| Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, during a practice session |
London: After stretching their lead to four points by beating Southampton 2-0 last weekend, Arsenal can rest easy knowing they will be top of the Premier League for at least another week — whatever happens at Cardiff on Saturday.
Arsenal went from strength to strength with Jack Wilshere scoring twice in a midweek win over Olympique Marseille that put the Gunners on the brink of reaching the last 16 in the Champions League.
Arsenal can go seven points clear of the Premier League pack with victory at Cardiff City on Saturday. And Arsene Wenger’s team can expect a real test at the Cardiff City Stadium, a ground where Manchester City have already lost this season and where United dropped two points on Sunday.
The match will see Aaron Ramsey, arguably the Premier League’s player of the season so far, play against the side where he started his career and with whom he had a second spell on loan.
“We are hungry to win trophies and win games,” Ramsey said of Arsenal’s title hopes. “That is no different this season to any other, but in the past we’ve got off to bad starts and had to play catch up.
“We’ve created a fantastic opportunity for ourselves in the early part of this season and hopefully we can continue that,” Ramsey, who has scored 11 goals this term, said.
Wenger has suggested Ramsey's sparkling form should be viewed as natural progress for someone who came under severe criticism from sections of the Arsenal faithful after being off-colour last season.
“He is a young player and there is a lot more to come from him,” Wenger said. “There is no limitation to his development. He can be a complete midfielder. Real football players are efficient both defensively and offensively.
“I saw him on tape when he played with Cardiff. The first time I met him was in Switzerland, with his parents, when he had a choice to make and I was at the European Championship (Euro 2008). After that, he decided to come and join us and you know the rest. I expect him to continue to improve.”
Wenger suspects he may need Ramsey to be at his best against his former club on Saturday, with the Arsenal boss full of praise for the efforts of Malky Mackay and his team ahead of the trip to Wales.
“They have surprised me,” Wenger said of Cardiff. “They look to have good solidarity, good togetherness and fantastic support as well. They all have the same wavelength and very efficient, on set-pieces especially.”
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have scored 21 goals between them in all competitions and are spearheading Arsenal’s success this season.
Arsenal have only lost once in their last 10 Premier League games and will be confident of improving on that on Saturday. The two teams have not played each other in the league since 1962, but did meet in the FA Cup in 2009.
Cardiff are without striker Rudy Gestede, and Arsenal are still without Lukas Podolski, Abou Diaby, Rio Miyaichi, Yaya Sanogo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Theo Walcott has made two substitute appearances in a week and will be in contention to start on Saturday.
Cardiff are in 15th place, with 13 points from their 12 games but have picked up eight points from their home games this season. The Welsh side will be in a confident mood after drawing with Manchester United and beating Swansea in their last two home games.
Fraizer Campbell is hitting impressive form and caused United problems, so Arsenal will be wary of the danger that Cardiff can pose.
In another match, Newcastle will be looking to record their fourth straight win on Saturday against a West Bromwich Albion side who let a two goal lead slip to draw with Midlands rivals Aston Villa on Monday.
Loic Remy will once again be the danger man for the Magpies. The French international has scored eight goals in ten Premier League games.
Steve Clarke’s West Brom side have only won once in their last six games and will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend.
Shane Long scored two fantastic goals inside 11 minutes on Monday, and the Baggies will need the Irishman to put in a similar performance if they are to get the better of their opponents.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has dismissed talk of a Champions League push after masterminding an encouraging turnaround in his team’s Premier League fortunes.
The Magpies will make it four straight wins if they beat West Brom at St James' Park on Saturday - a run which has lifted them to eighth place, just two points behind the top four.