Wenger expects midfield duo to fire title bid
29 November 2013, 08:19
Cardiff - Arsene Wenger believes the goal-threat posed by in-form midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere will be key to Arsenal's prospects of winning the Premier League.
Wenger's league leaders will travel to Cardiff on Saturday on the back of an impressive Champions League victory over Marseille that was secured by two Wilshere goals.
That took the England international's season tally to four, but his midfield partner Ramsey has been in even more prolific form, the Welshman netting 11 times this term.
Wilshere's opening goal against Marseille was especially eye-catching and Gunners boss Wenger said: "I must say I was even surprised by the way he took that goal. That shows his belief in his finishing has gone up a lot.
"We have him and Ramsey who can score now and that's a huge improvement. Before we had Ramsey, two goals per year and Wilshere, two goals per year. To see them scoring goals is magnificent."
While Wilshere took the honours midweek, Ramsey - who returns to his former club this weekend - has been Arsenal's outstanding player during their surge to the top of the table.
The Gunners moved four points clear following last weekend's victory over Southampton and they will look to cement their position at the top against a Cardiff team who held champions Manchester United to a draw last weekend.
Ramsey will once again be crucial to Arsenal's hopes and Wenger believes the midfielder's growing maturity has underpinned his side's progress.
"Aaron has first a fantastic engine. I believe his defensive awareness has improved, his defensive qualities have improved and his defensive score is very strong now," Wenger said.
"After that he has a huge desire to play every single ball. He wins the 50-50s - that was not the case a year ago.
"He wants the ball all the time. That's why his presence is so massive in a game."
Left-back Kieran Gibbs will be included in Wenger's squad after recovering from a bout of illness.
But striker Lukas Podolski remains three weeks away from a return after hamstring problems, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's long-term knee injury will keep him out until the new year.
Last weekend's point against United left Cardiff three points above the relegation zone in a campaign that has been marred by reports of tension between manager Malky Mackay and club owner Vincent Tan.
But Cardiff have already claimed the scalp of Arsenal's title rivals Manchester City at home and will be confident of springing another shock.
Scottish midfielder Don Cowie, who feared in pre-season that he would lose his place to the club's new signings, believes Mackay's side are coming to terms with life in the Premier League following last season's promotion from the Championship.
"There was doubt in my head as to whether I would even make the 25-man squad because I knew the manager was going to recruit in the summer," Cowie said.
"Everybody is wary of their position and the key was to work as hard as possible to prepare for the season.
"When I go away in the summer I don't drink, make sure I'm in good shape and ready to fight for my place.
"I'm extremely lucky the manager sees me as an important part of the squad. I know the strengths I bring to the team. My assets are that I'm athletic and can get about the pitch really well.
"If I can supplement that with goals and assists, then I am delighted."