Arsène Wenger: Arsenal can gain title edge with win at Old Trafford

• Wenger backs side's maturity for Manchester United test
• 'We go there to win,' says Arsenal manager

Arsène Wenger believes victory at Manchester United tomorrow night will give his Arsenal team a "massive" opportunity to win the title for the first time since 2004.

Arsenal lost home and away to Sir Alex Ferguson's team last season, as they also did to the eventual champions, Chelsea, and with his side yet to face both of their main championship rivals at the Emirates Wenger said: "It will be an advantage to play all the big teams at home. So we know that, away from home we need to have one or two positive results against the big teams and then, if we manage to beat them at home, we have a massive advantage.

"So, at the moment, we are in a strong position in the league. We go away for a big game. One or two of the big games, we need to win away from home."

Wenger believes that Arsenal's victories in recent key games while performing below par demonstrate that his players are now a maturing unit. "Against Partizan we were not at our best, but we still managed to win the game [3-1 last Wednesday in the Champions League]. That is a sign of maturing as a team. It's a big game for us [against United] because we know that we have to convince people that we can do well in the big games and we know as well that looking at the championship it's an important place to make points.

"But on the other hand because people are sceptical about our results we can go there and play free as well and that's what I want my team to do – go and play knowing it will have an influence on the Premiership but it's not a decider."

Wenger agreed it could be a turning point for Arsenal and suggested that the more open nature of the league this season has helped his side climb to the top of the table, despite already losing four league games. "This can be [the turning point]. We [left] Chelsea this season with a lot of frustration thinking they hadn't had many chances and we lost the game [2-0]. But we came out with many results ever since and we have built up a good away record so we go there not under any special pressure," he said.

"We are top of the table at the moment, and at the start of the season if you had said we would lose four of our first 16 games, I would not have thought we would be top, that is for sure. It means the other teams have lost games as well, apart from Manchester United, but they have had many draws. We have not had many draws, and have won five games away. The positive thing is that if we manage to add home consistency to our away form, we will be very dangerous."

While the match tomorrow will not decide the title Wenger stated that beyond the points available a mental edge is at stake. "It's more psychological for the rest of the season than a decider, mathematically. We have won at Man United before, not recently, but last year it was very close [2-1] and I think we are in a strong position. We are questioned defensively so we can show there that defensively we have the answer. If you look at the league we only conceded two more goals than Man United and they have played a game less where they can conceded goals. So basically defensively we are not conceding more goals than United.

"And, we score similar [Arsenal have 34 league goals, United 35]. If you look at numbers and facts since start of season they are the team that has more draws, we win more games. That means we go there to win our game."

Wenger said there was no problem over Theo Walcott's comments following the Partizan game in which he admitted frustration at being on the bench. "Frankly I can understand that because for me Theo Walcott is doing well. For me he is not an impact player, he is a regular player. At the moment he does not play as often as he should but he will play soon. In fairness, Theo is fantastic. His attitude and behaviour has been absolutely great. What do you expect from a player who is not playing?"

David Pleat's key clashes

Wayne Rooney v
Laurent Koscielny

The French defender has been troubled by forwards pressuring him and seems to need a physical centre-half to play alongside. Wayne Rooney will drift, and Koscielny needs to avoid getting dragged out of position, exposing his central defensive partner

Nani v Gaël Clichy

The Arsenal full-back is very left-footed, while Nani enjoys cutting inside from wide positions. The Portuguese has shown his eye for goal this season so Clichy will need adjust his tackling position to battle the threat

Rio Ferdinand v Marouane Chamakh

The forward gives Arsenal extra aerial power, providing the opportunity to play high balls earlier, where previously they were tempted to overplay. Ferdinand has not played against him before – it might give Chamakh a slight advantage

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