Mertesacker: No more slip-ups
1:40pm Saturday 15th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Centre-back Per Mertesacker has warned Arsenal have no more margin for error if they are to last the distance in the Barclays Premier League title race.
The Gunners must pick themselves up from the disappointment of a midweek Champions League exit to Bayern Munich, despite drawing 1-1 at the Allianz Arena, for the small matter of Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham.
However, by the time they kick off at White Hart Lane, Arsene Wenger's side could find themselves 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, albeit with two matches in hand.
Wenger will take Arsenal to Stamford Bridge next weekend for what will be his 1,000th match in charge, before a rearranged clash with Swansea and then the visit of Manchester City on March 29.
Mertesacker accepts Arsenal simply cannot afford any more slip ups like they suffered with the recent defeat at Stoke if they are to get themselves back into the hunt for a potential shot at the double, their FA Cup semi-final against Wigan at Wembley set for April 12.
"These are all decisive games. There are no points to drop anymore. They are vital games and we are up for it," the German said.
"I think it is up to us as to how close we can stay to the top.
"We have to concentrate on ourselves and we have to stay as close as possible to the top and that is the most important thing to us.
"It depends entirely on our finish; how we cope with the situation of our injured players and the situation that we have another chance in the FA Cup."
Mertesacker continued on Sky Sports Weekend Warm-Up show: "We have two competitions left and if we can manage to finish like last year, with strong performances, I think we have a good chance to compete in both competitions until the end.
"The hunger is there and the hunger is increasing.
"We went through tough periods this season and last season, but overall we have shown great spirit and great togetherness, so let's get something out of this season that's what we have to deal with."
With Mesut Ozil facing up to six weeks out because of a hamstring tear adding to the Gunners midfield injury list, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to get another chance to impress.
The 20-year-old England World Cup hopeful thrived from a more central role against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night and Wenger is confident there is plenty more where that dynamic display came from.
"He has the sense of positional play and he has the qualities which you want to see in the modern game, that capability to break through and he has good vision." Wenger said.
"There is a lot more to come from him in many areas, but there is potential to work on.
"He has interesting qualities in this position and is similar to Jack (Wilshere).
"I am sure he has observed Jack as well, to take all the information from Jack to develop in a similar role."
Wenger admits his upcoming personal milestone still takes some getting used to, despite being on the horizon for some time.
"It is a big honour to stay such a long time in such a big club, and that, we cannot predict," said the 64-year-old Frenchman, who was appointed on September 30, 1996.
"I never would envisage that (1,000 Arsenal games).
"We are in a job like you go for the next game and try to do well in that next game. Then step by step, sometimes you get to 1,000."