Arsene Wenger believes his Arsenal side are now proving to their doubters they have the “character” to fight for the Premier League title.
The Gunners have been questioned in the past about not being up for the fight required to win silverware on a regular basis in recent seasons.
They welcome Manchester City to the Emirates Stadium on Monday night looking to keep their title credentials intact having already seen off fellow top-four sides Leicester and Manchester United with relative ease this season.
Having lifted the FA Cup for the past two years Arsenal ended a barren spell without trophies and are right in the title picture once again.
A 3-0 victory at Olympiacos last week also saw them progress into the Champions League last 16 – where they will meet Barcelona – and Wenger feels recent results are showing his players are answering the critics in the right fashion.
“We have to accept that’s part of it but we have to give our answer on the pitch week in, week out, and that will slowly die,” he said.
“It was true for a while because we were a young team and a young team can be up and down. But I believe now we have shown that what we did at Olympiacos is not a team of no character.
“You need to be special to achieve that. We won the FA Cup in the last two seasons and you need character to win the FA Cup. Everybody would love to do it every year.”
Wenger on consistency
Wenger feels consistency is the main proof of characters and his team need to show that over the festive period to prevent themselves slipping away in the new year.
The inability to put together a largely consistent season is one of the reasons Arsenal remain without a title since 2004 but, having gone to high-flying Leicester and won 5-2, Wenger has backed his current crop to turn that around.
He said: “We are the only team who have beaten Leicester basically, and in a convincing way. The character is down to consistency in life.
“That’s what I call character. All of us can be for one day in our life exceptional but character is to have a target and maintain your focus on that target.
“That’s what I call character and that’s what we have to show in the league. What I feel is great team spirit and great unity in the dressing room, and focus to go forward, that’s for sure. After that, we have to answer on the pitch ‘are we good enough?'”
Wenger has not ruled out talismanic Chilean Alexis Sanchez recovering from a hamstring problem in time to return against City.
The former Barcelona forward, as well as club-record signing Mesut Ozil, have been in fine form for the Gunners this season while Olivier Giroud continues to confound his critics having scored 27 goals in the calender year.
In the past, those types of names could have been tempted away from north London, with City flexing their financial muscles over Arsenal on several occasions.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy have all left the Emirates Stadium to join City in recent seasons but – now they are on a better financial footing themselves – Wenger insists the club can decide whether players will leave or not.
“That was difficult at the start to take but we had to survive financially and we had to live with it,” he said when asked how it felt to lose key players to the Etihad Stadium.
“We are in a much stronger position (now). I cannot say it will never happen again because you never know but we are in a position today where we have not to give in.”