Wenger’s side will aim to stay in the race to finish top of Group D when they host Anderlecht on Tuesday and the Gunners boss knows it will be a night when patience and predatory finishing will be essential qualities.
Arsenal are three points behind group leaders Borussia Dortmund in second place and a win over Anderlecht, combined with a victory for the Germans against Galatasaray, would guarantee the north Londoners a place in the last 16, while keeping them in with a chance of finishing in first place and potentially earning an easier draw in the knockout stages.
The Gunners snatched a 2-1 win against Anderlecht in the reverse fixture two weeks ago despite being outplayed for long periods, but Wenger doesn’t expect the Belgian side to be so adventurous at the Emirates Stadium.
With that in mind, Wenger has told his players to display the kind of patient approach that eventually broke down Burnley after 70 minutes of their 3-0 Premier League victory on Saturday.
Chile forward Alexis Sanchez took his tally to 10 goals with a double strike to end Burnley’s stubborn resistence and Wenger believes the way his team continued to stay positive despite the frustrations of seeing Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton pull off a string of saves has them moving in the right direction.
“In the recent games at home we were not patient and we have learned. We look a bit more balanced between offence and defence,” Wenger said.
– Impressive form –
“We were less in trouble when we lost the ball, we were serious and that is very important in the efficiency.”
Key to Arsenal’s resurgence has been the impressive form of Sanchez, a pre-season buy from Barcelona, who Wenger has deployed in a more central attacking role following injury to Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Wenger is confident Sanchez can handle the additional responsibility, having compared him and the Uruguayan former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez to tough South American “street footballers” in the build-up to Saturday’s match.
“I was ready to give him time if he needed it, but he has settled in much quicker than expected,” Wenger said.
“Now I play him through the middle and he has shown he can find the ball, he can dribble and he can go at you.
“There are similarities with (Luis) Suarez a little bit by going at you, by being where you do not expect him to be in the box, and by having that huge desire to be at the end of things.”
With the return of England winger Theo Walcott, who made a late cameo appearance against Burnley after 10 months out with a serious knee injury, Wenger will soon have increased attacking options.
France forward Olivier Giroud is also set to be in contention following the next international break after recovering earlier than expected from a broken foot.
“For Theo it must be great as well to see that everybody wants him to come on,” said Wenger, who could also have England midfielder Jack Wilshere available on Tuesday after a minor knee problem forced him to miss the Burnley match.
“Lukas Podolski also played very well after he came on, he could have scored two.
“When you think that we have not got a number of offensive players like Ozil, Wilshere and Giroud, there is a lot of competition in the forward positions.”
Anderlecht have taken only one point from their first three group matches and a defeat would eliminate them from the competition.