Arsene Wenger is confident a “more mature Arsenal” can now “handle the pressure” of being in the Premier League title race.
The Gunners head into Saturday’s late kick off against Everton on the back of an impressive 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
With leaders Manchester City taking on rivals United at Old Trafford on Sunday, Wenger’s side could move to the top of the table with victory over the Toffees.
Arsenal last led the league heading into the weekend of February 8, 2014, before they were blown away 5-1 at Liverpool in a nightmare lunchtime encounter.
Wenger, though, knows his players have come a long way since then – now more battle-hardened and driven on by the endless energy of Alexis Sanchez and tenacity of club-record signing Mesut Ozil, backed up by midfield enforcer Francis Coquelin.
“We have strengthened our belief with our run last season, from January 1 – you could feel there was really a change in our stability,” said the Arsenal manager, whose side ended the league campaign well before winning a second successive FA Cup.
“We have shown that we can handle the pressure. What is the most important for me is to continue to develop as a team, to feel that we grow in the quality of our game.
“We have maybe a better discipline. People reproached us many times: ‘okay, Arsenal play football, but they are a bit fragile.’ Before, maybe, when we were not dominating completely the game, we were a bit insecure.”
Wenger continued: “We are more mature, for sure.
“Two years ago, we were a long time top of the league. After, we lost one or two players and we lost one or two big games, that was the killer for us.
“I feel today we are better prepared. We know, as well, the competition will be long.
“We have played nine games, there is a long way to go, but let’s make sure that we can produce week in, week out. For me, that is the most important (thing).”
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