BIRMINGHAM, December 12- Arsene Wenger hopes the euphoria generated from Arsenal’s against the odds qualification for the Champions League last 16 will provide a welcome boost to his side’s Premier League title charge.
The Gunners recovered from a miserable start to the campaign to progress in Europe thanks to Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick in a 3-0 victory at Olympiakos on Wednesday.
Sunday’s trip to bottom of the table Aston Villa offers Arsenal a good chance to maintain that momentum and Wenger has warned his players not to rest on their laurels.
“We came back Thursday morning but we have no injury worries after the game,” Wenger said. “None of the short term injuries will be back.
“We wanted to stay in the Champions League, it was very unlikely. It was a fantastic performance in the end that got us through. Now we’re in it let’s focus again on the Premier League.
“I do not look after my own ego, I just want to do well. I want to do well for everyone at Arsenal. I cannot influence people’s opinion and accept that.”
For Wenger, the performance of much-maligned France striker Giroud in midweek gave him great satisfaction.
“Giroud has gone through this calendar year with ups and downs,” he said.
“It has been a typical Olivier Giroud year and when he has his downs he has put the effort in. Wednesday was one of his best performances on all fronts.
“You should look at Giroud’s record. He has special qualities. You want him to be efficient as well but he has improved his link play and that’s very important for our team.
“He has a positive mentality and a strong one. We are in a job where we have to accept that.
“I’m just so happy we have him, he’s one of the best strikers in Europe.”
– Contrasting ambitions-
This weekend’s clash at Villa Park gives Wenger the chance to take on his former player and fellow Frenchman Remi Garde in an intriguing encounter between teams with contrasting ambitions.
Garde has been charged with leading Villa to safety after replacing Tim Sherwood recently, while Wenger believes his second placed side, who are two points behind leaders Leicester, have the potential to win the title.
“I have given no advice because we are now competitors and rivals,” Wenger said.
“I spoke to him before he took the job. He’s in a big club so I let him work.
“They have added some French players. Remi knows them well. I know a little bit about what is expected but we have to focus on our performance to come out more positively.”
Garde, who could recall Jack Grealish after dropping him to the Under 21 squad after he was pictured partying late at night, paid tribute to Wenger.
“I have a lot of admiration for him as you realise how tough it is in the Premier League, how difficult it is to keep your job and get results,” the former Lyon boss said.
“For me he still has a spirit to get trophies, this is the main one you have as a manager and he probably still feels strong enough to get trophies.
“How long can I see him staying in the Premier League? It is always difficult to answer to this kind of question. Only Arsene has the answer to be fair.
“I think you have to dedicate all your life to football. I’m not sure Arsene had long holidays or many days off since he took over at Arsenal.
“For some personalities it is more difficult than others. Arsene has always lived for football and he has been rewarded for that.
“But I don’t want to compare me to Arsene in terms of what I achieve and he has achieved -– I am far away from that.”