LONDON, October 23- Per Mertesacker admits Arsenal must build on their crucial Champions League victory over Bayern Munich and develop more consistency if they are to sustain their Premier League title challenge.
A victory over Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday would move Arsenal to the top of the table, 24 hours before current leaders Manchester City face neighbours United in Sunday’s cross-town derby.
Yet despite a largely positive start to the campaign, Arsene Wenger and his players have still come in for criticism for a number of underwhelming displays, particularly in Europe.
But since a shock loss to Olympiakos, the Gunners have recorded back-to-back, three-goal Premier League victories over Manchester United and Watford before inflicting a first defeat of the season on German champions Bayern, who were beaten 2-0 at the Emirates on Tuesday.
Wenger’s side have shown their qualities in recent weeks, but Gunners centre-back Mertesacker insists the challenge now is to maintain those standards.
“We want to play a part in the title race. We need to have a certain consistency otherwise it will be difficult,” Mertesacker said.
“But if you get good wins against the good teams then it breeds confidence.
“We had a bad start against West Ham on the first day of the season, so it took us a bit longer to get going but the League is very competitive. You can see that consistency is hard to come by.”
Arsenal’s efforts to string together a run of good results will not be helped by the loss of Aaron Ramsey to a hamstring injury.
Ramsey hobbled out of the Bayern clash and Wenger expects the Wales midfielder to be out for at least a month.
– Important period –
Wenger directed some of the blame for Ramsey’s injury towards his player’s commitments with Wales, who selected him for a meaningless fixture against Andorra after qualification for Euro 2016 had already been secured.
“He had a scan today (Thursday) but he’s out. I believe he will be out until after the next international break,” Wenger said.
“With the last international break, the fact that he played against Andorra certainly cost him.”
Wenger also admits it will be the new year before Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky are fit again.
Everton have not beaten Arsenal away from home since January 1996; a statistic manager Roberto Martinez is keen to change.
His team, though, will need to perform better than they did in losing 3-0 at home to Manchester United last Saturday, a result that left them ninth in the Premier League.
“This is a very important period of the season for us, between now and the next international break,” Martinez said.
“Facing Arsenal away from home is a fixture in which we don’t traditionally do too well. It’s an incentive for us to change that round.”
Tom Cleverley is in contention to return to the Everton midfield, having been out of action since suffering ankle ligament damage in late August.
Cleverley played for an hour in the club’s under-21 side as they lost 1-0 at home to Schalke in the Premier League Intercontinental Cup at Goodison Park on Tuesday; a match in which Steven Pienaar and Bryan Oviedo also stepped up their recoveries from injury problems.
South African midfielder Pienaar, who played 45 minutes in that match, has managed only one first-team appearance this year because of a succession of injuries, while left-back Oviedo has been struggling with knee ligament problems.
There are hopes too that Leighton Baines may not be too far away from a return, although the Arsenal game will come too soon for him as he recovers from an ankle injury