Arsène Wenger has been emphasising the need for mental strength virtually every week since this Premier League season began but it is perhaps not his title-chasing side that will require it most at Bolton Wanderers on Sunday.
The state of mind of the hosts must have taken a battering during last week's 5-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat by Stoke and it will be no easy task for their manager, Owen Coyle, to rebuild it in time to thwart Arsenal. "It's down to belief," says Wenger, when asked to explain how a manager can fortify a team mentally. "If your belief is very low, your feeling is very low." Wenger insists that his own team's belief should be high because although their title challenge has faltered in recent weeks Arsenal have not been playing badly. "What we can get from our performances is the belief that we have the quality."
Wenger is confident that his players will retain their self-belief even if they do not win the title, which is why he does not foresee an exodus of disenchanted players. The 'Cesc Fábregas to Barcelona' bandwagon continues to roll, and the contracts of Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy expire in 12 months, meaning that unless Arsenal re-sign or sell them soon, they could leave for free. "We are talking to Nasri and his agent already and we have the same situation with Clichy. I am very optimistic," Wenger said.
The manager insists that the Spanish press distorted Fábregas's views when claiming that the midfielder wanted Arsenal to change their youth-based philosophy to secure trophies, nevertheless the Frenchman feels it opportune to remind the players that it is not just the manager who determines whether trophies are won. "Nobody is asking them to wait. We can win straight away. The media talk like the players are not responsible for winning trophies. They are as responsible as I am, as the fans are. Why do you think we pay the players? A club, a football team, is a togetherness between the manager, the players, the club, the philosophy. It's very difficult to say that if you do not win I go."