in all competitions and has currently scored 49 goals in the Premier League.
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