x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wenger wants Arsenal running at full throttle

The Gunners manager targets improved home form while Mark Hughes has belief his Fulham side have the quality to climb away from relegation trouble.

Marouane Chamakh has targeted scoring more than 20 goals for Arsenal this season. 

Alex Morton / Action Images
Marouane Chamakh has targeted scoring more than 20 goals for Arsenal this season. Alex Morton / Action Images

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has ordered his players to "take off the handbrake" and move into top gear over the coming month as the Premier League title race starts to heat up over England's festive season.

Three home defeats this season - to West Brom Newcastle and Tottenham - have brought into question Arsenal's credentials as potential champions.

But they go into today's match against Fulham still very much in contention, with Chelsea having lost their momentum and leaders Manchester United yet to look convincing despite boasting the only unbeaten record in the league.

Said Wenger: "We have reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, are going well in the Champions League and, despite home defeats, are well placed in the Premier League. The spirit and attitude is very good. People say we haven't won a trophy since 2005; I feel we can put that right this season."

Winning at home is vital, he said. "I think if we can get our home form right then we can go all the way in the league. It's still very open.

"It is sometimes hard at home because teams come to the Emirates and set out on a way of playing which can be hard to break down.

"We have to counter that and perhaps on occasions we can make a mistake by not going for it enough. Sometimes we play too much with the hand brake on. We need to take it off and go faster."

On that front, striker Marouane Chamakh has vowed to weigh in with more strikes by targeting the 20-goal mark in his first season at the club.

The Morocco striker has impressed since a free transfer move from Bordeaux in the summer, with his goal at Aston Villa last weekend taking his tally into double figures.

Chamakh, 26, is set to return to the side for the visit of Fulham today, having been rested for the midweek Carling Cup quarter-final win over Wigan Athletic.

"For me, if I can weigh in with 15 to 20 goals, it would be a very, very good season," Chamakh said.

He has yet to convince all Arsenal fans of his ability in front of goal, despite his 10 strikes so far. He has sometimes seemed reluctant to shoot when through on goal, choosing instead to pass to a teammate.

"I give 200 per cent, I play with my heart, I've got guts, I give everything I've got," Chamakh said. "I don't cheat or cut corners, that's my strength, my character and I think that [fans] like me for it."

Wenger is keen to maintain momentum from a hard-fought 4-2 victory at Aston Villa last weekend and the midweek 2-0 triumph over Wigan. After the visit of the Cottagers, Wenger takes his side to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United on December 13.

The Frenchman hopes his squad will be able to overcome their fierce rivals, whom they now trail by just two points at the top of the table. They are behind Chelsea only on goal difference.

As for Fulham, defeat today could suck them into the relegation places. Manager Mark Hughes said: "We are well aware of where we are, but I believe we have the quality to move up the table. We might be one point off the bottom three but only five from seventh. That is how tight it is."

sports@thenational.ae

7pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3