Gunners to start on clean slate

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LONDON, September 18-The staid days of George Graham's Arsenal tenure might be a rapidly fading memory, but the club's followers might just be pining for a spot of dreariness after the north Londoners' tumultuous start to the season.CESC_FABREGAS_1_Six-goal victories and dramatic European comebacks have represented the good for Arsenal this term; unfortunately for manager Arsene Wenger, there has also been no shortage of bad – a 4-2 hammering at Manchester City – and downright ugly, in the form of the spiteful rows involving Eduardo and Emmanuel Adebayor.

After such turmoil, Wenger will surely be grateful to return to the Emirates stadium, where his side boast a 100-percent record this season, for Saturday’s meeting with Wigan.

Then again, if this campaign has taught him anything, it is that even the most benign-looking of assignments can become incendiary.

Perhaps the Frenchman will simply be grateful for small mercies. When an inexplicably lax Arsenal leaked two goals in the first four minutes against Standard Liege in the Champions League on Wednesday, he must have feared approaching the visit from Roberto Martinez’s side on the back of three straight defeats.

Arsenal have rarely looked so shambolic under Wenger as in those opening exchanges in Belgium, when amateurish errors from Eduardo and William Gallas allowed the hosts to establish an advantage they should never have lost.

The Gunners’ recovery, completed by goals from Nicklas Bendtner, Thomas Vermaelen and, almost inevitably given he had only seen his two-game ban for diving overturned by UEFA 48 hours previously, Eduardo, at least proved their spirit remains strong.

Sides with more fragile self-belief could have melted in the white heat of Standard’s Stade Maurice Dufrasne, but Arsenal are made of stern stuff.

"It was not difficult to keep believing," Cesc Fabregas, the captain who had an unusually slapdash evening, said. "We’ve had some set-backs but the season has just started so we have a lot of time to recover.

"We’re happy and it was a great victory especially after how we started the game. Now let’s focus on Wigan because the Premier League is the most important thing for Arsenal. Every three days when we play, it is always like a final for Arsenal because we want to be at the top and that’s it."

Arsenal should at least be able to welcome back Robin van Persie and Manuel Almunia for the meeting with the Latics. The pair missed the trip to Belgium after suffering a knee injury and a chest infection respectively but are expected to be available on Saturday.

For Wigan, damage limitation is probably the extent of their ambition ahead of the trip south, even if they ended a ruinous run of four consecutive defeats with a victory over West Ham last weekend.

Martinez, a bright young coach with a glowing reputation, is nothing if not ambitious and has urged his team to learn from Arsenal’s imperious style on the ball.

"You are looking at teams like Arsenal, Barcelona, those are the sides who rely on themselves," he said. "They are arrogant on the ball and that is something I like in my teams.

"We are starting to rely on ball possession, we control the ball and we normally have more possession than the opponents and that is a good sign. The better you control the ball the more chance you have to dictate results and that is the way I like to approach games."

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