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Barclays Premier League

Craven Cottage (ATT 25,622) 24th August 2013 - Kick off 12:45 Ref: H Webb

Fulham Fulham vs Arsenal Arsenal

Fulham 1

D Bent (77)

ft

Arsenal 3

O Giroud (14)
L Podolski (41, 68)

Rise to the challenge

Although Arsenal always appear to be one step away from crisis, Matt Stanger feels the unrest is bringing the best out of the squad

By Matt Stanger.   Last Updated: 25/08/13 1:52pm

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Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski seem keen to establish their worth for Arsenal

Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski seem keen to establish their worth for Arsenal

"I believe our season will depend on how we respond to this defeat," said Arsene Wenger following Arsenal's humbling opening-day loss to Aston Villa. One week, two victories and six goals later, the manager should rightly feel that his faith is being repaid.

A brace of near-perfect performances will not solve all of Arsenal's problems, of course, but the past seven days have seen the Gunners career from crisis to conviction. At Craven Cottage on Saturday, the 'Spend, Spend, Spend' signs were nowhere to be seen. During such an impressive, controlled performance, any dissenting voices would have seemed entirely out of place.

The message still stands; fourth place is not a trophy, Wenger and the club have made a complete mess of the transfer window and an opportunity to take advantage of the uncertainty at rival clubs. But there may be quite a significant benefit derived from the current unrest surrounding the Gunners, exhibited in the convincing victories over Fenerbahce and Fulham.

Could the protests against Arsene Wenger be motivation to the Arsenal squad?

It is not only Wenger's inexorable - occasionally inexplicable - faith that has helped the team recover in the wake of the loss to Aston Villa but also the pressure under which the squad immediately find themselves. They thrived in the do-or-die nature of last season's run-in, winning 12 of their last 16 matches, and the past week has seen a revival of that mental toughness.

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It often seems that Wenger allows his players an easy ride but many of Arsenal's squad know they must prove a point with their performances this year. Aaron Ramsey's contribution over the past week has been particularly impressive, while Bacary Sagna appears renewed in his commitment and Lukas Podolski responded to rumours that he could be loaned to Schalke with two superb strikes against Fulham.

Olivier Giroud is perhaps the most compelling example of the team's willingness to establish their worth, however, notching three goals in the first three matches. "It's necessary for the club to recruit another striker," said Giroud this week. "It may change the play one day, especially if it's a high-profile signing. I know what I have to do and what I'm capable of."

Aaron Ramsey has produced some excellent recent performances in midfield

This fearless attitude to the prospect of increased competition has no doubt aided the striker's promising start and it is now Wenger's responsibility to capitalise on this desire and evident self-motivation. Rumours abound of big-name signings - with Jack Wilshere revealing that the players talk about new arrivals every day on the training pitch - and the current squad are throwing down the gauntlet to any potential acquisitions.

Cabaye is an Arsenal target

The only way to ensure this belief and purpose persists is to find new recruits that will continue to keep the team on their toes. Ramsey, for example, has excelled in his last two displays but would clearly benefit from Yohan Cabaye's arrival - both in education as he readjusts to a regular central midfield role and in terms of his motivation to maintain his current level of performance.

Whether Wenger decides to build on the upturn in fortunes remains to be seen but in many ways his team's impressive displays over the past week should make the manager even more determined to strengthen. Arsenal have the core of an excellent squad but need to be active between now and 3rd September to maintain this momentum.

A version of this article first appeared on Football365

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Matches

Table

Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Chelsea 4 12
2 Aston Villa 4 10
3 Swansea City 4 9
4 Southampton 4 7
5 Manchester City 4 7
6 Tottenham Hotspur 4 7
7 Arsenal 4 6
8 Liverpool 4 6
9 Manchester United 4 5
10 Hull City 4 5
11 Everton 4 5
12 Leicester City 4 5
13 West Ham United 4 4
14 Stoke City 4 4
15 Sunderland 4 3
16 Queens Park Rangers 4 3
17 Crystal Palace 4 2
18 Burnley 4 2
19 West Bromwich Albion 4 2
20 Newcastle United 4 2

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